At one family’s Ponte Vedra Beach vacation home, crisp design and ocean views are the perfect backdrop for an active lifestyle.
When Michelle Balfoort, principal of the eponymous Florida architectural firm, designed this 6,000-square-foot Ponte Vedra Beach vacation house, she found herself negotiating common clichés and typical shortcomings of the beachside home.
“We wanted to evoke the sense of the beach, but not with seashells everywhere,” she says. “Also, the homeowners are an active young family that entertains a lot; we wanted to create a house that would comfortably hold lots of people and host several families at once, but still have private, intimate-feeling spaces.” The desired result needed to combine a traditional style with a modern and functional interior.
A native Floridian, Balfoort is well versed in coastal architecture. For over 12 years, she and a partner successfully ran a boutique firm, Balfoort Finnvold Architecture, with projects in locations from the Florida Keys to North Carolina. While specializing in high-end residential design, they also worked on commercial projects, neighborhood and town planning, and historic preservation work in Delray Beach and Boca Raton. In 2012, Balfoort established Balfoort Architecture in Stuart, FL.
For this summer home, she looked to the traditional roots of Florida architecture. “The houses in this neighborhood evoke New England,” Balfoort says. “So we used clapboard siding and a lot of wood features.”
The house, which includes a guest suite, features deeply bracketed eaves and luxurious balconies with sumptuous views opening from all the rooms on two stories. A covered second-story breezeway connects the guest quarters located above the garage to the main part of the house, which includes four bedrooms, an informal den, a large open space comprising the kitchen and dining room, and a living room with a cypress vaulted ceiling two stories high. A dramatic curved wall encloses the staircase, which is sheathed in marble with the texture and fluid pattern of sea grass.
“Instead of an obvious beach décor, we focused on the light; the way it plays against the sand and the water,” Balfoort explains. “We accomplished that by designing spaces that let in the light all day long as the sun clocks around, and we used a lot of textures that speak of waves, stones, and sand.” Also noteworthy is the curving stair hall that “brings a wonderful shaft of light as you go in,” says Balfoort, as well as the stainless steel stair railing, like one aboard a ship. Glass plays a starring role on the interior, both as tile on bathroom walls and as a glass-and-marble mosaic backsplash in the kitchen. “In this house, the surfaces are all about reflective qualities,” Balfoort explains.
The exterior drove the interior design in other ways, too. The dining room table, for example, is higher than standard height, so that the family can enjoy the view while eating. Each guest room features different wall paneling, all evocative of seaside traditions. Balfoort’s favorite place in her creation isn’t one particular nook or cranny, but somewhere between indoors and out.
“I love the way you can sit on all the porches, between [inside] and [outside],” she says. “They extend the functional living space all around the house.”
Image Credits: Adam Cohen.