An Artistically Creative Team Collaborates With Homeowners On A Seaside Sanctuary That Embodies A Sense Of Natural Harmony With Its Environment
Larry Wilson, Rink Design Partnership, Inc., Jacksonville, FL
Joseph Lapeyra, Davie, FL
Mike Walburn, Mike Walburn Architecture, Inc., Jacksonville, FL
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The sleepy, “Old Florida” town of Crescent Beach may seem an unlikely location for a Zen-inspired retreat, but to Jacksonville natives Matt and Rita Kenyon, it was the perfect venue, both logistically and aesthetically. The design-savvy duo — Matt, a third-generation commercial contractor, and Rita, a fine artist — desired a weekend getaway within an hour’s distance from their home and horse farm in Clay County. After purchasing a prime oceanfront site with views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, they assembled a team of like-minded talent to help them realize their dream.
“Rita was very interested in creating a home that nurtures the soul and feeds the spirit,” says interior designer and sculptor Larry Wilson, who’d worked previously with the couple in renovating their primary residence. For site planning and architectural design, Wilson recommended architect Mike Walburn, who proved to be the perfect complement to the creative team.
“The Kenyons approached us with a special request to design a one-of-a-kind home,” Walburn says. “They had a number of very specific requirements, including simplistic, structural geometries; warm and inviting spaces; an abundance of outdoor lanais and carefully controlled-view corridors.”
The home embodies the Taoist philosophy that espouses the synchronization of personal will with the harmony of nature. Panoramic vistas in both directions lend a true east-meets-west sensibility.
Situating the house in relationship to an existing, state-protected historical sand dune presented the project’s greatest challenge. The Kenyons chose not to fight the dune but to embrace it. The site was raised approximately 10 feet in a subtle, staggered format to preserve the view and meet strict requirements that dictated the house be built behind the 20-foot-tall mound.
What evolved was an ingenious, three-story plan that lives from the top floor down. The third story contains main spaces that include the living room, dining room, kitchen, office and master bedroom, all of which have full views of the ocean to the east and the Intracoastal toward the west. The second floor spaces include bedrooms, a media room, the artist studio and a guest suite arranged around the pool deck and artfully tucked behind the dune line yet in full view of the Intracoastal Waterway. The first floor is reserved for a two-car garage and an elevator stair core.
With the emphasis on the residence’s structure, all natural materials of concrete, wood, steel and glass repeat in a simple 3-D geometry. “In short,” Walburn says, “the structure is the architecture, translated in a style we’ve coined ‘coastal modern.'”
The home has 5,000 square feet of interior spaces, with an additional 3,000 square feet of livable patio area. The energy-efficient design features “lots of nesting areas and intimate nooks that give the house a cozy quality,” Rita says. “We wanted a comforting dwelling that felt sheltered from the sun, wind and rain yet embraced the beach environment.”
Capturing the look and feel the owners desired, the design team created this home’s spacious plan and its overall simplicity with a sense of every room being open to the breezes. Wilson then composed a soft, contemporary decor scheme that counters concrete, steel and glass with warm woods and textural fabrics.
The living room’s neutral palette, distinguished by bold architectural elements and the vivid coloration of Rita’s paintings, exudes a simplistic expression of design. Wall surfaces left in a natural concrete finish add gritty texture that contrasts with the smooth surfaces of the blackened-steel fireplace surround and exposed stainless-steel flue. Concrete flooring stained a smoky-toned tortoise shell lends continuity throughout the living room, dining room and kitchen, while a barrel-vaulted, pine-beamed ceiling arches overhead.
“The real beauty here is in the harmony of all components,” the designer says. “We didn’t want any one element to overpower any other.” The Kenyons’ choice of furnishings allows Rita’s paintings and the outdoor vistas to provide the focal points.