After nearly two decades in California, a couple decided to relocate their family to Palm Beach, the wife’s hometown. Despite swapping oceans, however, they wanted to bring the breezy vibe of the Golden State to South Florida. They envisioned a residence with a laid-back yet elevated style—something sophisticated and chic that isn’t too fussy or precious. “We needed a space that worked for three kids, a dog, the beach and outdoor living,” the wife says. Designer Lauren Ashley Browne, a childhood friend of the wife, understood exactly what they desired.
“It’s all about bringing happiness and letting natural elements be the focus,” says Browne, who had designed the family’s Manhattan Beach house. “They’re a young family and had grown to love the indoor-outdoor California lifestyle. There’s an homage to the history of both Palm Beach and California here.”
She wasn’t the only close connection on the project. “This is a family home built by friends,” muses architect Patrick Segraves, a former neighbor of the wife. Working with builder Alex Falk, he conceived what he calls “an island contemporary home” that fits sensibly into its secluded street on the north end of the island. “They wanted a casual beach house but not a traditional one,” Segraves explains. “The proportions and details are in keeping with what we do, but they wanted an open plan, not formal spaces. That’s becoming more common here in Palm Beach.”
A casual stone driveway sets the relaxed coastal tone from the outset, and opening the front door reveals the structure’s indoor-outdoor quality. “The French limestone front steps go right through to the rear loggia, so it’s one continuous space out to the pool,” Browne notes. “That’s a pretty new thing for Florida design.” To emphasize the open floor plan, a traditionally West Coast concept, the designer encouraged natural light (“We barely have window treatments in the house,” she points out) and pursued a clean aesthetic, opting for white oak floors in the great room and bedrooms, leathered stone countertops in the kitchen, zellige tiles in bathrooms, limewash walls in the main bedroom and plastered ones in the main bathroom.
Further blurring the lines between inside and outside are doors that open completely to the covered loggias and reveal a silvery-gray landscape. “We wanted to soften the outdoor space and create a minimalist palette,” Browne explains. Working with landscape architects Don Skowron and Jared McClure, the team brought in drought-tolerant natives and plantings like jasmine for fragrance.
Of importance to Browne was to have the interiors transcend the outdoors, rather than compete with them. So she developed an inclusive and consistent design based on layers of minimalist colors, rather than expected bold South Florida hues. “It was very important to keep the palette neutral for a more California feel,” the designer says. The more simplistic strategy ensures nothing inside is overly bright, creating a sense of serenity and lightness while keeping the focal point on the outdoors and the clients’ artworks.
A limited palette does not mean boring, however. Browne explored depth in textures, choosing pieces such as linen sofas and bouclé cashmere chairs in the living area and an African stool—used as a coffee table—sandblasted to a more neutral color in the family area. “It’s a very tactile house,” she observes, adding that durability was key. “We treated furniture selection as if the children were part of the home, not a concern in the home.” As such, the designer employed Moroccan rugs, pillows made of vintage textiles, brass accents and leather dining chairs that age over time. “It’s about embracing those elements and accepting imperfection as an understated luxury,” she says. “There’s a little bit of a European aesthetic, and the design incorporates some modern elements, but it’s livable and comfortable. These pieces come together to tell a story.”
And while the residence is built for sandy feet and wet paws, the couple’s ground-floor bedroom was designed to be a sanctuary. “We’re always excited to get into our room after kids are in bed—it’s calming,” the wife says. Light gray walls envelop the space, home to natural textures such as a linen bed, a shearling bench and a jute ceiling pendant. In the bathroom, a glass-walled steam shower opens to an outdoor shower, furthering the relaxing atmosphere while brightening the room. “All that daylight really opens the space,” Browne says.
Settled in Palm Beach, the owners view their new home as an extension of their family. “The house reflects who we are,” the wife says. “There’s nothing perfectly done or staged. It’s authentic.” And still a little bit California.
– BY MAILE PINGEL | NOVEMBER 26, 2021