An extensive search and an emotive brief made a long-imagined dream home a reality.
When Thomas Melhorn architect Christian Thomas was asked by clients to pinpoint a site for their dream house, it was the start of something special. The search covered a broad stretch of 40 miles up and down the Florida coast, with the only proviso it had views of the ocean, and privacy. “After bouncing around for six months, I found these two pieces of property, raw land on Jupiter Island that were adjacent but had been separated,” recalls the local architect, adding, “the clients bought it sight unseen and flew down to this forest on the ocean that you couldn’t really see, and that’s where it all began.”
The brief was as compelling as the hunt for the land, a blank page with ten evocative words that the holiday house should encapsulate rather than a prescriptive list. From a practical sense, the design needed to accommodate the clients, a couple from New Jersey and three adult children with families of their own. “It was really a game for us to create a house that had all these functions for this wonderful family, yet it feels manageable and very human in scale,” Christian says, who was able to execute this with clever planning.
With a nod to the old Florida vernacular style, the house is divided into two parts: a formal wing parallel to the ocean and a family wing splaying off at an angle. “If you pull into the property, you are only addressed with portions of the house at any given time, you only ever see vignettes, and that was intended to make it feel cottage-like,” the architect explains. The varied views this affords is another advantage of the home’s unique siting. “As you circulate through the house, you have these different presentations of the ocean,” he says.
Materials and furnishings were selected to reflect the passing of time. “We wanted materials that patina and age because I think it adds to the story. Over time, those nicks and scratches are reminders of past generations,” Christian shares. This approach is in keeping with the Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi, perfection through imperfection, a philosophy Christian has followed for a long time.
Locally-sourced materials run inside and out, from limed Cypress for walls, ceilings and joinery and American white oak floorboards that are fumed but left raw to Florida coral stone paving. Christian worked with Alabama-based interior designer Betsy Brown on the rustic but understated palette so it complimented her artful curation of mid-century furniture along with the client’s existing collection of Papua New Guinean art.
A unified collaboration between all involved has created something that speaks for itself. “It’s just one of those unions that came together perfectly where the client was receptive and open to pushing boundaries to try to create something more soulful, and it allowed our creativity to run,” Christian says. “And as that snowballed, it became this magnificent and magical place that feels like it has been there forever.”
This piece originally appeared in est magazine issue #44.
“The intention of this property was that it was meant to be handed down through generations and this was really built into the materiality.”
– Christian Thomas