True To Form:
Refreshing a waterfront ranch in Bermuda Riviera.
Text: Hilary Lewis
Photos: Island Studio Photography
Originally appeared in Tropic Magazine February 2014
For an elegant couple from Stockholm, the appeal of a Fort Lauderdale getaway on the Intracoastal led them to purchase a home based more on its site than its structure. Situated on a lovely lot with exquisite water views, that house has both southern and western exposures that allow for an ongoing vista of yachts passing by. But it was merely a typical house from the 1970s that had barely been changed since it was built. Undaunted by the structure’s fairly mundane aspects, the owners worked towards transforming it into an utterly modern home, which bears no resemblance to the former residence –– a testament to the power of aesthetic reserve combined with wonderful views. This project is proof that the most average home can be upgraded into something completely contemporary. With the aid of Andrew Zahn of Zahn Development in Fort Lauderdale, the family created their own design, which was executed by Zahn to great effect.
Essentially taking the structure down to its most elemental foundation, all of the traditional aspects of the former house were removed. However, by maintaining the original outline of the home, its foundation and, for the most part, the same window openings and ceiling height, the project utilized the existing, basic structure in a very sustainable fashion. The result is a home of modest size, yet with an ambience of absolute elegance. It is hard to believe that this was once such an average home.
The approach of both the clients and Zahn was to create a jewelbox of modernism and minimalism, fitting for a family used to the reserved aspects of Scandinavian modern design. Back in Stockholm, the family lives in a traditional turn-of-the-century building with high ceilings and parquet floors. But their furniture arrangements and choice in decor indicate an underlying modern aesthetic. Both homes are carefully thought out in their layouts and select, judicious placement of furniture and objects. In both cases, there is a respect for space and openness that trumps any impulse towards ornateness. By choosing some of the most high-end fixtures for the kitchen, lighting and bathrooms, the home’s size feels less modest than precious. From Delta lighting to Dornbracht faucets, the clients opted for exquisite European quality, albeit of the quietest type. Nothing is shiny or bold; rather, every detail is both simple and sophisticated. Who needs a 20 foot-high ceiling when you can have every finish and edge simply perfect? This house is a terrific lesson in how to craft an elegant space with the utmost of restraint.
From the exterior, the house presents a very clean façade. Keeping the traditional roofline, which was hipped, but upgrading the roofing to a soft gray color, the clients have struck a balance between the context of other homes in the community with their desire for a modern structure. Extending their well-trained eyes even to the choice of gutters –– the ones they have employed have a half-rounded form that give a far more refined feel to the building’s appearance –– it is clear that those who commission such a home have a very intelligent and masterful approach to design.
The interior is truly minimal, which allows the water views to permeate the entire living space. The clean surfaces of the kitchen, which was expanded slightly by taking some space from the original garage, reveal lovely walnut cabinetry, produced locally by Apex to customized specifications. Appliances from Miele and the thinnest of counters complete the sophisticated yet simple kitchen. Truly, less is more.
While much of the furniture is Scandinavian, especially Danish from Fritz Hansen, there are also beautiful metal furnishings by the pool of Spanish design from Indecasa. American design is also included via the classic furnishings of Eames. Nearly all of the pieces were acquired locally, which speaks to how advanced the choices have become from local distributors.
The indoor space flows seamlessly outdoors via sliding doors and a covered patio. These clients appreciate the ability to sit outside with their morning coffee or evening meal. The effect is a sense that the house is far greater than its 2200 ft.² and its traditional height dimensions. Electing for the simplest, easy-to-care-for landscaping, the owners have produced something truly desirable: a home that gives far more than it takes.