Coastal luxury

open-plan living room


A cozy corner in the open-plan living room features a television and this reading nook. A modern arc floor lamp with marble base augments the natural light.

Teamwork brings quality workmanship, complex remodeling and elegant design to home on the water


A couple from Manhattan drove into the picturesque seaside town of Vero Beach and immediately knew the search for a home was over. Having scoured Florida’s east coast for a quiet getaway, their criterion was simple: They needed a place to relax and enjoy the outdoors with family, and Vero Beach seemed like the perfect place to escape from the city.

For the first few years, a turnkey condominium fit the bill. But when they began spending more time in Florida, their focus shifted. Having always dreamed of living on the ocean, a property in Indian River Shores caught their attention. Boasting 100 feet of oceanfront access, the 3,500-square-foot pool home was a mere stone’s throw from the upscale Village Shops and close to biking and running trails. Both avid cyclists, they agreed the location was perfect. The home, however, was another matter.

While well built, it was dated. And with only three bedrooms, it was far too small for their large family. So, they got the idea of building a two-bedroom guesthouse over the garage, adding another 1,000 square feet of living space.

The next step was to hire a team of experts who could bring their vision to life. For this, they turned to Croom Construction and interior designer, Leah Muller, along with the architectural firm of Gregory Anderson. Croom’s reputation for quality workmanship and their ability to meet deadlines impressed the couple. Furthermore, the company offered a team of specialists that could handle the complex remodel.

Throughout the renovation, Muller provided multiple choices and a range of prices that helped the owners decide where to spend more and where to be more moderate. And while she incorporated many of the couple’s ideas, she was also very honest when she thought an alternative plan would be better. They liked that exchange.

Located over the three-car garage, the 1,000-square-foot guesthouse, designed to accommodate out-of-town visitors, is decorated in fun and vibrant shades of green, blue and coral. MAXWELL MULLER PHOTOGRAPHY

panoramic view
This panoramic view showcases how the designer and architect used natural light to bring the outside in. The aesthetic of a coastal modern design is a casual elegance that exudes a light and breezy style while embracing soft elements and tactile textures. MAXWELL MULLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Muller remembers the first time she stepped into the home. “It was 1960s modern with giant spaces,” she recalls. “I remember saying, ‘Wow, this looks like an Austin Powers movie set. Groovy, baby!’ There were floor-to-ceiling mirrors and windows, a sunken living room and a see-through fireplace from the living room to the bedroom. The finishes were dated but the scale of the house wasn’t, so we had a lot of good bones to work with.”

As seasoned remodelers, Muller says the couple understood what turning a house from ‘promising’ into ‘wow’ involved and gave the project the time it deserved. “A lot of time is spent in the development stage as we like to customize homes to the lifestyle and personality of our clients. We follow a design process that is systematic, yet with plenty of room for creativity and coloring outside the lines.”

David Lyons of Croom Construction says the remodel was extensive. “The home was built in 1992, so we made floor-plan improvements to the kitchen and breakfast area, the master bath and the living/dining areas. The guest house addition was a complicated part of the project as it involved removing the roof of the garage, improving the structural integrity of the existing walls and then building the new structure on top.” When the renovation was complete, the home’s former traditional look had been transformed into a light and airy modern design.

The strong visual appeal begins in the entranceway where an exterior sweep of stairs draws you into a foyer and two-story living room/family room. Here, large spans of glass afford panoramic views of sea and sky, creating immediate connectivity to the tropics. Twenty-one windows facing the ocean have window treatments mounted above and outside the window openings, maximizing light and bringing the outside in.

living room fireplace
The living room fireplace with quartzite stone surround is flanked by bespoke shiplap millwork and floating shelves by Leah Muller. Cool tones and custom designed chairs, upholstered in geometric indoor/outdoor fabric, along with a white wood coffee table complete the coastal look. A sisal area rug and open rattan weave accent chair from Palacek serve to add texture in juxtaposition to the sleek design of the fireplace. GRIDLEY & GRAVES PHOTOGRAPHY

The split-level floor plan, designed to create flow between designated areas of activity, features a reconfigured sunken living room with two comfortable seating options and dining area. One eye-catching feature in this space is the Muller-inspired fireplace, made of quartzite stone and flanked by shiplap and floating shelves. Awash with natural light, Muller painted the walls a soft and reflective white and changed the lighting from functional to LED to give the home a young and hip vibe.

“When they came to us, they told us they loved our coastal modern style,” says the designer. So, she selected soft-hued fabrics that pull shades of sand and sea from nature, along with kid- and pet-friendly furnishings – a ‘must have’ for owners who entertain visitors year-round and have a large family.

Looking beyond the living area to the pool outside is a lanai with a covered dining area and summer kitchen for al fresco entertaining.

A cabana and outdoor shower take care of sandy feet and wet swimsuits, while poolside lounge chairs summon the avid sun worshipper. Here, Mark Sartain from Sartain and Associates redesigned and landscaped the area and turned a seldom-used wraparound driveway behind the garage into a serenity garden.

To the right of the foyer is the first-floor master suite, an area designated as a guest wing. Affording houseguests plenty of privacy and access to the lanai and pool, the decor once again echoes the coastal theme, this time accented with bold splashes of color.

In the kitchen, soft blue/grey cabinets with contemporary satin chrome pulls are accented by white-and-gray quartz countertops and white pixel backsplash. Stainless steel appliances complete the clean, contemporary look. GRIDLEY & GRAVES PHOTOGRAPHY

Turning left off the foyer, a striking and dramatic architectural feature is the curved staircase. Fashioned from white oak, the treads extend the eye from the entranceway up to a cozy loft and the owners’ master suite on the second floor. Here, a reconfigured footprint has ensured that the master bedroom, balcony and bathroom take full advantage of the panoramic vistas of ocean, sand and sky.

And lastly, there is the guesthouse. Situated over the three-car garage and designed to accommodate 10, this two-bedroom, two-bath studio with a living room and kitchenette is a haven for winter-weary friends and family. Fun and vibrant, the rooms are decorated in shades of green, blue and coral, a color palette that successfully coordinates and pulls the home’s overall design together.

Lyons says the project went smoothly from start to finish. Throughout the renovation, the team held meetings, liaising and building on each other’s ideas. “The benefit of having a very close working relationship with (the owners) and Leah Muller resulted in a very cohesive project,” he says. “Selections and timely decisions allowed us to keep the momentum of the project moving.”

Today, the five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom waterfront home boasts 4,500 square feet of elegant living space and captures the quintessential heartbeat of a coastal retreat. Loving how comfortable and inviting it feels, the owners enjoy the simple lines, easy upkeep and beautiful décor. And because the home was designed with entertaining in mind, a houseful of guests never feels cramped.

With views of the ocean from every angle in the kitchen, visitors love gathering around the welcoming room. The couple had always dreamed of owning a beautiful home on the water. Mission accomplished.

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