Text: Alice Welsh Doyle
Photos: Kip Dawkins
For years, longtime clients of interior designer Carolyn Kendall, the owner and lead designer of Alcott Interiors, pined for a particular house in Boca Grande, where they already owned a condo. The appeal of the property was undeniable—a beautiful beach, incredible panoramic views of the water, and plenty of acreage. When the house was finally for sale, Kendall’s clients did not hesitate to make it their own. The one-story sprawling house, however, needed a complete makeover. “We gutted the entire house essentially; only the facade stayed the same,” says Kendall. The homeowners brought on Nashville architect Ron Farris, who they had worked with before, to come up with a plan alongside Kendall.
The house did offer up a couple of silver linings, including a paneled antique living room that the former owners had brought over from Europe. This architectural gem still needed a face-lift. “The ceiling was just too dark for the type of beach house my clients were envisioning, so it was lightened up with a limewash technique,” says Kendall. To protect the integrity and beauty of the stained wood walls from damage, the clever solution involved upholstering the walls with a light padded backing. A built-in glass-front cabinet that the previous owners used to display their collection of shells—which, to the delight of Kendall’s clients, came with the house—needed updating as well. The designer reworked the cabinet by wallpapering the back of the shelves in the same pattern as the surrounding walls, giving it a more seamless appearance.
The clients had suggestions for personalizing the home, such as the two one-of-a-kind hand-painted tile fireplaces. In the living room, each tile represented elements that played off the coastal setting—fish, shells, starfish, a nautical star compass motif, and lighthouse mixed with whimsical hearts. In the upstairs main bedroom, the mantel takes an even more personal turn in tiles painted with images of family members and beloved pets. A custom coffee table adds another distinctive element—under its glass top is a sandscape filled with shells the homeowners collected on their visits to Florida.
A range of antiques, many sourced abroad, speak to a studied, not stuffy elegance. Showstopping shell mirrors in the living and dining rooms and main bedroom, a patinaed English console, and a lamp made from a Parisian antique fragment, all add authenticity and style. Along with the antiques, Kendall also commissioned pieces from many sources, such as the bedside chest in one of the children’s rooms by London-based firm Justin Van Breda, custom wall sconces from Urban Electric, and a Holland MacRae reproduction game table made in an Old English style. Low ceiling heights in most of the rooms proved challenging. To give the impression of height, Kendall hung window treatments in the highest place possible and used interesting light fixtures, such as the blue Murano chandelier in the dining room, to draw the eye up.
A symphony of blue-and-white links elements both new and old to impart the fresh attitude the clients desired. “It is blue-and-white to the nines,” says the designer. “But the range of blues used throughout keeps it dynamic, as do all the varying prints.” Kendall executed the color duo with great panache throughout with a generous use of wallpaper; striped, floral, and botanical fabrics for upholstered headboards and dining room chairs; and tile in a bathroom. The revamped kitchen shows off a brighter hue with its painted island and upholstered bar chairs. One striking use of blue occurs in the family room—the custom builtins and walls are covered in a bold lacquered wallpaper. In some spaces, such as the sunroom, blue is more of a supporting player, letting the ocean views take a starring role. After all, the location was always the main attraction.