Palm fronds, chintz and vintage blue-and-white vases: These familiar trappings of Palm Beach style were nowhere to be found on Joe and Patty Coughlin’s redesign wish list. To be fair, though, the list was pretty short to start with. When the couple snagged the perfect fixer-upper in an exclusive North Palm Beach enclave for their vacation property, they were surer about the have-nots than the must-haves. “We just knew we didn’t want it to look like what you’d expect from a vacation home in this part of the country,” Patty says. So, she went to work to fill in the blanks, tirelessly scouring the web for inspiration.
Soon, Patty found that all of her favorite rooms—the ones she was clipping and pinning and saving for later—were the brainchildren of one interior designer in particular: Jacksonville-based Andrew Howard. “We loved that the homes he had a part in creating felt cozy and casual but didn’t scream ‘beach house,’ ” Patty explains. “He was the only person we called.” With Howard on board, things got under way quickly—thanks to the fact that the home had already been fully gutted (with the walls in the great room torn down and reconfigured for an open-living plan) and to the designer’s own singular vision.
“When you’re designing a secondary residence,” Howard says, “it almost needs to read homier than your actual home, since you don’t spend as much time there and it can feel a little unfamiliar. My number one concern, then, was comfort—that this could be a place that would reflect the Coughlins and what their needs were, and that it would become something they could live in and grow with over time.” Delivering big on the cozy front in the light and bright great room, however, was about more than selecting the just-right fabric for the curtains—although the pretty Ferrick Mason Bizzy Bloom print is a perfect fit.
Instead, Howard started by thinking about how the Coughlins and their two adult children would be using the space. “You need to be cognizant of the traffic flow when hanging out and entertaining,” he explains. “Paths need to be big enough for people to pass through easily and feel free to mingle. It’s not just about furnishings but about the way the pieces are arranged.” With that in mind, Howard was able to create disparate working, dining and living areas, using strategically placed furniture alone: a few barstools around the kitchen with its minimalist palette; a pedestal table with clean lines and wicker chairs with a splash of color on the cushions for the dining room; and a living room with just the basics—a sofa and three chairs around an oversize coffee table.
For all of the design’s simplicity, there’s still style in spades: a baby-blue-and-white palette feels fresher than typical Palm Beach fashion with its more traditional navy, and the subtle mixing of textures, from sisal and wicker to wood and marble, ensures there’s always something interesting for the eye to land on. Howard made sure to hide plenty of charm in unexpected places, too, as in the colorful trim that pops up throughout the house—in the fuss-free family room and laundry room, where it frames dynamic window shades and wallpaper, respectively—and on the creative ceiling treatments in nearly every space. The great room’s vaulted tongue-and-groove ceiling, for example, lends gravitas to the area, while blue-painted ceilings in the guest and master bedrooms mimic clear skies.
For homeowners who weren’t quite sure what they wanted when they started out, the completed house is total bliss. “Every room has its own personality,” Patty enthuses, “but they all work well within the whole. It’s casual and comfortable; we’re as relaxed sitting in the hot tub outside as we are hanging on the couch in the living room.” And the best part? There’s not a bit of chintz in sight.
–Brielle M. Ferreira