After years spent considering children, pets and resale value above their own wishes, a newly retired New Jersey couple was excited to finally create a home just for the two of them. This time, nothing was off limits, whether it meant covering a ceiling with a dramatic wallpaper, deploying their favorite shade of blue in every room or embracing white upholstery. “We felt free to do things you might not do earlier in life when you’re moving around and have children and a dog,” the wife says, pointing to her first-ever cream-colored sofa.
Drawn to the beauty of Vero Beach, Florida, the couple acquired a property on Orchid Island, a small barrier island between the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean. The setting overlooking a golf course was ideal, yet the old-world Tuscan-style architecture–columns, arches and peach walls galore–needed a makeover.
To helm the transformation, the couple hired designer Melanie Bock, who is known for putting a modern spin on classic style. “What drew me to Melanie was that she didn’t expect me to get rid of everything I owned and start from scratch,” the wife says, explaining she wanted to incorporate some pieces from her family home, including treasured antiques.
In addition to showcasing the picturesque views of a lake and golf course, Bock was asked to create a coastal look sans the typical kitsch. “I wanted the home to feel like Florida without papering the walls in pink flamingos,” the wife says. And though her taste has always tended toward Colonial style, this time, Bock says, “She wanted to move away from the traditional without going completely contemporary.”
Before diving into the decor, Bock teamed up with general contractor Randy Read, who encountered a few unexpected challenges: All the plumbing had to be replaced, and a troubling stain on the ceiling meant the house needed a new roof. After tackling those projects, they set about enhancing the home with a few understated architectural details–including wainscoting, wallpaper and crown molding–and incorporated fresh, new materials such as quartz countertops in the kitchen, white dolomite stone in the master bathroom and wire-brush oak flooring throughout. “The workmanship in this home is phenomenal,” Read says. “I’m pleased with how it came out.”
Once the renovations were complete, Bock began creating the casually elegant interior her clients craved. To complement the golf course views, she chose sheer curtains to frame the bank of French doors in the living and dining areas. A mostly neutral palette of cream and brown, tied together with hits of the couple’s favorite blue, imparts a light, airy vibe that defers to the view. “The wife owns a lot of Royal Copenhagen dishware from her family, which I used as a jumping off point for the palette,” the designer explains. The signature blue-and-white porcelain adorns surfaces throughout the home, holding a spray of hydrangea on a console here and lining an antique china cabinet there. “Then I layered in different shades of blue in different textures,” Bock says, noting a navy wool rug in the study and hand-blocked pillows on the family room sectional. She kept the rest of the palette neutral, allowing the blues to stand out against creamy sofas and crisp-white bed linens. To add complexity, a darker tone comes through the clients’ antique wood pieces, which include a drop-leaf table in the family room, a Sheraton writing desk in the master bedroom and twin four-poster beds in a guest room.
Bock reinforced the much-desired beachy feel through splashes of natural texture. She introduced a printed grass-cloth wallcovering in the foyer, placed seagrass and wool rugs throughout and hung linen curtain panels in the family room. “These elements added a fun, light touch–a little bit of whimsy,” she says. And nowhere is that whimsy more apparent than in the husband’s study, where wallpaper depicting a sprawling old-world map covers the ceiling in tribute to his passion for travel.
As for the wife, Bock deftly modernized her traditional tendencies by updating the couple’s classic pieces. A lacquered four-drawer chest in the family room received a hand-rubbed waxed finish, while the interior of an old china cabinet was wallpapered. In a guest room, a wing chair was re-covered in a fresh, striped fabric. “Melanie heard our preferences and created a style that differs slightly from our historical choices but still reflects our personalities,” the wife says. And that extra little push paid o . Looking around the residence, she says, “The decor is relaxed without sacrificing style. Being in this house makes us happy.”