It is hard to imagine wanting to leave one’s home on Seven Mile Beach. Even with the draw of more space and expanding infrastructure in other districts, a home on this stretch of perfect white sand remains something to be treasured.
After all, even the greatest properties are only as good as the ambience and lifestyle they inspire within.
John and Maureen Waldron live at The Palms, a complex of 15 waterfront condominiums tucked neatly away at the southern end of Seven Mile Beach. Built in 1991, the complex is equal parts exterior splendor and traditional ’90s architecture.
Rather than giving up on this prime Seven Mile Beach locale, the Waldrons decided to invest in a renovation and enlisted the expertise of designer Lydia Uzzell to update and upgrade their unit into a full-time, multi-purpose family space.
A passion project
For Lydia, the initial challenge was clear: use the rigid skeleton of a 25-year-old condo to create a modern space designed for life, on and off the beach.
The Palms follows a traditional Seven Mile Beach interior aesthetic; post-80s modernism with boxy, one-dimensional building materials. Many Seven Mile Beach condos from this era reflect these all-beige interiors with décor originally meant to pick up outdoor Caribbean themes: heavy florals, seascapes and pastels.
Lydia heads up the firm DesignWorks. Like her peers in the industry, she walks the tightwire that is interior design, balancing client expectations with workable interior solutions. And while it’s not groundbreaking to achieve a stylish transformation under structural confines, The Palms renovation combines HGTV-worthy visual transformation and clever redesign of living space. Here, we break down the unique challenges and equally inventive solutions behind this unique project.
The initial approach started with defining the owner’s lifestyle and how they use the 1,400-square-foot living space. The Waldrons had differing decorative tastes – she wanted to achieve a feeling of glamour while he was going for a beachy feel – yet the two agreed on one point: they love to entertain and use their interior space to its fullest.
“John and Maureen often entertain guests, so our overriding inspiration for the layout came from a desire to allow as much function as possible, without sacrificing style or the appearance of space,” says Lydia.
Creating this ‘appearance of space’ inspired one of the most transformational design decisions within the Waldron’s home.
“In what seems a counter-intuitive move, given the already low ceiling, we lowered the ceiling throughout the entire hallway and kitchen/dining area, enabling the inclusion of recessed ceiling fixtures, and a grouping of decorative pendants over the island,” she shares.
This bold choice changed the entry experience of the condo entirely. It also presented an opportunity to introduce a new layer of ambient and functional lighting in the hall and kitchen.
Visitors now enter through an intimate, cozily lit corridor which expands up and out with each step to a brighter, more spacious living area.
Form and function
Having achieved a feeling of openness with the ceiling work and a monochromatic color palette, Lydia and her team turned to the layout of the shared living space. “We wanted to maximize each of the individual ‘rooms’ within the open plan living, dining and kitchen area.”
An interactive cooking and dining area was created by replacing a dated granite column and older dining table with one dual-purpose island. Cut in clean and contemporary lines, this one item of furniture provides seating for 8 people, additional work space when needed and much-needed hidden storage beneath. All of this, while taking up roughly half of the space taken up by the previous items.
“This allowed for an unusually large kitchen in what is essentially a compact condo,” Lydia explains. “It also gave us ample living space to work with, and opened up the room as a whole.”
A strategically placed sofa and a large area rug in the living room define the lounge area of the space from the kitchen, without cutting off the space. In all, the revised layout – while simpler – has significantly increased the usable space for dining, entertaining and relaxation.
With the space issues solved, it was time to find synergy between Maureen’s love of luxe and John’s laidback coastal style. Lydia employed her curatorial skills to create tiers of décor, with clean lines balancing bold patterns and statement accessories.
In the couple’s master bathroom, glass wall tile in a shade of pale blue green visually grounds a wall of mother of pearl mosaic accent tiles that flicker and shine with light.
The kitchen is another example of this interplay between ‘bling’ and beachy.
“The cluster of glass pendants in the kitchen is the standout focal piece, while the textured glass backsplash is a subtler reinforcement of the reflective design element,” she explains.
“Too much of a good thing can be disconcerting when a calm environment is the goal.”
Lydia shares some tips for making your own home feel larger and more cohesive without major construction.
“Our favorite trick for making a space look larger, and to connect adjacent spaces in a cohesive manner, is to limit the palette,” she divulges. “We literally painted the condo one color and used the same floor tile throughout. We purposely chose understated and coordinating fabrics without too much contrast, so that the overall effect felt relaxed.”