For some, becoming empty nesters is a time for downsizing. But for one dynamic couple from the New York City area, the opposite was true. After more than 30 years of owning a series of vacation homes in a private South Florida community, the pair commissioned builder Terry Cudmore and architect Robert Jay Colestock to create the ultimate clubhouse-like retreat for their sports-centric brood of children and grandchildren.
The couple—he is a real estate executive; she devotes her time to charitable causes—spent two years scouting the perfect lot. When they found one in Boca Raton that checked all their boxes—lakefront siting, privacy and close access to a golf course—there was just one problem: The parcel of land had a circa-1980s traditional ranch on it that was not at all close to the “bright, sunshiny and happy home” they envisioned, Colestock says, resulting in a total tear-down.
To begin, the couple turned to Cudmore to tackle the project, as they were already fans of his firm’s work. The wife had amassed a sheaf of magazine clippings, including custom-home projects build by him, in partnership with Colestock and interior designer Louis Shuster, who joined the team on this home as well. Frequent co-collaborator, landscape architecture firm KWD, was also brought on board. In short order, Cudmore says, “We had put the band back together.”
The clients’ top request for the team: an open casual oor plan with large airy rooms that all face the water. “To get all eyes outside is not the easiest architectural feat,” says the husband, who marvels that the lake is visible from almost anywhere in the 9,180-square-foot contemporary dwelling, thanks to a southwestern exposure that features so many windows it is practically a curtain wall.
To create intimacy, landscape architects Krent Wieland and Beth Dawson framed the house with a limited but lush selection of tropical plants heavy on Alocasia (elephant ears), Sylvester date palms and Asian jasmine. “We had to make them feel protected and separate but also account for that killer long-shot view,” Wieland explains. At night, a ribbon of fire hugs the infinity pool, creating a “double-negative edge with the horizon,” and color-filter LED uplights illuminate the property to dramatic effect.
At the front exterior, a double-height column wall clad in ledgestone contrasts with the home’s lightness as it extends from the outside in. The wall, a prominent design feature, anchors both the foyer and a showcase transparent staircase. Carved into the foyer’s grotto-like feature is a double-sided glass wine chiller that provides a peek into the dining room. “I loved playing with all this massive weight floating ominously above the wine chiller,” Colestock says. “There are a lot of super cool plays in this project between weight and glass, fire and water, yes and no.”
For the interiors, the homeowners requested decor that was elegant yet comfortable and able to withstand “lots of kids running around,” the wife says. She also had definite ideas about the palette, which sticks to neutral tones of beachy taupe, warm cream and a specific seafoam, which Shuster, along with designer Gage Peter Hartung, took great pains to match in accent pillows, custom-dyed wool rugs and even custom slate-stained walnut millwork. “The clients’ previous home had a heavy Mediterranean aesthetic,” Shuster says. “For this project they wanted the exact opposite. So we delivered a timeless, signature look that is not trendy or gimmicky. When you keep the palette neutral and refrain from using too many materials, it makes the spaces look larger.”
In the foyer, Hartung collaged a feature wall of reflective tile infused with silver pyrite. The warm sparkly tones draw the eye up to the home’s most dramatic feature: a glass-handrail bridge that connects the two wings and provides a bird’s-eye view of the living room, kitchen, breakfast nook and—beyond a curtain wall of folding glass doors—an outdoor version of the same living spaces.
From the vantage point of the glass bridge, one can enjoy scenic views of the lake and the occasional golfer—not on the nearby golf course, but right under one’s nose—on a kidney-shaped putting green embedded in the marble tile flooring of the home’s expansive upper balcony. “Krent is always coming up with stuff people don’t even know they want, and then they love it,” Cudmore says of the landscape architect’s creativity. The 1,000-square-foot balcony also includes a bar, grill, flat-screen television, remote-controlled awning and outdoor pool table that can be covered to use as a dining table. For the clients—both avid golfers—and their extended family, what could be better than being outside, throwing some burgers on the grill and getting in a few putts as the sun sets? As Shuster says, and as this team proves, “Practice makes perfect.”
–Laura Fisher Kaiser