After living in their home for a decade, designer Rod Mickley’s clients had fantasies about all the changes they wanted to make. An open floor plan, they realized, would better accommodate their large gatherings. The husband, an avid sport fisherman, was emphatic about incorporating oceanic blues. Overall, they envisioned a modern yet relaxing waterfront retreat for their blended family. “We like lounging around, and we didn’t want it to feel stark and sterile,” the wife says. “It needed to be inviting, cozy and comforting.”
Achieving this transformation required more than a renovation, so the couple embraced the opportunity to rebuild from scratch. Architect John M. Brenner devised a new structure that reflects the owners’ modern leanings while complementing the architectural vernacular of the area, known for its Old Florida-style coastal homes. “Vero Beach is a traditional place,” he observes, “but the clients have a more contemporary taste. It came down to adapting those conventional Florida or Caribbean styles with modern methods and materials.” To blend the two, the architect introduced classic West Indies influences on the exterior such as loggias, wide overhangs and a coral-like stone on the entry while integrating more contemporary elements inside. Nearly every interior surface is subtly enhanced, from nickel gap walls to the great room’s coffered ceiling and the family room’s exposed decorative trusses.
The layout flows through open, airy spaces, boasting 10-foot-high ceilings in most rooms. Importantly, for entertaining flexibility, the owners wanted the interiors to connect to the property’s expansive outdoor spaces, which consist of covered porchways and breezeways overlooking the Indian River on the entire west side of the residence. “One of the big requirements was that the whole house open up,” notes general contractor John Huryn, a longtime friend of the homeowners. So the team installed glass doors that fully open to the exterior living spaces, granting seamless access to the outdoor kitchen, fire features and pool. “The owners allowed me to make full rooms outside,” Brenner explains. “They’re spacious enough to furnish with large pieces and still have a very open area.”
Inside, the most popular gathering hot spot is the great room, home to dining and sitting areas. The former is dominated by a sleek bar with a marble waterfall countertop and a television Mickley cleverly concealed behind a mirror. Above the adjacent walnut table that seats 10, he crowned the space with an LED light fixture that mimics a school of fish in a wave pattern. “It feels like you’re seeing flying fish coming out of water,” the designer muses. At the other end, in front of a seating area, oversize mahogany barn doors slide open to reveal the husband’s office, a deep-blue lacquered space punctuated with sport fishing trophies.
Mickley ensured the husband’s love of blue flowed beyond the office, showing up in features such as accent pillows, the stair runner and the kitchen’s navy cabinetry and oceanic marble backsplash and countertops. To keep things from feeling monotone, he injected metallic accents, like the kitchen’s brass hardware, and helped the couple curate a collection of vibrant art. Notably, the designer introduced them to the work of one of his favorite artists, Julian Schnabel, and together they selected two pieces displayed in the breakfast area and a hallway. Others were sourced with the help of Findlay Galleries, which allowed the clients to “try on” artwork in the rooms, Mickley describes. “They brought a van full of art,” he says. “We pulled out dozens of pieces and walked around the house, holding them up and deciding what worked for each space.”
Additional depth and interest come from the designer’s trademark strategy of incorporating items with a worldly feel. Near an antique sideboard in the breakfast area, he paired carved African chairs with a tree-trunk base table that has a marble-and-steel top. In lieu of a coffee table in the family room, he opted for a large ottoman covered in an antique kilim rug that offers a dose of color and additional seating.
“He nailed it,” the wife says of Mickley’s design. “Rod really embraced what we envisioned and made it beautiful.” What’s more, the home is always ready for a celebration—and the couple has been taking full advantage. “It’s not unusual for a dinner party of 20 to turn into a dinner party of 60,” Huryn says. “That happened recently—and the house worked perfectly.”