Life moves at a leisurely pace on the Treasure Coast of Florida. It’s a comfortable lifestyle a couple grew fond of while spending family holidays at the 1950s ranch-style house belonging to the wife’s mother. When she decided to sell the property, the couple was ready to take the helm, thus delightfully owning a piece of family history on one of the area’s most covetable corner lots.
But with only a handful of updates over several decades, the home was showing its age. Covered in traditional chintzes, family belongings and bright tropical prints, it was “a relic of the past,” recalls Claire Miner, the couple’s go-to designer. Outside, pale yellow stucco and windows of different proportions were a far cry from the first impression the couple sought. To respect its past in a modern fashion, they enlisted architect Jack Franzen to design something more current but still fitting within the area’s historical vernacular. “John Volk was the inspiration more than anyone else,” he says of his vision for the new front elevation: gentle archways, long windows and a pitched roof in place of its flat one, all reminiscent of the late local architect’s interpretation of British Colonial architecture.
Inside, Franzen was motivated to create large open spaces for the couple to enjoy with their children and grandchildren. “Cultivating a sense of togetherness very much inspired the new layout,” he says. With the residence’s original 1950s floor plan too cramped for such a design, general contractor Ron Smith took the structure down to its foundation. “We stripped the house to its bare bones and then modified the existing slab for a more contemporary floor plan,” he says. The team added 4 feet to the dining area, which has since expanded into the newly formed great room, also containing the kitchen and a sitting area.
Within the updated architecture, the wife tasked Miner with designing interiors that are fresh and forward-thinking but steeped in history. “She made it clear she wanted to create something different that doesn’t lean into the typical Florida aesthetic,” the designer says. The look begins in the foyer, where Miner employed a chevron-print wallpaper crafted from water hyacinth, a wow factor that subtly hints at the home’s subtropical surrounds. Going for the unexpected, she incorporated global finds such as a reproduction Dutch Colonial chair from the Philippines and side tables chiseled from Cameroon coffee bean trees in the living room as well as rattan kitchen pendants repurposed from tools used by fisherwomen in Indonesia. “Because these pieces come from other subtropical areas, they felt very appropriate,” the designer explains. “And although they’re tied to these very traditional cultures, their simpler forms make them feel modern.”
Weaving family history into the design was just as important to the owners. Miner incorporated several items belonging to the wife’s mother, such as a grass-cloth coffee table and re-covered spool chairs, both in the study. A sentimental writing desk was placed in the master bedroom. “It’s a lovely reminder of the wife’s mother,” the designer says. “These connections were really important to the couple, because they have a deep love of family.”
For color moments, Miner took cues from the owners’ beloved Charlie Miesmer painting. She wove its soft, atmospheric hues in small doses throughout the abode, starting with the living room’s fig leaf-print sofa pillow fabric that picks up on the painting’s periwinkle and aqua tones. The color scheme continues into private spaces such as the master bedroom, which features a bedskirt in a whimsical, soft blue pattern.
Throughout the residence, Miner kept the newly elevated ceilings and lofty walls a warm white to enhance Franzen’s architecture and the surrounding flora, as appreciated by the wife. “We kept color to a minimum, because she wanted to draw your eyes to the outdoors,” the designer says. “The interiors are simply here to complement the beautiful surroundings.” Landscape designer Richard Rutledge introduced neatly trimmed green island ficus and downy jasmine throughout the property and, out back, added a gumbo limbo tree and various palms. “They provide such nice shadows and sound, especially when sitting at each of the two back terraces,” Rutledge says. To bring the atmosphere inside, Miner opted for sheers and bamboo shades over heavy drapery, framing the views.
The designer credits Rutledge’s thoughtful landscape plan in “giving the house a sense of permanence,” she says. “Although we created something brand new, the home looks like it’s always belonged on the corner.” And on the Treasure Coast, that’s precisely the point.