Sophisticated Island Gem

This Stately Home In Indian River Shores Exudes An Old World Sensibility With Swedish And European Antiques, And Custom Artisan-Crafted Furnishings

Story Credits

Bethany O’Neil, Bethany O’Neil Interior Design, Naples, FL
Lori Hamilton, Naples, FL
Harry Gandy Howle, Harry Gandy Howle Architect & Associates, Vero Beach, FL
David Lyons, Croom Construction Co., Vero Beach, FL
Landscape Architecture:
August Gerard Schwartz, August Schwartz Landscape Architecture, Winter Park, FL
Text by:
Marimar McNaughton
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A couple craving their privacy was spellbound by the quaintness of this affluent Indian River Shores community in Florida. Bridging causeways connecting gated communities within this barrier island setting, they discovered Gem Island amid the Johns Island archipelago. Timbered with majestic live oak trees draped in Spanish moss, surrounded by water and saturated in sunlight, there remained one extraordinary lot with unobstructed west-facing views. Noted architect Harry Gandy Howle designed this 7,400-square-foot residence built by David Lyons with a stately exterior facade that is revealed in rafter tails and detailed columns surrounding the entrance.

The use of columns resurfaces inside the home, where designer Bethany O’Neil blends Old World sensibilities with bespoke, artisan-crafted pieces and imported Swedish antiques in a sandy white palette. Her clients were seeking elegant but casual interiors for their first home in Florida. The subtle palette is O’Neil’s trademark aesthetic. “That is my look,” she says. “Most of the projects I work on are on the water, or with a water view — so, that also determines my color scheme.”

To begin, the designer sought placements for focal pieces. “I always start with the fabrics, followed by the floor plan, furnishings and finally finishes that are mindful of the original color scheme,” she says. In the dining room, the distressed patina of an elegant Tritter Feefer dining table edged by David Iatesta Studio chairs clad in a Duralee pinstripe fabric lends a timeless quality that is mirrored in an area rug from Abbey Carpet. “To me the rugs are not just an afterthought — they are essential — I just don’t want them to control the design,” O’Neil says. The timeless quality continues in a charming vignette featuring an antique-style mirror above a French country console layered with Visual Comfort’s table lamps.

On view through large columns is the heart of the home — the gracious great room, where the dining and living areas are connected by an expanse of European oak flooring. Beneath a deeply coffered ceiling supported by heavy detailed columns, a social grouping that includes Ralph Lauren sofas and armchairs covered in an off-white linen and floral armchairs clad in a pale-blue hue exudes European eclecticism. Though the palette is understated, O’Neil’s layered details are anything but. “I tried to downplay the formality of the architecture by using antiques … Swedish antiques have an informality about them,” she says. “I try not to put a home in a time category. I like to mix different influences.” While avoiding trends is one of her mantras, O’Neil says, “There is nobody out there that projects wealth, comfort and estate life better than Ralph Lauren.”

Tucked behind the great room, a secluded loggia fashioned with a McKinnon and Harris loveseat and a pair of armchairs in a Link Outdoor fabric from Jeffrey Michaels flows through French doors offering access to the kitchen. Creating seamless visual transitions, O’Neil designed the pristine kitchen with white cabinetry and hints of blue in barstools and breakfast chairs from Thibaut Fine Furnishings.

Outdoors, an inviting pool and casual gathering areas provide ample seating for socializing whether on the veranda or dining poolside in the loggia’s summer kitchen. The riverside home supports large gatherings at any given time, but the homeowners did not design or build it for entertaining. “This house really doesn’t have a grand scale,” O’Neil says. “It’s actually really quite cozy.”