Beauty and brains

home on Riverway Drive
The home on Riverway Drive features unobstructed views of the Indian River Lagoon from the barrier island across to the mainland. JAMES NORTHEN PHOTOS

Vero Beach home on the Indian River Lagoon went from traditional to minimalist and tech-savvy


It’s a house with brains, beauty and talent. In Seagrove West, Max and Judith Thyssen acquired a home of conventional style on an expansive section of the Indian River Lagoon and in 2016 began transforming the residence into a modern, technology-savvy oasis.

The sleek interior of the house replaced what Max Thyssen describes as “a very traditional décor with lots of gold and beige tones.” Now, a clean design dominated by a palate of white, gray and black perfectly accompanies the smart-tech features the Thyssens built into the house.

The design team of Stevie Cappelen and Deb Daly, of Vero design studio Decorative Arts, was trusted to give the home an exceptional, artful sense. Which they accomplished seamlessly. From lighting, flooring, finishes and fixtures, to statuary and faux antiquity, each detail contributes to the sum of the parts, locking in a defined, coherent style where both exterior and interior achieve a modern style, using bright, angular strokes.

“The home was quite traditional,” Cappelen remembers, “but the Thyssens being a young European couple with young children, wanted something more modern.”

The Decorative Arts team was eager to take on the unique challenge.

“Vero’s style is more transitional, a blend of contemporary and traditional,” says Cappelen, “and the Thyssens wanted to go more modern, a minimal look with clean lines.”

The home sits on over half an acre
The home sits on over half an acre and has a double-height entryway.

Cappelen and Daly introduced the homeowners to architect/builders Mark Williams and Robert Masseau of Vero Beach’s Builders East. After extensive meetings over two days, the designers and homeowners reviewed options for furnishings, lighting and accessories. Then the Thyssens returned to their home in Germany and the designers began their efforts.

“Everything was done through email and FaceTime after that,” Cappelen says. “It had to be a very trusting process.”

After almost a year, the Thyssens returned to Vero Beach with the redesign complete and the team having realized the transformation of the home from traditional to modern contemporary.

The foyer is double-height with a staircase leading to an open gallery on the second floor. The black and white diamond-shaped floor tiles and black wrought-iron stair railing, original to the home, now make a contrasting statement against the brilliant white walls.

Through the foyer and into the living room the white-walled theme is extended to all baseboards and crown moldings giving a unified mise en scene. A fireplace on the south wall once bearing a traditional mantel is now a driver of heightened drama, a monolith in sand-colored silver travertine marble.

“It was quite a traditional fireplace,” Cappelen says, “and we presented an idea that was very ‘out-of-box’ for Vero at the time.”
Builders East accomplished the installation and brought the new design to life.

A long, dramatic walkway
A long, dramatic walkway stretches from the pool and pavilion area to the dock, where a boat lift, the lagoon and spacious skies await.

The dominant living room feature, however, is the river view beyond a wall of glass doors that access the new heated, salt water pool. The pool deck’s light and dark gray pavers in a free-form pattern unify the manicured garden, bringing symmetry as the pool and vivid green shrubbery draw the gaze across the seemingly endless water of the Indian River Lagoon.

With a museum quality to it, the home itself seems like a work of art with an attention to detail that punctuates the difference between mere design work and precise, site-specific application.

The Decorative Arts motto is, “Our design rule is, there are no rules.” It’s a sentiment that resonates vividly in this home.

A good example is the riverfront pavilion. Added to the property in 2017, adjacent to the pool, the structure was designed by architect Williams who then situated it at the edge of the river, maximizing not only the views but the cohesive, practicality of the space.

“The property has this cool landscaping behind the cabana,” Williams says,” so we created the square openings to allow the view through the back of the wall.”

The cabana is outfitted with a TV and two Sonos entertainment zones for the media center, a seating area with a remote-controlled firepit designed by Decorative Arts, and a full kitchen with a Miele dishwasher, built-in barbecue and dining area.

“The cabinets in the cabana are all horizontal teak, inspired by the dining table the Thyssens chose,” Williams says. “Also, Max is 6-10 so we designed the 30-inch tall cabinets for his height. That was one of our all-time favorites, because of the feel.”

The reimagined living room
The reimagined living room is a modern take on the same space, where the design team from Decorative Arts in Vero Beach created a stone façade monolith for the fireplace.

The former décor throughout the home
The former décor throughout the home was more traditional in the furnishings and even the fireplace. JAMES NORTHEN

The pavilion’s intelligence quotient offers more evidence of the home’s practicality. The cabana’s entertainment zones are Wi-Fi controlled, and a wirelessly controlled MistAway mosquito and no-see-um repellent system automatically keeps the pool and cabana area insect free.

The house is currently represented for sale with Premier Estate Properties, and according to listing agent Luke Webb, “Everything runs itself, but it can all be controlled remotely.”

The dock, which stretches out into the lagoon, was rebuilt with reinforced cross braces to bring it up to 2020 hurricane code. It includes a hefty 24,000-pound boatlift, and the water at the end of the dock was professionally sounded, assuring its capability to accommodate large-sized sport marine craft.

A seawall was rebuilt with a French drain installed in order to protect against wave action, to relieve ground water pressure and to prevent water from penetrating the foundation.

Back inside, the kitchen and adjacent family area make up nearly 550 square feet of eat-in space. The generous view of the lagoon from every angle can include regular appearances by resident bottlenose dolphin. The kitchen is equipped with a Sub-Zero side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, and high-end Miele dishwasher and induction cooktop. An adjacent butler’s pantry has additional storage, sink and refrigerator space.

Thyssen knew Vero Beach well. He had been in the area doing commercial real estate since 2004. He and his wife eventually decided to make it their home.

“We bought the house because of the location and it has really good bones, it’s an extremely well built house,” he says.

Cappelen and Daly’s design work is showcased in the formal dining room. The space is a model of spare, clean design where white walls meet large colorful canvases. A grand custom-built mahogany table, modern side-board with a woven front in a geometric pattern, and a multi-fixture, copper pendulum chandelier illustrate the abundance of entertainment space this home offers.

Entertainment is a prominent element in the house. The 11 zones on the property ensure streaming on a portable device or music from the Sonos stereo system can follow you throughout the house without interruption, including at the waterfront pavilion.

master bedroom
After the renovations, the master bedroom was transformed with sleek, restyled flooring and clean, neutral tones.

master bedroom
Prior to the home’s renovations, the master bedroom once had wall-to-wall carpeting, layered draperies and an upholstered headboard all in a blue and white color scheme. JAMES NORTHEN

The master bedroom was completely gutted. The wall-to-wall carpeting was replaced by rich, espresso-colored hardwood flooring. Layered draperies gave way to the minimalist look in neutral tones found throughout the reimagined interiors. The gorgeous lagoon view enriches the appeal of the room.

The master bath underwent an equally vivid conversion. Lighter colored porcelain tile flooring accents the river rock shower floor and wall-to-ceiling tiles. And the shower is a multitalented partner in hygiene. An LED lighted, directional spray rain-head shower system recessed into the ceiling is digitally controlled. The mood of the lighting, the direction and intensity of the water flow can all be controlled from within the shower.

Also on the ground floor is an ample office/library room with a wet-bar and a full bath adjacent.

Listing agent Webb says this home is perfect for clients from New Jersey, Chicago and the New York area who previously were looking in the Hamptons. It is the type of house that would appeal to that buyer.

“The owners did all the upgrades for themselves,” says Webb, “but everything they did is desirable for resale.”

The second-story gallery landing creates another museum-type emphasis, providing ample wall space for the Thyssens’ art. They’ve collected contemporary art, and several pieces on display throughout the house are by Miami-based [and New York-trained] artist Bradley Theodore, which are stand-out additions of colorful representations of pop culture icons, including royalty. A feature of his work is skeletal figures, and a large Theodore canvas of Marie Antoinette and her court adorns the entry hall.

The formal dining room
The formal dining room features a custom-made mahogany table created by the Decorative Arts design team and continues the clean, modern feel of the house’s makeover with sleek furnishings, a multi-fixture copper chandelier and contemporary art.

Three bedrooms and two baths upstairs are arranged in generous proportions to include extensive closet and storage space. One of the reasons the Thyssens are listing the home is that their growing family [five children under the age of 10] requires additional bedrooms.

The high-tech characteristic of this smart-home also extends to the heating and air conditioning with Nest thermostats that are programmable and controlled remotely from a cell phone, as are the lighting and the security system. The sprinklers are operated by a WiFi irrigation system with a database capable of electronically checking the weather so that the system doesn’t activate if it is raining and, likewise, schedules additional watering during prolonged dry spells.

Two professional-grade Norvitz tankless water heaters are energy efficient, and a whole-house 30kw generator is fueled by a buried, 250 gallon propane tank, capable of powering the home for weeks in the event of a service outage.

Practical? Absolutely. Smart? Yes again. Beauty? The elements of design, architecture and art at 275 Riverway run the table on beauty, cornering every possible market of style and reaping all the benefits of the artistic risks that have been taken. Currently on the market with Premier Estate Properties for $4,695,000 the home includes 170 feet of seawall. The location delivers unencumbered views from the island across deep sapphire waters to the mainland at the widest portion of the lagoon.

Its extra added attraction is the pragmatism through technology. This is a special residence of spectacular elegance with a predominantly contemporary feel that constantly impresses with unique features and true splendor throughout.

See the original article in the print publication

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