Designer Rod Mickley isn’t afraid of playing with color. On the golf course, he’ll pair a dark blue shirt with pink shorts and an orange belt–and stylishly pull off the vibrant look. So when a couple consulted Mickley about refreshing the interiors of their elegant second home in Vero Beach, he quickly realized they were clients after his own heart. “I showed them different pieces of furniture, textures and fabrics, and each time I threw down something with a lot of color, they’d point to it and say, ‘That!’ ” he recalls. “I knew almost immediately what to do.”
The residence, located in Windsor, melds classic southern and island architecture with modern flourishes such as cantilevered balconies and expanses of glass. Created with an indoor-outdoor lifestyle in mind, the layout directs guests from the front door toward the open-air living space, complete with a lap pool and sitting area. The airy structure includes a large living area, a master bedroom and a loft. A pair of coach houses are also at the ready to accommodate guests.
The exterior had been painted a neutral hue; the inside was clean and white. But once Mickley set foot on the property, things started to change. “When I was younger, I really wanted to be an artist,” he recalls. “I wanted to go to art school, but my mother told me I needed a profession, so I went into interior design. My love of art comes out in what I do–not that I couldn’t do a white-on-white interior, but I love to mix things.”
Mickley’s bohemian blend of colors and forms begin with the dining area’s whimsical light fixture, a dozen pendants with global-patterned woven lampshades made of recycled plastics and soda bottles. He paired the bold piece with a rectangular light wood table and an oversize acrylic abstract on a nearby wall. “It easily could have looked like a modern art museum,” the designer says of the space. “But we brought in warmth through wicker chairs around the dining table.”
The “incredible light” pouring in through the large windows and 10-foot-high doors inspired the home’s palette, Mickley says. He pulled in the blue skies, nature and sunshine with well-considered turquoise, gold and red patterned fabrics; woven area rugs; and sun-bleached wooden pieces, such as the sculptural twin wall mirrors in the hallway between the kitchen and the master bedroom.
Spanning 18 to 35 feet, the ceilings’ monumental height left the home feeling equally airy and cavernous. To make the rooms feel more intimate, Mickley strategically hung abstract artwork throughout at 12-14 feet off the ground, lowering the visual focus. The human scale is especially evident in the living area, where vibrant shades and varied patterns lead the eye around the space–from the tribal print pillows to a beaded African stool and a vintage chair with bird profiles carved into the arms. “When I’m not restrained by someone’s taste, I’m told there can be a very ethnic influence to my work,” Mickley says. “But I do it in a way where everything plays off everything else, and there’s a balance. There’s a great amount of color, texture, simplicity and complication in this house. That yin and yang is what makes it so livable.”
The strategy continues in the master bedroom, where the designer cleverly minimized the voluminous space. Between two mirrored 10-foot-tall doors, he displayed a geometric grass-cloth mural that mimics the clean lines of the 9-foot-tall canopy bed. The mural’s blues and greens also echo the sitting area’s palm print armchairs, which offer a nod to the landscape outside.
The final design is anything but typical, yet totally Mickley. “Don’t make me do something because you think your friends will like it,” he tells his clients. “Do it because you like it. That’s what makes things fun.”