Residences in Hobe Sound, Florida, tend to be secluded affairs, tucked behind tall hedges along quiet lanes. Obscured by a thicket of sea grapes on one such road, architect Gil Schafer has designed a couple’s Caribbean-style home that looks as if it’s been there for generations.
Building a new house wasn’t especially high on his clients’ to-do list. The land has been in the husband’s family for decades, and his grandmother had the existing house built in the 1970s. Although the structure didn’t utilize the site well and there were rooms the family rarely used, the husband had a strong sentimental attachment to the place. Enter Schafer, who’d completed a residence in the Adirondacks for the couple and their three children and knew how they wanted to live.
As the clients considered whether to renovate or rebuild, the architect suggested they start fresh with a design that features garden views on all four sides of the property while incorporating elements that made the original home so special. “Redoing it gave us some nice opportunities to rethink things,” he explains.
Schafer’s first move was to orient the house to minimize its impact from the front—an appreciative notion in an area with mindful zoning authorities. Designing the structure in an H shape, he situated the majority of the residence in a long wing at the rear of the property, where a formal allée of palm trees would invigorate a previously neglected area. The H configuration brings ample natural light into the interior and allowed for the creation of a loggia between the living area and the pool as well as a courtyard off the kitchen and family room. “We wanted a lot of indoor-outdoor relationships,” Schafer says. “If you’re going to be in this beautiful place, you want to embrace nature and light as much as you can.”
As the plan took shape, the architect, who also oversaw the project’s interior design, identified details from the original residence to bring into the new home. The cypress-paneled library had been a favorite room for family gatherings and holidays, so the pickled boards were carefully salvaged for the new library, which occupies the same spot. When there wasn’t enough of the old cypress, Schafer tapped general contractor Dave Chesser to match new wood for the wainscoting, bookcases and fireplace surround. Chesser also put to use the house’s original brass door hardware—which had been handpicked by the husband’s grandmother—replicating the knobs as needed. He also moved the old library mantel to the new master bedroom.
With the structural details decided, landscape designer Cecilia de Grelle and landscape architect Carrie Steinbaum got to work creating lush gardens. The duo combined formal and informal arrangements of plantings, used native trees and fauna and introduced coconut and straight-trunked Montgomery palms. “It’s a garden in harmony with the house and the environment,” de Grelle says. “And there’s a good balance between formal and expressive.” Steinbaum agrees. “The idea was to make it look as if it had always been there,” she says. “The palette is subtle, with spots of color.”
The interiors, by contrast, are bursting with vivid hues, starting in the entrance hall, where Schafer combined a turquoise silk grass cloth for the walls and patterned draperies in coral and white. Glazed coral-colored walls form a lively tropical backdrop for the living area’s antiques, many of which belonged to the husband’s grandmother. Salmon and blue also accent the casual family room off the open-plan kitchen.
“My husband and I are very traditional, but we like bright colors,” says the wife, who worked closely with Schafer to select fabrics and wallcoverings. “Gil takes our tradition and puts a spin on it. He’ll say, ‘Let’s do bright but in a more contemporary way.’ ” As Schafer explains of his strategy, “You have to be careful in the tropics not to make things feel too heavy. I wanted to give the clients a little formality balanced with a more relaxed Caribbean feel.” Throughout, he modulated ceiling heights and styles—a coffered ceiling in the living area and tray ceilings in spaces like the library, family room and bedrooms. The hall connecting the upstairs bedrooms has a sloping roofline with open rafters. “I wanted it to look as if we’d closed in an open-air porch,” he notes.
For Schafer, details like these go a long way to ground the new structure and make it a home that will remain in the family for years to come. “You want as much as possible for things to feel inevitable and natural,” he says.