Resort Storyline

A Charlotte couple looks to architect Ken Pursley and interior designer Bronwyn Ford to transform their dated Florida home into a West Palm Beach retreat.

KEN PURSLEY AND BRONWYN FORD HAD BEEN IN THIS position countless times before: A client comes to them with an existing, dated house desperately in need of a renovation. In this case, the home was located in Wellington, Florida, a well-known equestrian community just west of West Palm Beach. And the homeowners were Charlotte residents who had worked with Pursley and Ford on three of their previous residences. “There was never a question about who we’d want to do this renovation,” says the homeowner. “Ken has had a hand in everything we’ve ever done with all of our homes. He gets what I want without me having to tell him, and then he’s able to put that into beautiful drawings.”

The homeowner had been patiently looking for a home in the equestrian community for nearly three years, never quite finding a property that worked. “I wanted a courtyard home that’s centered around a pool,” she says. As luck would have it, the homeowner’s friend caught wind of a home going on the market just two doors down from her. The house was a watered-down Spanish colonial with a classic red clay roof, a complementary stucco facade, oversized cornices, and faux ornamentation.  “It was so dated and beige, and it had absolutely no character,” Ford says. “There was a lot of ridiculous exterior detail work that had been added to make it look like it had integrity, but inside it was very vanilla.” Despite its obvious flaws, the homeowner was smitten with the layout. “I knew that I could bring this home to Ken and that he would be able to make this the home I wanted,” she says.

“We wanted to humanize the architecture a bit,” Pursley says, “so we started by taking away and cleaning things up so that we could rebuild it.” The ornate exterior architectural details were stripped away, leaving behind a blank slate. A concrete stain on the roof tile, new bronze windows, and a fresh coat of white paint completely transformed the facade. “We wanted to soften the palette and make it not so jarring,” Pursley explains. Inside, much of the same transformation took place with the removal of tray ceilings, crown molding, and other architectural elements that didn’t align with the more modern interior design the homeowner desired. “We basically gutted the entire house,” Pursley says. “We took the shell and reconfigured it inside to make it make more sense from a floor plan, flow, and spatial sequence.” Originally, all of the rooms blended together, so there was little delineation between spaces. “We wanted to create more definition of rooms to have a more logical layout that’s livable but also functional.”

Interior ceiling heights were dropped to nine feet in many spaces to soften the rooms. Some living areas were reimagined and given new life, such as a screened-in porch that morphed into a home office. The original formal dining room was open to the living room, so Pursley closed it off with stunning upholstered sliding doors, dropped the ceiling height, and turned it into a quiet sitting room. “We were trying to make spaces within spaces, which makes it a little bit cozier,” Pursley explains. The one-time living room was transformed into a modern, open kitchen with a beautiful view to the outside courtyard and pool area. “If a home isn’t working well, it’s oftentimes the kitchen that’s the issue,” says the architect of taking the former kitchen and turning it into a support space that houses the scullery, pantry, laundry, and a dog wash. “The original living room had a sightline into this beautiful backyard. I find it more powerful to pull back from the view and look across the room. We took advantage of what was there and let the kitchen morph to the architecture.”

Ford took cues from the streamlined architecture to create a relaxed, contemporary interior design that feels comfortable yet elegant. “We wanted to simplify everything,” Ford says. “We wanted the interiors to feel soft and serene. The whole house feels like sand and beach glass and driftwood. That’s what gives it warmth. Even though it’s not on the beach, it feels very natural and has that vibe to it.” The home is a departure from the homeowners’ conventional Colonial farmhouse in Charlotte, which features more traditional furnishings and antiques. “When you do a second home, there’s a relaxation of expectations,” Pursley says. “For them, it was this idea of a resort storyline—they wanted to stay somewhere that was kind of cool and a little crisp but still comfortable when they weren’t in Charlotte. It’s more like a vacation with the way they wanted us to approach the interiors.”

The outdoor living did not go untouched either. While the pool shape did not change, Pursley and Ford replaced the pool tile and plaster and refinished the surrounding hardscape with a more soothing, complementary palette. Like the interior, the team redesigned the outdoor living area with spaces within spaces, such as a hedged alcove that features an intimate sitting area with a fireplace.

While the homeowner patiently waited for several years before finally finding a home that fit her family’s needs, she admits it was worth the wait. “The arrangement of this home was pretty perfect and exactly what we wanted,” she says. “Ken and Bronwyn are just so talented. I never thought about using someone else to do this project. They’re really good at interpreting and understanding a client’s needs. And they just knew that we wanted this home to be comfortable and relaxing, like a resort getaway, and they achieved that throughout.”