Over the course of their lives, designer Kevin Dumais’ clients had owned many traditional homes. But after 15 years of living in Windsor, the Vero Beach, Florida, couple hoped for a new house that would not only provide comfort and encourage relaxation but also offer something they’d been missing out on: streamlined modernity.
A residence in the area seemed to perfectly express what they were after: It was sleek and sophisticated but tempered with just enough Florida casualness to take the edge off. It was also not on the market. Newly completed, it actually belonged to a friend of theirs and had been designed by Dumais. Availing themselves of the opportunity to build from the ground up, the couple soon initiated a creative partnership with the designer, architects Clemens Bruns Schaub and Christine Pokorney and general contractor Jayson Clayton. Their goal: Create a home with resort-like attention to detail and a total commitment to coziness.
For Dumais, the best way to achieve the elegant yet easygoing effect was to establish a color and materials palette of soothing neutrals. Light wood was chosen to evoke a coastal environment and is enhanced by organic textures. Jolts of dark color, usually black, accent the proceedings “to give it some dynamic punch,” he says. The idea first presents itself in the colonnaded entrance portico, where modern white columns engage with low black planters. Inside, aesthetic back-and-forths like this take place in nearly every room, conferring the convivial energy of an afternoon cocktail party upon the entire house. “It’s a more refined, detailed design than anything I have worked on,” Clayton says.
It’s just the atmosphere the owners desired. “We wanted a contemporary house with as much light as possible streaming into it, almost as if we were living outside,” the wife says. “We also wanted the house to be super comfortable and inviting, with lots of places to curl up with a book or chat with friends.” They envisioned an expansive open-plan ground floor that could quickly be transformed into a series of private-yet-connected spaces. To create different settings, Schaub gave them three adjoining volumes–a living, kitchen and a dining area–that can each open to or close off from one another, thanks to sliding doors equipped with specialized telescoping hardware that allows the wooden panels to stack flush.
The door frames’ warm, rich oak ties into the ceiling of the dining and living areas. “The natural wood tone of the paneled ceiling creates the mood and visually brings the open expanse of the room to an inviting human scale,” Schaub says. The 14-foot oak dining tableÂ Dumais designed helps forge a link between the home’s architecture and its furnishings. “Instead of placing captain’s chairs at both ends, we wanted to do something a bit more unexpected,”Â he says, “so we created these monolithic ottomans.” Upholstered in black leather, the plinth-like seats ground the sand, bronze and ivory tableau while draperies made from a sheer, striped fabric inject a subtle nautical vibe; they are a gentle reminder,Â the designer says, that “this is a beach house, even if it doesn’t have a beach theme.”
Off the dining area is the eye-catching staircase. Designed without visible supports, it has treads inspired by louvers and was a difficult feat the architect admits pulling off through a combination of “3-D modeling and tenacity.” Meanwhile, Dumais’ talent for blending textures continues on full display in the studies–his and hers–and the sleeping quarters. Bleached and petrified wood accents pair with jute, alpaca and hair-on-hide carpets to add depth to the structure’s concrete, stucco and cedar. Many of the walls are clad in finely woven paper such as seagrass, rich in color and tactility. “Wallpaper is having a big moment now; many of our clients are asking for it,” the designer says, noting such a statement would have been preposterous even just 10 years ago. “In a house with concrete floors and glass walls, it was necessary to bring in textures that would interplay with the minimal and hard materials of the architecture.”
Creating warmth against the backdrop of modernism is trickier than it seems, yet, as Dumais shows, in the right hands it can appear as natural and effortless as the sun setting over the Indian River Lagoon.