From the outside, one might mistake this home as more California than Coconut Grove. Clean-lined and rectilinear, the three-story house fits snugly in an elevated bluff—a rare find in South Florida. “This is a diverse area with homes built in the 1920s alongside newly constructed estates,” says designer and homeowner Hillary Littlejohn Scurtis. Neighboring houses owned by creative types, including one whose property looks like it’s set within a pristine rainforest, add to the fascinating narrative behind this south Grove estate.
As with every good story, there’s a great author behind it. In this case, Scurtis put pen to paper, creating a home that reads more like an autobiography. Through a seamless mix of modern and traditional pieces, heirlooms and art, she tells a tale of family, entertaining and the outdoors. “Life is not static, so to furnish a home solely from one period can be one-dimensional,” Scurtis says. “The careful balance of new and old makes a home compelling.”
The first chapter of this design tome begins differently from what one might expect. When looking to purchase a larger property for their growing family, Scurtis brought husband Constantine to the house as an example of what not to buy. Her plan backfired when Taki—her husband’s Greek nickname—took one look and put in an offer. “Location is critical for him. He felt that it had such a great address and great value,” Scurtis says. With a baby on the way, she was more than reluctant to buy a home they would want to renovate, but her husband’s enthusiasm won her over, and Scurtis went to work on conceiving their dream home.
First, entrances and redundant windows were reconfigured, with careful editing to give each floor function and the home a calming cohesiveness. The bottom level features a playroom, the nanny’s quarters, the garage and pool. The second, the main level, includes all of the public spaces along with the three boys’ bedrooms. And the third floor comprises a 1,500-square-foot master suite with his-and-her bathrooms.
Neutral-painted walls provide the ideal foil for the verdant landscape— designed by Fernando Wong of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design—on view through the home’s 51 glass windows and doors. To establish a modern foundation, gray Bateig Azul limestone floors flow from the living room into the family room, kitchen and dining room. “I wanted something very forward-thinking with an edge,” she says. “Its color and scale are powerful, and it feels unbelievably velvety to the touch.”
Throughout the public areas, family heirlooms, such as Scurtis’ mother’s leather chairs in the dining room, blend with new and custom designs, such as the zinc-topped table and woven-fiber chairs in the family room. It’s a testament to Scurtis’ talent for making what’s old seem new again.
Glass double doors off the living and dining rooms open to an expansive terrace for entertaining al fresco. Here, or in any of the five outdoor areas, Scurtis plays grill master while Taki takes on the role of resident mixologist. Married for 14 years, they work in harmony, much like the home.
For quality time with the kids, the family room calls with its comfy slipcovered sofas. “We watch TV, entertain, eat, do homework and work on the computer in this room. It’s the hive of the home,” she says. Like the family room, the living room serves many purposes, including foyer, music room and transition between the boys’ rooms on one side and the public areas on the other. Rife with Swedish, French and American antiques, the living room features kids’ portraits and nautical prints that bring to mind the family’s summer vacations in Nantucket.
Warmth captured through pictures is also created by the use of walnut flooring in the upstairs master suite. “This is where we look forward to decompressing,” she says. “That’s why it is completely void of color.”
Void of color, maybe, but never lacking in style. Staying true to her collected, well-edited approach, a four-poster British colonial bed takes center stage in the bedroom. Date palms, foxtail palms, podocarpus and other lush greens peek in through the plantation-shuttered windows. It’s the perfect ending—in more ways than one.