Once Lynn and Craig Westbay began vacationing in Naples, Florida, 17 years ago, there was no way the St. Louis-based husband and wife could establish their retirement home anywhere else. At least, that’s what their two daughters told them when the couple prepared to leave their Midwestern home for good. “The girls did not want us to move anywhere but Naples,” Lynn explains. “We had rituals here, from sunset beach gatherings to Christmas traditions, after all.”
The couple found an ideal homesite within walking distance of the beach and shopping district; the 37-year-old house occupying it, however, held far less appeal. “It was not built to withstand hurricanes; it had no charm,” Lynn says. In other words, it had to go, and the Westbays found themselves with an opportunity to build something completely different from anything else in the neighborhood.
“Craig and Lynn wanted the architecture and landscape to be tropical,” recalls their architect, John Cooney. “This is a home they wanted to relax in; they wanted it to feel like a private resort.” To evoke that vacation vibe, Cooney took cues from the British West Indies style of architecture. On the home’s front façade, a covered porch and second-floor balcony draw the eye up toward traditional corbels and brackets that support deep roof overhangs. Sea green shutters frame tall, narrow windows, a period detail that hints at the high-ceilinged rooms behind them.
That, however, is where the exterior’s adherence to tropical tradition ends. A formal entry courtyard by landscape architect Koby Kirwin—delineated by salvaged Chicago bricks and punctuated by a tiered fountain—nods to the Westbays’ love for New Orleans and Charleston’s gracious historic homes. And at the back of the house, which Cooney designed to embrace a lanai and pool, broad window walls capitalize on lush backyard views and abundant natural light.
As a result, there’s not a dark space in the house. An open floor plan and high-contrast palette of dark hickory floors and light walls add to the airy vibe. To ensure that the rooms would feel intimate when the couple was home alone, Cooney and interior designer Molly Grup had builder Chris van Emmerik delineate each one with a unique ceiling detail. In the living room, painted tongue-and-groove planks pay tribute to British West Indies architecture. For the adjacent kitchen and dining area, the design team specified long, painted beams. And in both spaces, crown molding adds a more contemporary touch. “I wanted the detail that millwork and moldings bring to the table, but it’s not too ornate,” Cooney says. “I didn’t want a lot of fussy details on this house.”
Van Emmerik’s team emphasized the clean aesthetic with more thoughtful touches. “In the kitchen, the countertops extend straight back to the windowpanes, creating a seamless expanse,” van Emmerik says. “On the corners of the backsplash above the range, we mitered the subway tile and ran it back to the windows as well; there’s no wood trim. And throughout the house, we installed the wood flooring first and the baseboards on top, eliminating the need for shoe moldings.”
Such simplicity ensures that all eyes remain on the homeowners’ diverse collection of furnishings and artwork—some family heirlooms, some estate-sale and consignment-store finds, and many souvenirs from world travels, including antiques from Italy, artwork from Cuba, and blue-and-white china from Japan. To marry those pieces with a variety of new furnishings, Lynn leaned on Grup, who was energized by the couple’s outside-the-box style. “The typical Naples look is more contemporary,” the designer says. “Bringing in these antique pieces is something that not everyone is doing right now.”
But Grup did it with aplomb—aided by the architecture’s nods to Southern style. “I think homes of the South have so much history that it’s comfortable to put a brand-new skirted sofa next to an old drop-leaf end table,” she says, referring to the living room furnishings. “The key is having enough old to balance the new, and choosing new things with a softness to them so the antiques feel at home.”
Pops of color and pattern add to the eclectic vibe. A vibrant ikat fabric on the living room sofa pillows provided a palette of blues and greens that makes appearances in every room: In the master bedroom, periwinkle blue brightens the rug, bed pillows and a Lucite-legged bench. In the den, a kelly green cocktail table complements drapery depicting exotic birds in rich jewel tones. And on the powder room’s showstopping wallcovering, colorful waterfowl cavort amidst blue and yellow flowers on jade-green waters.
“I told Molly that her job was to help me make the house timeless and curated and to push me to take risks in design that I wouldn’t do on my own,” Lynn says. “I wanted it to be a colorful, happy house, and she made it come alive.”