Fate has a way of showing up in unexpected places. When a Gulf Stream, Florida, couple with three children was in need of a general contractor to renovate their new oceanfront residence, they turned to Terry Cudmore because of the community work he’d done with a local non-profit close to their hearts. As it turns out, they got an even surer sign it was meant to be: He was the one who constructed the house more than 25 years ago.
The structure was a replica of a nearby home Cudmore had built for another couple in 1991. “Those owners wanted the exact same house but with a bigger pool,” he recalls of the original residence. “So I built the identical house—same tiles, cabinets, color, everything—just with a slightly different layout for the garages and a larger pool.”
Although the new residents loved the footprint of the original Mediterranean-style home, they wanted a more modern, cleaner style that maximized the ocean views. So Cudmore and architect Rustem Kupi stripped the structure down to its studs, creating a more Anglo-Caribbean appearance with a cedar shake roof and outriggers as well as wood window and door frames.
Inside, they moved the elevator and added windows in the informal dining and family areas to open up the rear of the residence and ensure the flow of natural light. To accommodate the family’s lifestyle, they converted the library into a home theater and the office into a guest suite, replaced the terrace off the main bedroom and covered in the double-height ceiling in the entryway to create an extra bedroom.
“We wanted it to be sleek, clean and peaceful—very white, earthy tones,” the wife says. “The goal was to give it a more elegant and sophisticated look in some parts of the house, without being stuffy. I wanted people to be able to come in from the beach and feel comfortable, not cold.”
With that in mind, interior designer James Woodrow Taylor made sure the decor embodied simple, modern elegance. Light, natural tones—off-whites, neutrals, grays—as well as warm wood and leather textures bring a cozy intimacy to the lofty space. In the vaulted living area at the home’s heart, he positioned a wide, low-back sectional that provides the perfect perch for ocean views. “It’s low-key, nothing in excess,” Taylor says. “We used no more furniture than we needed to accommodate a normal amount of people.”
Kupi also created custom wood paneling and millwork as well as a minimalist, geometric railing around the mezzanine to help bring down the scale of the living area and allow the natural light to stream through. “The owners wanted to keep the home light and airy,” he says. “Even though there’s quite a bit of casings and moldings, it’s very simple and clean.”
That’s not to say there aren’t surprising irreverent moments amid the serenity. A trio of surfboards on a living area wall elevates the nautical, beach aesthetic, while sculptural light fixtures anchor many rooms, adding bursts of texture and intrigue to the otherwise minimal space. The backyard is just as restrained, featuring a large pool and a spacious lawn where the children can play, all prefaced by the Atlantic Ocean. “I wanted the inside of the house to have a less-is-more kind of feeling, and the backyard is a continuation of that,” the wife says. Around the perimeter, landscape architect Dave Bodker installed plants such as clusia, seagrape, thatch palms, mangosteen, green island ficus and sun rose. “We wanted to preserve the ocean view,” he says. And to ensure privacy from the adjacent neighbors, he added high, dense, multi-trunk palms that also provide a lush, tropical backdrop.
Although Cudmore has many great memories of the original residence, he’s satisfied with its newest incarnation. “It’s even better now than it was,” he says. “Rusty thought of every little detail. It was a good house then, and it’s still a good house.”