Embrace The Easygoing Elegance Of This New Take On ‘Old Florida’ Style


white two-story house with cedar-shingle...

For his Palm Beach Gardens home, architect John Melhorn incorporated James Hardie horizontal siding—featuring Loewen windows—painted Barely There by Benjamin Moore and a red cedar-shingle roof by Copper River Shake & Shingle. Landscape designer Todd MacLean incorporated plants such as thatch palms, live oak trees and Bermuda grass installed by Rood Landscape. The antique cobblestone driveway by Tremron transitions to Dominican coral stone by Herpel, Inc. Cast Stone & Columns.

entry with chevron pattern flooring,...

In the entry, Hakwood flooring from Absolute Hardwood Flooring is installed in a chevron pattern to match the mahogany door by Palm City Millwork, which has an Ashley Norton handle. Bernhardt’s Savoy Place console perches above two ottomans, while Apparatus’ Tassel sconces frame RH’s 1940s Églomisé mirror.

living area with three iron...

Brayden Studio pendants line the living area ceiling. By the Haifa Limestone fireplace, R Hughes chairs face a coffee table from Excentricities. The cocktail ottoman from Villa Vici in New Orleans and Sunpan’s Nuri end table join the furnishings on a Hibernia wool rug. Behind the sofa, Kelly Wearstler’s Bayliss lamp rests on an RH table.

kitchen with gray cabinetry, wood...

Kelly Wearstler’s Cleo pendants from Visual Comfort & Co. hang in the kitchen above Waterworks’ Henry faucet from Broedell Plumbing Supply. Forte Interiors fabricated the island’s stained-oak base and the cabinetry, painted Benjamin Moore’s Raccoon Fur and punctuated with Buster + Punch hardware. The Miele stove, beneath the CK Metalcraft hood, is from House of Appliances.

dining area with oval table,...

Design Within Reach’s Saarinen dining table and Wishbone side chairs join Global Views’ Anvil Back head chairs beneath Jonathan Browning’s Montfaucon chandelier in the dining area. A Louis Reith artwork hangs above the Wrensilva record console. The ceiling and walls are treated with a custom wax plaster.

family room with large gray...

Blu Dot’s Hecks ottomans gather on a Hibernia wool rug in the family room, illuminated by Arteriors’ Marsha chandelier and Loki wall sconce. Stained-oak shelving by Forte Interiors lines a Phillip Jeffries grass-cloth wallcovering, while custom draperies frame a view of a Frontgate umbrella outside. Control4 handled the home’s automation.

bedroom with pink bed, gray...

"Someday" by Kirsten Shannon hangs in the main bedroom above a bed with a cotton headboard and Kathy Kuo linens. Room & Board’s Moro nightstand complements Aerin’s Frankfort wall light from Visual Comfort & Co.

bathroom with light blue tile...

The cabana’s walk-through shower accommodates children and guests coming from the pool. Kohler’s Purist showerhead and faucet are affixed to subway tile, while Orion stone pebble mosaic tile flooring runs underfoot.

By the time architect John Melhorn found the home that would become his young family’s new residence, the structure, a bank foreclosure, had been on the market for three years. “It was your classic stucco-concrete Florida house, devoid of any architectural interest,” he recalls. “But I had been looking for a home with an appealing location.” And the property, which is tucked in a golf community that borders a marshland preserve and is convenient to his office, was perfect in that regard.

As Melhorn and his business partner, Christian Thomas—an architect who oversees construction for their firm—began reimagining the residence with input from John’s wife, Julie, they were motivated by both tradition and innovation. “We wanted to take classic forms and make them simpler and more approachable,” Melhorn says. Golf-community homes can follow a particular, predictable style, Thomas points out. “We wanted to rethink what that aesthetic looks like,” he says.

They landed on a look Melhorn describes as “traditional Florida vernacular in its materials and details.” The façade has a concrete-block wall on the first floor and horizontal siding on the second—a nod to the region’s long tradition of building with pine—all topped with a cedar-shingle roof. A trio of double-hung windows on the upper level crowns the front door, its warm wood a handsome contrast to the exterior’s relatively stark palette.

That front entry creates “a sense of arrival and broadcasts strength and security,” Melhorn says, calling the design “a kind of elliptical element embracing and surrounding you as you prepare to enter the home.” While many neighbors have glass double front doors, this one—wood in a chevron pattern—creates a quiet moment of expectation before revealing a foyer that leads to the main living areas, with views straight to the backyard and expansive preserve beyond. “I like that the entry doesn’t reveal all of the home’s qualities immediately,” Melhorn says. “You don’t experience it all at once.”

What you do find inside is a clean, contemporary palette and rooms that open graciously to one another. On the main level, the line between the living area fireplace and the kitchen’s range hood create a “spine” through the center of the home.

To further unify the public spaces, the team applied a wax-plaster product, developed by the firm, to the walls and ceilings. “It’s very durable—rock-hard,” Melhorn says. “But from an aesthetic standpoint, because the workmen apply it by hand and burnish it over and over, you get this beautiful character and warmth you can never get from drywall.” As the sun sets, light passes through the French doors that line the back wall of the west-facing living area, bouncing off the treatment.

The neutral, earth-toned furnishings and decor—including rugs and window treatments selected with help from interior designer Krista Alterman of Krista + Home—add accents of blues, greens and yellows to complement the views and reflect an easygoing elegance. The living area has two seating arrangements: an intimate space near the fireplace and a slightly larger one that faces the kitchen. Meanwhile, the more casual family room—home to the only television in the house—has a large, cozy sectional sofa and playful geometric ottomans. The bedrooms offer a subdued take on the color palette and rely instead on layers of neutral texture, like the main bedroom’s cotton headboard, jute wallcovering and wool rug.

The strategy was to keep the interior focused on the grounds, revamped by Melhorn and landscape designer Todd MacLean. The duo built a retaining wall to correct the site’s steep slope toward the marshlands and leave room for a pool, a play area for the children and an entertaining space. Using Bermuda grass, MacLean also created what he calls “an infinite edge” against the cordgrass and sawgrass of the preserve. In the front of the house, he moved existing coconut palms to flank the entry, relocated sabal palms into natural clusters and supplemented the garden with plants that attract birds and butterflies. “We enhanced what was already a beautiful site with a genuine Old Florida feel,” the landscape designer says.

The project could be a case study for what the new generation of Old Florida homes might look like. It was also, Melhorn and Thomas say, a chance to fine-tune their firm’s approach to designing and building homes specifically for a client’s needs—even one of their own. “Ninety percent of architecture takes place in the field,” Thomas says. “We’re sewing back together architecture and construction into one coherent whole, in hopes of creating houses that respond to the individuals who live in them.”