If great minds think alike, then interior designer Leah Muller and builder Darwyn A. Jones were certainly on the same wavelength while working together on the redesign of a Bermudian-Colonial in Vero Beach. When Muller noted that the dining and family rooms were out of alignment and cutting into the kitchen, Jones immediately countered with a solution. “Not only did he mention opening up the kitchen, but he also suggested removing a second wing wall in the living room allowing for natural light to fill the dining room,” explains Muller whose next question was answered before she uttered a word. “Darwyn knew exactly what I was about to ask and said, ‘Yes, we can trick out the living room with a new inverted hip ceiling and beam design.’ Next, we were sketching out the plan on a plywood sawhorse.”
Like every superb design team, their simpatico continued as the dated dwelling morphed into an updated retreat more in line with the lifestyle of its new inhabitants, a Boston couple seeking a casual yet sophisticated ambience in a convivial neighborhood. “Instead of a big property, we wanted a vibrant community where we could make new friends, and where our children and grandkids could visit,” says the wife. But more importantly, it had to have western exposure. “We are sunset people as opposed to morning people, and we limited our search to homes with that orientation,” the husband adds.
Located on a quiet cul-de-sac, the house they selected faced the desired direction, but the grounds begged for improvement. In response, landscape architect Warren McCormick modified the rear terrace and fashioned a “sunset patio” with a low seat wall along the outer edge that overlooks the golf course. “We created a contained courtyard feeling while maintaining visual ownership of the golf vista,” says McCormick, who also designed the new swimming pool and spa to better accommodate water play for weekend visitors. In the front, a new driveway made of Florida shellstone pavers was installed, and a covered Belvedere designed by architect Harry Gandy Howle of Harry Gandy Howle & Associates was added to enhance the exterior elevation. Espaliered Confederate jasmine vines grace the home’s exposed face and are balanced with simple accent plantings. “Our intent was to maximize a feeling of layered order without creating undue clutter,” McCormick explains.
A similar philosophy defines the interiors, where Muller’s clean, classic look plays out in a renewed backdrop. While the walls were revived with a coat of soft gray paint, the interior designer decided to introduce a seaside palette of blues, neutrals and corals throughout the home using various patterns, textures and fabrics. In the living room, for example, cool-toned pillows on the white sofa, blue cushions on the twin rattan chairs, and the stripes on the upholstered slipper chairs tie the room’s accents together seamlessly. A colorful abstract by Carlos Ramirez hangs above the fireplace, which was refurbished with wavy white ceramic tile, reflecting this modern coastal vibe.
Throughout the redesign, Muller worked closely with project manager Shannon Colkitt, who skillfully introduced items like the lagoon-blue pole rattan counter stools in the kitchen. “It was the perfect pop of color and completed the overall feel we wanted for that space,” says Colkitt. After that healthy dose of color was added, the kitchen was finished off with muted gray-and-white honed Statuary marble counters. In the adjacent family room, the tone shifts with a warm beige sofa embellished with coral pillows, and a whitewashed wooden coffee table to imply a level of informality. “The warmer hues set a different mood, indicating that you live differently here,” says Muller about the living space routinely used for relaxing and movie viewing. “I also used the husband’s favorite color, orange, to make the room feel more familiar to him.”
Regarding the spa-like, tranquil ambience and subtle shades of mint green, cream and taupe that envelope the master suite, Muller shares it was that blend of soft tones that won her the job in the first place. “They saw those colors in a prior house I worked on in the same community and fell in love with the combination,” says the interior designer. The faint green walls and beige upholstered headboard provide the requisite calm, while the mercury glass bedside lamps bring a hint of luxury and an abstract artwork facing the bed boasts bolder hues adding an additional layer of color.
As for the owners, they welcome the yearly respite from the traditional paintings, dark-wood furniture, and Oriental rugs that define their New England domicile. “I like to wake up and go barefoot most of the day in a house that welcomes uncovered feet,” says the wife. “This is a very happy creation and we love being here.”