When it comes to a holiday home by the beach, function can sometimes take precedence over form. After all, it is essential to ensure the durability of the building in the face of environmental factors such as heat and humidity. But this wasn’t the case with American architect Jeffrey Dungan, who considered both factors equally while building this sandcastle-inspired house for a family in Alys Beach, Florida.
Dungan had to incorporate a strict design direction and work within specific constraints that the town’s architects had previously laid out—he says this actually allowed him to be even more creative in his approach to building the home. The result is a strikingly stylish 5,500 sq ft abode with a private pool set in a courtyard that features curves and arches on its stucco facade. A predominantly white palette keeps the abode’s overall appearance restrained and subtle.
“I view the aesthetic of this house as a little sandcastle, as we used a lot of soft curvatures in the exterior walls and rounded edges rather than 90-degree ones,” says Dungan of his design approach. “A good house always tells a story. The story begins with the exterior and continues inside, but inside it becomes more layered and intimate.”
A light palette anchors the design scheme with the addition of wood detailing in the rafters, wall panelling and floors to soften the space and create an “inviting and comfortable” warmth. “I also implemented a terrazzo floor that is cool to the touch in such a hot environment so that it feels refreshing. At the same time, this flooring is also great with wet bathing suits and teenage kids,” he says.
With the sun in Florida shining brightly all year round, Dungan paid careful attention to the amount of light and heat the house would be exposed to. Since the property is oriented precisely on an east-west axis, he designed much of the facade along a northwards orientation because the sun rarely shines directly through that direction. “We used this to create a home that has a lot of natural light—but it is actually reflected light—so it does not have the negative effect of too much heat coming inside the home,” he explains.
To introduce even more natural light in an unexpected manner, Dungan created a stair access made of glass that connects to the third-floor roof terrace to form a light well that illuminates the second floor during the day. To further bring the ethereally elegant atmosphere to life, interior designer Ohara Davies-Gaetano strove to add layers of surfaces and textures through the use of natural materials such as linen fabrics and plaster walls to evoke a “dappled light” effect.
“Since this is a beach home, the desire was to create an indoor-outdoor lifestyle and to maximise the exterior spaces,” she says. “The way Jeff Dungan brought the exterior living spaces into the home by allowing the kitchen and living room to completely open up to the courtyard and the pool not only makes you feel more connected to the exterior, but also emphasises the scale of both the interior and exterior spaces, allowing everything to feel more expansive.”
In the living room, inviting oversized sofas clad in Lee Industries fabrics and a coffee table from Clubcu offer a comfortable respite for quiet contemplation during the day, while also performing double duty as an entertainment hub when friends and relatives drop by.
“Since you see the dining room from the entry corridor of the home, I wanted the space to feel inviting. At the same time, as our clients love to cook and entertain, the dining room needed to be functional and casual. The design of the kitchen was also essential as the space had to be a comfortable gathering place,” says Davies-Gaetano.
To achieve an aura of conviviality, a custom banquet was carved into the kitchen counter so guests could mingle effortlessly with the hosts as they bustle about the space. A separate countertop with open shelving for stemware features an artfully curated bar; an open invitation for anyone to mix up a tipple or two should the mood strike.
In contrast, Davies-Gaetano sought to create the opposite effect in the master suite, which is clad in neutral tones and natural fabrics for a cocooning effect. In the primary bathroom, a freestanding Currey & Company bathtub, set within a marble-covered arched nook, establishes the tone for some indulgent me-time. “The primary suite feels calm and dreamy, and is a sanctuary for reconnecting and unwinding from the hectic pace of life,” she says.
Reflecting on the project, Dungan says: “I think the whole reason we love the beach is getting outside and enjoying the sun and ocean breeze. I hoped to create a home that aided in this continued enjoyment, but in a more private way. By using walled courtyards, we were able to extend the interior spaces towards the outdoors, hence opening up the house without losing privacy.”