For this interior designer duo, sisters Ashley Waddell and Courtney Whatley, the way a home makes you feel is just as important as it looks. To achieve the casual elegance of this house, the colours are a little crisper, the mood a little lighter …
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA GLYNN
“It just needed lipstick,” says Ashley “Olivia” Waddell of the renovation she completed with her sister and business partner Courtney “O’Bryan” Whatley. Their US-based interior design consultancy Olivia O’Bryan (their middle names combined) is all about achieving a feeling that’s hard to put into words but is distinctive in its light-touch simplicity. Perfect, in other words, for this casual beachy-style family house in the exclusive resort of Windsor, Florida.
Before the application of “lipstick”, the sisters created the foundation, choosing a soft white paint shade for the walls, picking out skirting boards, window frames and doors in a contrasting grey. “White isn’t boring – there are so many variations of white, and the same white in one space can take on a completely different look in another. White walls are the perfect backdrop for most colour schemes or art choices,” says Courtney. In keeping with the backdrop’s simplicity, minimal window treatments, wood floors and a palette that plays on the tones you might see in the seaglass found on the nearby beach – blue grey, aqua, green – were chosen.
The Windsor estate in Florida where this house is located, was founded by Galen and Hilary Weston (former owners of the Selfridges Brown Thomas and Arnotts retail business) 30 years ago. Their vision was for an exclusive, private community with a range of architecturally diverse oceanfront, fairway-front and village homes. That the surrounding area is full of architects and interior designers is unsurprising. According to Ashley and Courtney, there’s little competition for work. “We have to turn down projects,” says Ashley. Selecting just five every year, she describes the specific criteria for taking on a client. “We only work with clients we have an immediate connection with, if we get a good feeling from our first interaction we know the relationship will work. We must take on the whole house, not just a couple of rooms. And, our clients have to agree they aren’t allowed in the house while we’re installing.”
While the clients might have to relinquish some control once all the key decisions are taken, they know their designers are anything but hands-off. They choose artworks from a large inventory they have gathered over the years (“Don’t match art to the colour of your room – hunt for art you love and nine times out of ten it will work”), and kit out kitchens with everything from pots and pans, china and cutlery down to the last fork; they stock and organise the linen cupboard, and accessorise bathrooms down to the last towel in the warming drawer (yes, you read that right); and hanging, folding and organising everyone’s clothes are all part of the service.
The sisters spend a lot of time together, in work and outside, so their collaboration is intuitive. “We can read each other – and keep each other in check,” says Courtney. “We focus on designing the main pieces first – sofas, dining tables, large accent pieces – and allow the thinking and selection of the smaller pieces – end tables, art/accessories, lighting – to evolve.”
Every project begins with a concept book created for the client to clarify the direction of the interiors. Using images to reflect how the house will feel like in terms of spaces and mood, is more important than choosing a look. “In the early stages, what the client rejects is as important as what they love,” says Ashley. “We see what they react to.” Furniture shapes, paint colours and fabric choices are all made after the spaces are set up. Throughout the project, the original concept book is referred to frequently as they select the vintage or found pieces that characterise their work. “Every project we do has a one-of-a-kind look – we don’t have a signature style because we buy what we like; we are mindful that everything should feel natural, collected, simple.”
In the living area, the formerly black surround of the fireplace was transformed into white, and the woodwork picked out in grey to contrast with the white walls. The window treatments are minimal, just battery-operated roller shades. The sofa and chairs are covered in an outdoor fabric, chosen for its practicality for children and dogs and its linen-like appearance. “We always use outdoor fabrics on indoor upholstery for family houses – modern outdoor fabrics are very functional without sacrificing the aesthetic.” A mid-century standing light and chair, a curvy coffee table, and a pair of smart elmwood chests painted blue add to the casual, elegant vibe.
The decision to replace the original floating dining table and chairs with a long, narrow dining table from Restoration Hardware and a comfortable custom banquette upholstered in an outdoor fabric (also used to cover the seat pads for the exterior-friendly dining chairs) meant the designers could reclaim some circulation space.
The existing kitchen island was given a facelift with newly painted cabinetry fascias and hardware, and a marble worktop. A grey quartz was selected for the remaining worktops, and glossy subway tiles for the back wall. Contrasting with these contemporary materials are organic touches like the vessels and boards, the salvaged glass cabinet, a vintage-style pendant from Urban Electric and the framed photographic print.
The small courtyard, visible from the entrance hall, is the perfect spot for the owners to have morning coffee as they work from home. The planting is designed for privacy and shade.
The loggia is a lovely setting for entertaining in the evening. The petrified wood table is from Restoration Hardware and the lights have a Moroccan feel.
In the master bedroom, the palette is black and white with accents of ochre. The ceiling detail is accentuated with beams picked out in grey. With a lot of room either side of the brass bed for tables, the designers chose wide rattan consoles to fit the space. Rugs are layered for comfort.
Lots of mirror and marble and simple detailing define the master en suite which has french doors opening to a balcony overlooking the pool. Luxurious touches include a towelwarming drawer.