It’s a classic renovation tale: A couple buys a Naples, Florida vacation house. It’s ideal for them in the moment—turnkey and kitted out to perfection. A decade or so elapses, and times and needs change. Such was the case for designer Billy Ceglia’s longtime clients. “They looked at moving, at seeing what else was out there because their family had grown,” says Ceglia. “But they loved the location, and the house—it was just dated. They decided to stay, keep the memories, and make it fresh and new and right for their family now.” After two previous projects together, the designer and his clients had built serious trust, so Ceglia had nearly free reign on the house. “The ideal clients understand that they’re hiring professionals, so there are more functional and programming notes,” he observes.
In the revamp, out went the muted, tea-stained palette, bamboo furniture and tropical prints, and in came thoughtfully reworked spaces, tailored silhouettes and flourishes of bold color. “We gave it half a face-lift,” Ceglia says with a laugh. “And touched nearly every surface.” The designer’s efforts are visible outside, where orange barrel tile on the roof was replaced with flat, gray tiles. “It looks a little more like the Italian countryside,” he says. And then, “We painted everything that stood still white,” he says, referring to the now crisp finish on the formerly beige-y precast concrete façade. Ceglia took a similar tack inside, applying a whitewash to the walls. “I don’t like to go against what the outside tells you, so that you think, ‘Wait a minute, did I teleport somewhere else?’ It feels relatable to the exterior and to their lifestyle.” He directed paintbrushes to the architectural details as well. Columns and ceiling beams also received a white coat, and, to heighten that dolce vita vibe, the interiors of the ceiling coffers are blue. “It kept that feeling of open-air space,” notes the designer.
Ceglia kept the interior plan mostly intact. Well laid out, the bathrooms required only cosmetic overhauls, but the kitchen (and the adjacent breakfast area and family room) was a different story. “It had been a giant dead end,” says the designer, “so we took out a peninsula and swapped in a bigger island.” To accommodate the couple’s grandchildren, he created a kid zone there with storage conveniently positioned for little hands to grab paper plates, napkins and snacks. He also removed an existing bar to make way for a multi-person home office, while the family room gained more seating to accommodate their visiting tribe.
Rather than choosing all-white finishes for the kitchen, “We worked with Waterworks to find the palest gray paint for the perimeter cabinets and a stain for the island with a yellow undertone,” explains Ceglia. The latter hue was both an aesthetic and practical decision, as one of the few finishes kept was the travertine flooring. “It would have been a major undertaking to rip it out,” says general contractor Tom Lawrence, “and it was a beautiful element of the house, so why remove it?”
While the kitchen reads neutral, the rest of the open-plan house tells a thoughtfully woven color story. “We wanted it traditional but fresh and youthful, so we chose stronger colors on more classic furniture,” notes Ceglia. In the living room, a deep turquoise fabric with a subtle white ribbon pattern offers up an English-meets-South Florida vibe. “In the dining room, the color mellows and mutes on the host and hostess chairs and whispers in the chinoiserie wall panels,” he notes. The palette picks up steam again in the breakfast room, where a paler turquoise covers the pillows on a set of gray upholstered chairs before making a bigger statement on the family room’s sectional and lounge chair. The boldest expression is found in the vibrant wallcoverings in the turquoise guest room and bath. “We made an S curve that moves your eye through the house,” the designer explains, “When you’re outside looking back in, you see all of those rooms.”
For Ceglia, his clients’ home offers a compelling lesson for others faced with a dated abode. “You can look at this house and realize that you don’t have to start from scratch,” he says. A big part of the equation, though, is making decisions that will hold up in years to come. “I want my clients to do it once and never have to do it again,” the designer shares, “I like to choose classic, wonderful, comfortable things that they won’t tire of.”