When Lyn and David McCarthy’s friends and family saw the vacation home they found in Tequesta, several had the same reaction: “Are you crazy?” Built in the 1950s as a weekend getaway for a Palm Beach doctor, it had seen better days. The tired-looking brick house had overgrown landscaping outside and, although the home overlooked the Loxahatchee River, its inner architecture obscured the views. “If you could see past all of that, the house was beautiful and the location was phenomenal,” Lyn says; it was situated on a choice part of the river, with manatees and dolphins often frolicking near the dock. So, the couple enlisted residential designer Dennis Rainho, designer Jackie Armour and builder Dan Reedy to determine whether the house was salvageable. “It was well-built and had some good architecture,” Reedy says. “We made an assessment that this 1950s home was worth keeping.”
The McCarthys, who primarily live in New Jersey, have friends in Tequesta and imagined a vacation house for themselves, their two kids—both in college—and their extended family. “David is one of six siblings and there are 16 kids among them,” Lyn says. “We love to have everybody around.” Unfortunately, the home’s choppy interior spaces weren’t designed for 21st-century entertaining. “When this house was built, it was compartmentalized to separate the sta quarters,” Reedy explains.
The couple instead wanted a casual, coastal-looking home with a more open ow between the kitchen and living spaces. Rainho told them, “With some changes to the exterior, we can get close to that style, and we can make the interior more suitable to your way of living.” He flipped the kitchen to where the dining room had been, moved the dining room to where the sitting room used to be, and removed the wall between both spaces to create one large area. “Now the dining room has views of the water,” says Rainho, who worked on the project with colleagues Kermit White and Jonathan Hutton. “Their living room was moved, as well, and converted into a larger great room, and as a result it also gained direct site lines to the water.” The ho-hum entry needed a revamp, too. Upon arrival through the front door, guests previously looked directly onto a stairway. “We shifted the entry, so you now walk in and see right out to the Loxahatchee River,” says Reedy, who helmed the construction with project manager Ches Mayer. To maximize those views, glass was added in the great room. “Before, there was just a set of doors that looked out onto the water,” Armour says. “We put in three groups of sliders, and now it’s twentysomething feet of continuous vistas.”
Additionally, the kitchen was reconfigured to allow for a new laundry room and a cabana room. “We also put in a butler’s pantry,” Armour says. The couple cook and entertain, so the kitchen received a quartz-topped island that functions as both a prep area and a buffet. “We wanted a large island, because people congregate in that space,” Lyn says. “The island has two pullout refrigerators: one stocked with beer and the other with water and other drinks.”
Throughout the home, Armour worked with design associates Taylor Ehrlund and April Wood to give the McCarthys a beachy aesthetic. “They wanted something with a Hamptons feel that was colorful and not too serious,” Armour says. “We were going to keep the palette blue and white, but Lyn wanted something fun to liven it up.” She fell in love with a pink-and-orange-striped fabric by John Robshaw, so it became the spring point for pops of color elsewhere.
While the couple wanted the interiors to be playful, clean lines were key. “I don’t like things that are very ornate or fancy or twirly or gilded,” Lyn says. “So the moldings are beautiful but simple.” The home would also have to withstand wear and tear, because the active family is often on the water, paddleboarding or boating. “On the sofa, we used a microfiber, so you could plop down, and it would be great with both the dogs and kids,” Armour says. “The ottomans are also microsuede, so you can put your feet up, even when they’re wet.”
The outdoor living space, of course, was equally as important. The river view was previously obscured with existing vegetation at the lower level of the lanai, so the vegetation was removed and ll was added to elevate the deck and create a double-sized terrace with sweeping water views. Landscape designer John Walsh also designed a new pool and spa, shifting the original orientation of the pool area to capture a 180-degree river view. “We came up with a slick modern pool,” he says, “so when you’re sitting on the lanai, you see one continual view of water, starting with the infinity-edge spa and waterfall-edge pool, and carrying through to the natural environment.” He cleaned up the overgrown greenery obscuring the house, as well, preserving the existing plant material and integrating the home into the landscape. “As you come in the entry, there was a large stand of sabal palms,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Why don’t we save them?’ So we cleaned up the palms and cut down the overgrown understory plantings, and they became a simple design element.”
The goal throughout the project, indoors and out, was to enhance what was already there. “This house could have been a tear-down,” Armour says. “Everything that was done architecturally was critical to the success of this project.” There were substantial challenges: Steel beams and temporary and permanent foundation work had to be installed to shore up the house during the remodel as the house had bones that were o -level. And the team had to compensate for renovation and addition work donein the ’80s, as well. But the final result speaks for itself. As questionable as the home looked at first glance, Lyn saw the gem beneath the tarnish. “I didn’t want a turnkey residence,” she says. “I wanted a house that would be my own. We brought the outdoors inside, and now when I walk through that front door, it takes my breath away.”
— Kimberly Olson