Nearly 1,400 miles from the Windy City, a Chicago couple came upon an oceanfront Coconut Grove residence that caught their eye as a potential vacation home. Panoramic views of Biscayne Bay from the double-height living area instilled an immediate sense of relaxation, and the house offered plenty of room for their blended family— six children between them. Yet the Florida structure’s dark woods and brown marble flooring didn’t exactly align with their idea for a coastal retreat. “She has a refined boho aesthetic in her fashion and interior sense,” designer Rebekah Zaveloff says of one of the owners. “They didn’t want a fussy house where people don’t feel comfortable.”
It was a vision shared by Zaveloff, whom the couple entrusted with channeling their concept for the project. The designer put forth a plan to create a vacation house without the usual beach tropes, instead gathering inspiration from her travels to Morocco, Italy and Mexico. “The goal was to create a warm, organic, modern vibe that was casual but elegant,” she says.
First, though, a renovation was in order. Working with builders Julio Lopez and Michael Hawkins as well as architect of record Jose A. Vidal of V3 Architectural Group, Zaveloff replaced the dark floors with a light-toned French limestone, then overhauled the enclosed kitchen and breakfast area. “We opened up the space and added new windows, which gave the clients a view of downtown,” Lopez says. New cerused-oak cabinets and Calacatta Bluette marble countertops brighten the space, while a wall of zellige tile with a trellis pattern adds a desired Moroccan nod.
Indeed, tile played a large role in the design, used as a tool for Zaveloff to add pattern, texture and uniformity. “I knew it would create a sense of cohesiveness by updating all the bathrooms with the same type of flooring but in different patterns,” she explains. Layering on top, she introduced vintage rugs—including a massive patchwork in the living area—to bring in a sense of casual patina and soft, sun-bleached hues that play to the owners’ bohemian aesthetic.
Guest bedrooms needed to accommodate any of the couple’s children at a time, so Zaveloff drew upon her background in hospitality for her approach to the private spaces. “I treated it like a boutique hotel,” she says. “I wanted the bedrooms to feel personal and homey, rather than sterile and impersonal.” Extra bedroom pieces like rattan daybeds make a whimsical statement while also offering additional accommodations, and relaxed textiles such as Moroccan cotton blankets and linen duvet covers in soft blues, beiges and grays inject an organic feel. The living area, too, acts as a lobby—a collection of sofas in sunbaked clay hues forms a gathering spot to take in the view— and wood and rattan furnishings throughout maintain an island vibe.
Durability and comfort were key in the design, but Zaveloff made sure to balance family-friendly elements with touches of glamour, particularly fixtures. “When you have kids, the best way to add elegance to a house without worrying about things getting broken is lighting,” she says. “I like the tension between something really glam, like a Murano fixture against a muted background and a casual environment.” The designer proved her point with pairings such as the dining area’s feather-like Italian glass chandelier above a natural wood table and striking vintage-inspired sconces that adorn the bathrooms.
Zaveloff approached the exterior in a similar spirit as the interior, outfitting the oversize loggia with wood and resin wicker furnishings, textiles in muted hues and organic touches such as decorative baskets. Landscape designer Benjamin Torres joined in the transformation, adding much- needed color to the grounds. “The only things that were there were the huge bamboo and the coconut palms,” he says. “We had to do everything from scratch.” Flowering vines now climb the exterior façade, and plantings like red ginger frame a seating area.
The owners unlocked the doors of their new retreat as soon as they could, making several trips a month to the balmy surrounds. “I loved the idea of creating a home for somebody that was literally turnkey,” Zaveloff says. “You feel at home the minute you walk in the door.”