t’s no easy feat to make a sleek and contemporary interior also emanate warmth. That was the challenge designer Leah Muller faced when working on a new home for a retired couple in Vero Beach, Florida. “I like to combine woven furnishings with smooth metals and stone,” she says of her strategy. “The balance is surprising and makes a difference in a room. Combining tropical elements with modern accents is exciting.”
The owners previously lived in a larger, traditional-style residence in town. “We had a beautiful house on the river, but we wanted something newer that had everything our old place had,” the wife says. They also wanted to downsize, the husband adds. “We were looking to build a house where we’d use all of the rooms,” he notes, explaining they had never made the most of spaces like the formal living room.
Architect Randall Stofft came to the couple’s rescue and designed a contemporary structure that provides the practicality they were seeking. “It’s a classic split plan with an open, light-filled public space that separates the master suite on one side and a guest room on the other,” he says. The living area encompasses a wet bar, the kitchen and a breakfast area, while 10-foot-tall sliding glass walls lead to exterior spaces. “Outdoors, there’s a summer kitchen and a large living room with a fireplace,” the architect says. “The floor plan of the house is a modified L-shape that wraps around and engages the pool and the outdoor space.” He sided the exterior with smooth, off-white stucco and employed a pitched roof covered with concrete tiles. “It’s a more modern take on West Indies-inspired architecture,” Stofft explains.
Muller also was also involved in the architecture, helping determine interior aspects like ceiling heights, room sizes and hard finishes. In this way, she was able to ensure those elements were consistent throughout the house as well as select perfectly coordinated furnishings and decor. For instance, window frames have a bronze finish, which the designer matched to pieces such as the iron-and-glass lanterns above the kitchen island. Similarly, the living area’s metal side tables and coffee table with an iron base refer to the bronze finish that lines the room’s massive glass doors.
The framework sets a contemporary tone, particularly displayed in the living area’s glossy quartzite fireplace surround. However, to prevent the interior from seeming cold, the team paid extra attention to natural light, texture and scale. While the glass doors welcome sunlight, European white-oak flooring throughout the residence ushers in warmth. Each room’s atmosphere is also influenced by the height of its ceiling: In the airy living area, it’s peaked and painted white; in the restful master bedroom, it’s high and flat; while in the husband’s cozy office, it’s paneled in black walnut. “The designer and the architect for this project were always looking to push the edge in terms of quality,” recalls general contractor David Barin. “We reworked the ceiling in the office multiple times. The walnut waterfalls seamlessly from the ceiling to the wall and to the built-in.”
Mostly white walls establish a blank canvas for Muller’s coastal-modern design. “A neutral background allows for layers of texture and color, and they should coordinate, not compete, with the hard finishes,” she explains. The designer juxtaposed the cool, sleek details with natural elements, such as the living area’s sisal rug, linen drapery sheers, patterned armchairs and combed cotton-like sofa upholstery. “The quartzite on the fireplace has a smooth high-gloss finish and is a counterpoint to the woven textures,” she says. Nearby, natural wood chairs surround a white breakfast table and, in a nod to the tropics, yellow floral-printed stools line the kitchen counter.
To heighten the seaside atmosphere, Muller injected the interiors with blue and gray tones. “They’re hues that bring a tranquil feeling,” she says. In the dining area, they show up on the coral-print chairs and striped drapery fabric. “The palette is simple and refined,” says project manager Shannon Colkitt. “It’s perfect for a warm family gathering or an elegant dinner party.” Gray ceramic tiles compose the kitchen backsplash, while a turquoise raffia nightstand adds a dash of vibrancy to a neutral guest room. The master suite, meanwhile, is a study in blue and white: Sky blue walls and draperies offset the bedroom’s white armchairs and bedding, and the bathroom’s metallic silver-and-blue wallpaper complements the white marble flooring. Naturally, the color scheme continues outside, where pillows and cushions in green and blue top cream-hued furnishings on the loggia, coordinating with the watery colors of the nearby pool and surrounding landscape.
The blend of coastal and modern elements yields a serene ambience in the home. And despite the structure’s estate-like feel, the owners say they use every space in the residence.
“I love my office, and I spend a lot of time there,” the husband says. “The views and the openness really make this house something beautiful and peaceful.”
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