Designer focuses on blending indoor, outdoor spaces
BY MARY ANN KOENIG
The standard design process of building a new home requires that magical mix of hiring the right architect to design it and then an interior design firm to complete the homeowner’s vision.
Interior designer Holly Brennan is integrating the practice by executing a design for the Vero Beach home of Donald and Suzanne Broyles. Working from the ground-up, Brennan will take on both skills of architecture and interior design.
The idea of architectural interior design can achieve a cohesive result in exterior themes that carry throughout the home’s interior. Brennan’s years of experience in both commercial and residential design work contribute to the seamless transition she’s making in crafting an entire package for her clients’ home.
The vision for the new Broyles residence is a contemporary home with, as Brennan describes it, “a modern feel, a flat roof, simple clean lines, monolithic walls out front.” In other words, it is the antithesis of cookie-cutter.
Working in a tropical environment, Brennan’s design impulse is to always bring the outdoors in, an impulse she’s bringing to the Broyles home. As a state-licensed interior designer, Brennan designs interiors providing non-structural architectural drawings that are passed on to a licensed contractor and engineer to produce proper architectural documents.
INDOOR AND OUTDOOR
Her firm, Design Quest International, has created spaces that have achieved that specific “indoor-meets-out” atmosphere at some of the most iconic destination resorts across Florida, the Caribbean and even in South America. “I think it’s really important,” she says. “We’re in the subtropics, so I want to take advantage of it, use the light, the tropical plants.”
In the 1990s she and a partner opened Miami and Orlando offices focusing on hospitality interior designs. She designed 16 boutique hotels in the Pompano and Fort Lauderdale area for Joyce North, a client for whom she’s also collaborated on several private residences. One is a two-story courtyard home in Vero situated directly on the Intracoastal Waterway.
The home’s resort feel is a compelling example of Brennan’s vision for unified exterior and interior living with a design mix of antiques, and contemporary and transitional style furnishings. “Even when I design modern or contemporary space, I like bringing in organic materials,” says Brennan. “I think that’s very important, to keep it warm.”
In the Caribbean, she designed Queens Gardens on Saba, a Dutch island of mountainous terrain with broad water and mountain-top vistas. “It’s like a rock that comes straight out of the Caribbean,” says Brennan. “Each room has a master bath that we designed so you could open the windows and the tub would seem to project out, almost like you were floating from a high elevation looking out over the ocean.”
The Bimini Big Game Club is another unique resort, famous for its world-class marlin fishing, that showcases Brennan’s work.
One of Brennan’s favorite design challenges is restaurants, which she believes evoke a special emotion. “A restaurant must draw you in,” she says, “make you want to sit and enjoy the space. I like manipulating space, pulling out an emotion from people when they walk in the door.”
That philosophy was particularly relevant in creating one of Miami’s hottest night spots in the early 2000s.
With sculptor Ross Power, Brennan’s domestic partner of 27 years, and another business colleague, they created Power Studios, which became famous in the heart of the city’s Design District.
Featuring five performance stages on more than 10,000 square feet, Power Studios’ elán came partly from the fact that the building had previously housed film and recording studios. In transforming the space to an entertainment club, Brennan helped realize the hip, elegant atmosphere that stayed true to the building’s history. Rooms throughout the club offered live stage performances alongside high-end dining experiences, an art gallery and even a film screening space on the rooftop.
Brennan and Power moved to Vero 16 years ago, initially dividing their time between Vero and Miami. Power is an eminent metal sculptor known for his monumental steel sculptures, including a more than two-acre sculpture garden on Florida International University’s North Miami campus. He’s also creating Indian River County’s Next Gen Veteran group’s Words from War, a monument dedicated to veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The sculpture is set to be installed this year in Riverside Park.
The couple have been full-time Vero residents for the last five years, and their home is a re-imagined 1960s central beach mid-century modern that showcases both of their creative visions.
Their rebuild of the home focused around a screened pool. “It was a really ugly screened-in area,” says Brennan. “And we created the courtyard to walk into, this one just happens to have a big pool in the middle of it.”
They enclosed the pool and installed polished concrete flooring. “We added a fireplace at the end of the pool, and the house revolves around that pool courtyard.”
An inspired piece of design work is the open roof over the pool, leaving it exposed to the elements. The large, square aperture creates a dramatic four-sided waterfall that, when it rains, cascades in a geometric shape into the pool.
The indoor-outdoor lifestyle is also represented by a serene patio beyond the pool that opens to a completely private, tropical garden. Glass doors from the master suite bathroom access the other side of the garden, where the outdoor shower is much preferred to the interior one, according to Brennan.
With those credentials, Brennan began working as a solo designer envisioning the “outdoors-in” attitude for the new Broyles residence.
The Broyleses had known Brennan in Miami where they worked together previously and admired her design sense and style. When they came to Vero and fell in love with the town, they decided to purchase a home. They were selling their Miami business and moving to Vero, so they reached out to Brennan.
“Based on her experience and excellent taste, we asked her if she would build our home,” says Suzanne Broyles.
They had purchased a 1,100-square-foot cottage in the South Beach section of Vero. After having considered renovating and expanding that home, they ultimately decided to tear it down and begin anew.
Brennan drew up the designs and then they hired Builders East, a Vero company located on the barrier island for the building and engineering of the project.
According to Builders East’s CEO, Mark Williams, “This project had a lot of cool, unique aspects. It’s a holistic approach, having the architect play a dual role on everything, down to the furnishings. It’s a nice convenience to have one not two design professionals to consult with.”
But Brennan’s and the Broyleses’ design features have also made it more challenging for the builders. “If you have three pieces of crown molding it hides a lot of sins if walls are not perfectly even,” says Williams. “But with straight lines and contemporary details, everything has to be just right.”
A unique design aspect is the wood ceiling running out onto the porch. The windows intersect there and divide the space. Williams says, “We can’t be off by a quarter-inch or you’ll see the window frame, and it would appear different on different sides of the room. Things like that take a lot of planning, instead of throwing on drywall or crown molding to hide any difficulties.”
Brennan credits Builders East with a smooth execution. “I can’t say enough good things about them.”
The Broyleses’ Miami business, which they operated for 38 years out of Homestead, was a wholesale specialty nursery. They shipped tropical and exotic plants all over the country. Consequently, says Suzanne, “My husband is an excellent landscaper, and we are building a house to feel like we are living outside, lots of glass and open areas, like we’re living in our garden.”
Brennan’s design for the pool area includes floating steps out over the pool, and an expansive lanai with large stepping pads around the pool, consistent with the modern look. The total indoor and outdoor space will be approximately 5,000 square feet.
As their project advances past window installation and stucco exterior, the Broyleses are seeing further traits in their choice of architect that have reassured their decision to hire Brennan. “Now,” says Suzanne, “she’s remembering details in the middle of night, she’ll tell me, ‘don’t forget we need this.’ All those details that really matter, when it gets to the end and you forgot, then you’re doing a bunch of change orders. We’re thrilled with Holly.”
For the architect/designer, the usefulness and efficiency of the space, the room proportions, positioning of windows and doors, and how the design of the house lives up to its owners’ requirements, are steep challenges, as is achieving a fluid stream that will culminate in an essence of harmony, from frame and studs to finishes and furnishings.
Brennan’s and the Broyleses’ visions were to build a modern, clean and emboldened resort-style home, manifest in homogenous indoor and outdoor living. And toward that effort, they’re now realizing the desired outcome of architect and client speaking the same design language.