Watching a child leave the nest for college can be a bittersweet experience for parents. Of course, there’s also a flip side: Those parents now have the chance to spread their own wings. For one pair of empty nesters, that meant moving east, from West Boca Raton, Florida to a waterfront property they had always dreamed of.
After searching for more than a year, they found that seaside perch in Ocean Ridge, Florida, on a lot that backs onto a lush bay of mangroves and is an easy stroll to the beach. But the change wasn’t just a fresh start location-wise. The couple took none of their furniture from the old-world Mediterranean-style house they called home for 13 years. By comparison, their new abode would be a one-story shrine to modern minimalism—nothing but clean lines, a neutral palette and calm, flowing spaces. “Being in the design business, and seeing its turn in the contemporary minimalism direction, I wanted to go full speed ahead,” the husband says.
It was the manifestation of a mental scrapbook the husband had been keeping during his 33 years in the materials business. As the owner of a marble and tile company, he has worked on myriad luxury homes, each time noting the aspects he loved most. And when the day came to bring all those elements together in his own residence, he turned to a team he had worked alongside for years.
“We wanted to design something simple, with beautiful architecture and clean lines where the form follows the function,” describes architect Elmar Benavente. His vision is clear from the structure’s front exterior, which features three dramatic square archways leading to the entry door. “I imagined a sculpture instead of just thinking of a house, and that’s where the arches came about,” Benavente explains. “We wanted something dramatic that really pulls you in.”
Inside, the H-layout home splits into two wings—one for the bedrooms, bathrooms and the office and the other for more communal gatherings, with the kitchen, living area and theater. A center courtyard with another arch—this one with a water feature—provides a focal point for the surrounding rooms.
Although the home’s color palette is strictly limited to white walls and neutral, grayscale furniture, occasional pops of color come via artwork. Interior designer Michael Delao’s challenge was to find ways other than color to add depth to the interiors, which he achieved by drawing attention to the structure itself. “We focused on more ceiling details, rather than a lot of decorative chandeliers and fans,” he explains. “We kept all the light fixtures to a minimum to enhance the architectural details and also the view.” In lieu of a chandelier above the dining table, for instance, the team installed coffers, LED lights and drop soffits to create visual interest. To break up the furniture’s gray palette, Delao opted for the occasional dark-wood piece, such as the living area coffee table.
To the untrained eye, the minimalist home may simply appear to have a calming sense of flow. The secret behind it, the husband says, is using full slabs of marble, glass, stone and porcelain throughout to maintain an overall fluidity while also creating striking design moments. The living area television, for instance, is framed by back-lit glass slabs, creating an Onyx effect that is especially dramatic at night. Outside in the summer kitchen, gray book-matched marble serves as a backsplash and a table. And the husband’s bathroom features a book-matched natural stone, while the same treatment in a Calacatta gold porcelain in the wife’s bathroom evokes a meditative calm, complemented by a tub overlooking a Zen garden.
The husband’s background made everyone’s job a lot easier, says general contractor Leonard Albanese. “His knowledge of the material helped us determine the style of home and the cost efficiency of building,” he says. “And because we had access to all his materials, there was no holdup—decisions were made, and the house went up.”
To keep the pool grounds in harmony with the architecture, landscape designer Neal Elkin used hardy, uniform greenery—like snake plants—and gray Mexican beach stone. “The owners wanted a very minimalist, simple design,” he says. “So we used a lot of different shades of green and some palms as well as shaped and trimmed trees, like Japanese blueberry and spartan juniper.” The soothing landscaping complements the home’s open, flowing design, which blurs indoors and outdoors in contemporary fashion—just what the owners had long desired.
“I love the floor plan,” the husband says. “I love the design. For us, it is the perfect house.”