Boasting a British West Indies-style exterior and large pool courtyard, a gracious home in Vero Beach’s Windsor community easily caught the eyes of a Montreal couple. Inside, however, the dark woods, rich colors and antique furnishings weren’t quite their style. Yet they could see the structure had good bones and, with a bit of a refresh, the potential to be an ideal Florida vacation property.
To help give the abode the more modern look they were after, the new residents turned to the person who knew the house better than anyone: the original architect, Thomas Hoos, who had designed the home in 2002 for a couple from Vermont. “It was more of a historical design,” he acknowledges. “The new owners wanted to update it and make it much lighter and more refreshing.”
More than 15 years later, Hoos reteamed on the project with David Lyons, the original general contractor. They were soon joined by designer Ashley Olivia Waddell and interior designer Courtney O’Bryan Harris, who came on board early to help infuse the fresh, contemporary aesthetic.
The work began by overhauling the dark cherry wood kitchen. “One of the main architectural items was to open up the kitchen, which was compartmentalized from the dining room,” Hoos says. The archway separating the two spaces was removed to create a unified kitchen and dining area. The architect reused the existing cabinets where possible, rejuvenating them with white paint, and worked with a custom maker to add infill cabinets to the new layout.
Conscious that the owners planned to use the property as a vacation home, the team selected low-maintenance kitchen materials, such as quartz countertops and a Calacatta marble backsplash. Underfoot, the cork flooring was replaced by dark ipe wood, matching the existing look in the other parts of the home. “We kept the dark floors because they worked well as an accent to the new light, white finishes,” Hoos explains.
Following the kitchen, the next space to receive a dramatic overhaul was the master bathroom. “It had been designed specifically for the previous owners,” Hoos notes. “We even had a bidet that was a water fountain for their dog.” To create a sleeker, more open space for the new clients, the team separated the shower and toilet from the tub by installing a pair of vanities with floating mirrors, one of the project’s biggest challenges. “The mirrors weigh 300 pounds apiece, and we had to do special modifications to the roof trusses above to support the hanging weight,” Lyons says. The master bathroom now also connects to a dressing room Hoos created after opening up the master bedroom’s walk-in closets.
Other spaces in the home were updated with subtle but impactful changes. In the living area, Hoos removed the built-in bookcases and window seats, decluttering the space around the fireplace. Within the refreshed surroundings, Waddell and Harris formed a seating area with a contemporary white sofa, gray-striped club chairs, an ivory stone coffee table and a gray tufted leather chair and ottoman. “The room still has all the historical details, but they work as a contrast to the more modern furnishings,” the architect says. In other areas, a new window brings more sunlight to a guest bedroom, guest bathrooms were outfitted with new fixtures and vanities and a space that housed gardening tools was converted into a mudroom to store pool towels and golfing gear.
With the structural changes complete, the home’s colorful walls were painted white, instantly brightening the interiors. “We were trying to mesh the house with the clients’ personalities and the look they wanted,” Harris says. “They had more of a modern style, and the house was traditional. Painting all the walls white immediately made the home feel more simplified and ready to house the clean-lined furniture as well as make the abstract, colorful art collection pop.” Continuing the look in the living area, she and Waddell sourced furnishings in crisp whites and soft grays for neutral pieces against works by artists such as Amande, Lyne Bastien and Lorraine Pritchard. And where they didn’t go contemporary, the pair turned iconic midcentury, balancing the structure’s traditional architectural details with elements such as Hans Wegner-designed seating in the dining area and an Eero Saarinen chair and ottoman in the master bedroom.
Outside, where landscape designer Sam Comer refreshed the grounds, the courtyard terraces were properly outfitted for lounging, dining and entertaining. “The pool area now works,” Waddell says. “It’s meant for lounging.” From here to indoors, the brightened-up retreat beckons its Canadian owners eager to escape the cold. “There’s so much more light inside this house,” Hoos says. “It’s a wonderful place to be.”