Beachside home gets a new look from the floors to the roof
BY MARY ANN KOENIG
For anyone who has ever marveled at the skills of a fine interior designer, April Milicevic’s Riomar home in Vero Beach would seem to exemplify her preternatural gift for the art.
Milicevic and her husband, Mike, purchased the house in 2017 when they decided to enroll their youngest daughter at St. Edward’s School just down A1A. After occupying the residence for a year, she assumed the roles of interior designer and general contractor and got to work to completely transform the home.
Utilizing locally sourced fine furnishings and fixtures, Milicevic’s reimagining of the house positions it perfectly within this heralded neighborhood. And the home should not be singled out simply for its beauty. This residence is fortified with concrete block, impact doors and windows and a standing-seam metal roof.
The home’s elegance was achieved in a total redesign that took nearly 18 months, including taking the building down to the studs and replacing all the electrical and plumbing. An all-white exterior accompanies new pale aqua-colored shutters. The ceilings were raised, windows were moved or added, and all new flooring installed.
Looking from the foyer to the kitchen area, Milicevic remembers, “This was all a dirt floor for a long time.”
It’s now a showplace that would be a welcome addition to any interior designer’s portfolio.
The impressive interior décor was accomplished in large part by Milicevic’s desire to support local merchants.
“I would say April is a good shop local, support local person, shopping around all the local vendors and hand picking everything,” Realtor Christine Hughes says.
The Milicevics have a farm in Highlands County and they originally worked with a contractor they knew from that area.
“We’d spend time on the phone, or email back and forth,” Milicevic says. But when the travel from mid-state to Vero became too challenging, the homeowners began to work with local Vero contractor Douglas St. John, who completed the work.
But the design belongs to Milicevic.
“I had the original blueprints. I could see the dimensions for what would be an acceptable sized bedroom or laundry room,” she says. “I’d bounce it off of the contractor, and then we’d work it out.”
When it was originally built in 1958, the home was a brick, ranch-style with the front entrance facing south to Marigold Lane. A previous owner had changed the orientation so that the home fronted on Club Drive and had added the second story.
But when the Milicevics undertook their reimaging of the residence, they reclaimed some of the exterior area and included that into the interior space, such as in the entryway and on a side covered porch. They ended up amplifying the size of the home by about 250 square feet.
The entryway, accessed through double French, glass-fronted doors, was elongated. Milicevic put in tumbled stone pavers in a herringbone pattern that created a grand entrance corridor with the flooring corresponding in color to that of the adjacent porcelain tile.
The dining area, to the left, is all drama and swagger with walls of Meg Braff, tropical green, palm leaf wallpaper to complement an elegant table and white, upholstered chairs. The walls embody a forest of green and the paper resembles the iconic signature print of the famous Beverly Hills Hotel.
The chic marble-topped dining table is capped by an oval chandelier, a thick coil of soft white multi-bulbs hung low over the table. Pairs of Foo Dog lamps, which according to Milicevic are guardians meant to nurture and protect a home, grace the side tables on either end of the space, and are utilized throughout the home.
One of the missions in the redesign was to use outdoor-inspired elements and fixtures to endow the home with the essence of nature. The greenery of the walls, coupled with a mangrove wood framed mirror, and driftwood-based sconces in the foyer perfectly accomplish the task.
Beyond the dining area is an adjacent sitting room which looks out to the pool. Through a door to the west is Milicevic’s office. Bold and dynamic wallpaper of navy and white leopard print couples with broad shiplap on an accent wall.
Those wide-dimension shiplap walls run throughout the house and help give it a modern and crisp look. And cohesion of design is seen in the shape of the chandeliers. Another oval, this one metal and glass, hangs over the family room area next to the kitchen, a kitchen meant for ambitious cooks.
Extensive prep space comes with the grand island and long countertops that facilitate the talents of the chef in the house, which is Mike.
“We have a farm,” Milicevic says, “and we are in agriculture, so Mike just loves farm to table. He brings home things like watermelon, radishes, fresh tomatoes, kale, corn.”
His specialty dish is ribs.
As the family chef, Mike Milicevic was instrumental in selecting all the kitchen essentials, including a four gas-burner Wolf stove with a flat-top grill, two electric ovens, an over-sized Sub-Zero refrigerator and a warming drawer. A hidden pantry, with a spring-loaded door, is ample and efficient as well as beautiful, with turquoise tile as the side accent wall and an additional fridge and freezer.
And for Milicevic, who is more of a baker, there’s the convenience of a mixer installed inside a lower cabinet, mounted on a levered plinth, and can be raised up to counter height, yet easily hidden away.
For extra efficiency there are two dishwashers fitted in the island, “so the kids can never say the dishwasher’s full,” Milicevic explains.
A coffered ceiling was built and the openness and drama of the space was magnified by raising the 8-foot ceiling in this part of the house up to 11 feet. The interiors of the coffers are faux pecky cypress, which is real cypress wood that has been laser cut to give the effect of the pecky appearance. Synergy Wood, an Orlando company, uses a process called E-Peck to achieve this effect on different woods.
A full wet bar with glass-front cabinet panels and a cocktail fridge completes the amenities and is situated at the far side of the room across from the kitchen.
Hughes believes that the kitchen is the heart of house.
“Everything you could need is here, from the bar area to the extended work area, the house is centered around the kitchen.”
An area on the south side of this room was once a patio. Milicevic’s design pushed that wall out and incorporated the space for interior use, which is the new laundry room.
On the east side of the house there was once a single, very long bedroom. But Milicevic’s redesign efficiently utilized the space to create a powder room with outdoor pool access, a hallway leading to a large, dual sink, ensuite bathroom and then to the new guest room, one of three on the main level of the house. Milicevic sourced materials and fixtures locally, using John Robshaw linens from Very Fitting, a Vero Beach institution.
Across from the family room are the other two guest rooms with a joined bath. The colors are vivid in each room, with bold wallpapers, David Francis furniture and custom-made cushions from fabrics sourced at Calico Corners, a Vero shop that was closed during the pandemic.
The bathroom is outfitted with a large shower enhanced by a wall with distinct accent tile, in a dusty blue-gray. The mixed tile patterns and Lilly Pulitzer wallpaper heighten the distinctiveness of the room.
The staircase, mid-house, is dominated by a gigantic carriage lamp, which again provides design continuity as it matches smaller lamps hanging in the kitchen. A round porthole window in the stairwell coordinates with another as you climb the stairs and enter the primary bedroom suite through double doors.
The primary suite encompasses the entire upstairs, and Milicevic’s closet is a showstopper on this level. Reclaimed from a former exterior balcony, the room was then dedicated to functional chic.
The flooring in the primary suite is all Russian oak and extensive work went into exacting the dimensions of the room. Windows were moved to center the bed on one wall. An angular corner door at the bathroom was created to match the ones at the entrance.
A large primary bath has an abundance of counter space, which, for the ultimate in convenience, includes a horizontal pull-out fridge to add to other sophisticated touches.
A porthole window in the bathroom is adorned by a round, pendant light fixture, like a magnificent, large textured pearl suspended in air. The coupling of the round window and lamp make a striking statement. The bravura is augmented by handsome Restoration Hardware torchiere wall sconces.
A view of the serene pool is offered throughout the rooms on the main floor of the residence. A dramatic stone fountain provides a waterfall cascade on the far side of the pool. And a covered porch area, where Milicevic again used pecky-style wood in a concave ceiling profile, crowns the dining and relaxing area, all within a beautifully landscaped, stylish refuge.
The colors of earth, sky and plants are those that grace this home. With a cultured eye and a fine-tuned sense of tone and continuity, April and Mike Milicevic captured the essence of a 1950s Riomar ranch-style home and used local sources to translate that into a stunning, barrier island residence.
The beachside, five-bedroom, 3.5 bath home is on the market, listed at $2,985,000 by Hughes of Dale Sorensen Realty.
March 16, 2022