Island Interpretation

When One Couple Brings Lots Of Ideas As Well As Furnishings To Use In A New Project, The Design Team Must Mix And Meld To Create A Dream Home In Key Largo

Story Credits

Interior Design:
Louis Shuster and Gage Hartung, Shuster Design Associates, Inc., Wilton Manors, FL
Carmel and Robert Brantley, Delray Beach, FL
Mitchell Kunik, Brian Collins, Lou Nunez and Matt Wheeler, Affiniti Architects, Boca Raton, FL
Brad Kivach, D Garrett Construction, Inc., Naples, FL
Landscape Architecture:
Scott Waltz and Cathy Hayes-Diaz, Waltz Lawn & Landscape, Homestead, FL
Text by:
Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley
(View full image and details by clicking on picture)


Snowbirds Linda and John Noble knew what they were getting into when they started planning their newest home in the luxe Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla. This was the sixth club property they’ve owned in 22 years. While some of their projects were mere renovations, three, including this one, were total teardowns.

Chosen for its waterfront views situated at the end of a canal, its location close to the cultural center and medical center, and its proximity to the ocean, this 5,700-square-foot house is in the perfect spot for the Nobles who wanted a casual yet sophisticated home where they could entertain and enjoy the resort lifestyle. The couple also wanted a home they could open up to the fresh air and enjoy after a tennis match or in bathing suits just off their 23-foot motor boat. And finally, they wanted something different.

Having previously built in the area, they were familiar with many of the designers and architects whose work is prevalent in the upscale community. “They didn’t want their design team to merely rehash what they’d already had in their other homes,” says architect Mitch Kunik, who was introduced to the couple by their realtor.

For their first meeting with Affiniti Architects, the Nobles brought a vison of their dream home inspired by Caribbean architecture. “But when I listened to them, I heard that Linda wanted a Bermudian-style house and John wanted a house indicative of the West Indies,” Kunik says. “So our team suggested the Dutch West Indian style that is an amalgam of the two.” It took them only about a week to formulate a sketch of the new home. “When we saw it, we hardly changed a thing,” Linda says. “I think that’s pretty incredible.”

A fairly traditional facade sports a cantilevered porch supported by brackets with wooden columns and slatted railings. Deep overhangs protect windows from the sun and rain, double chimneys — that in this case are merely decorative — and board-and-batten shutters reminiscent of hatch covers complete the island-style look.

Enter interior designer Louis Shuster and his team, a group that came highly recommended by Affiniti. Designer Gage Hartung lightheartedly remembers meeting the Nobles for the first time when they came to his office armed with a book-full of ideas and photos that Linda had collected. But Hartung wasn’t fazed. Nor was he surprised when, during the design process, the couple e-mailed him photos of furnishings and architectural details they’d seen while on vacation in the Bahamas.

Getting to know his clients, the designer readily interpreted many of their ideas and improved upon others. When Hartung first saw the plans for the great room’s kitchen and dining area, he noticed the room divider had only a lower cabinet topped with dark-stained walnut. To provide more storage plus privacy for Linda while cooking, he added the painted upper glass cabinetry accessible from either side. Clerestory cabinets line the space in perfect complement.

At the other end of the great room, Hartung designed the living area with the couple’s art in mind. One colorful contemporary piece has graced every home in which they have lived since commissioning it. “Each time we build, the horses are always remembered in the design,” the homeowner says.

For the master bedroom, Linda had most of the furnishings in her possession just waiting for the designers to assign them a place. The ceiling detail in this room is straight from one of her photographs brought to life by the design team who attached wood shims to the drywall before adding the wooden structure below to create a beach cottage effect. Just outside, the blue swing and a pair of weathered teak wingback chairs she purchased style one of her favorite spots to enjoy her new home.

By design, an infinity pool lines the social areas of the home. One wing of the house extends farther toward the canal to catch the prevailing southeast winds that, at times, can make air conditioning virtually obsolete.

Whether the couple is lounging by the pool or hosting friends in the great room, they appreciate the island feel of their newest home. “We will never sell this house. There’s nowhere else to go because nothing could have been done better,” Linda says. “We just love it.”