The Right Mixture
Spacious Stuart home combines unique features from Colombia to Connecticut
BY MARY ANN KOENIG
In parts of Colombia, the Spanish word for the hibiscus flower is cayena. In many cultures, it symbolizes abundance, well-being and happiness. Over a small bridge, onto an island off Sewall’s Point, a house bears the name Las Cayenas, and carries the exact attributes symbolized in the flower.
Las Cayenas became a residence that Susan and Edgardo Abello willed into being.
Finding the lot on which to build was their first challenge. When they saw this secluded, waterfront spot on nearly an acre they knew it would be the perfect choice for their Florida home.
The planning was in the hands of architectural firm Kelly and Kelly of Stuart. And the builder was Carlson Enterprises, operated by Bob Carlson and his son, Robert. The entire project took nearly two years to complete and the first trial to conquer was preparing the land.
“There are 148 pilings down 35 feet below the surface of the ground,” Bob Carlson says. “It’s connected to the bedrock. The house is basically tsunami proof.”
DRIVEN BY DESIGN
As the lot was being prepped, the Abellos met Francesca Morgan of Francesca Morgan Interiors at her Stuart studio on Ocean Boulevard.
“I’d driven by her studio, and the way she decorates the outside, I said I definitely have to go into that place,” Susan Abello says.
They immediately began working to integrate into the design of the home the couple’s many treasures, which were waiting in storage. Having moved from Connecticut, Susan wanted the new house to have some of the feel of their northern home.
The unique features in the home are subtle, but unmistakable. As one enters the glass double-doors into the vestibule, modern and traditional touches are strengthened by flooring that commands attention. A beautiful mix of dark and light is created by white Carrera marble in a pattern inlaid into a dark wood-look engineered porcelain.
“It took hours and hours looking at floors to locate the right look,” Morgan says. “We knew we wanted to do dark, but it was very important that we weren’t putting something in that would upset the flow.”
Under an arched ceiling, the stage is set for the drama of the rest of the home.
PLENTY OF ROOM
The couple wanted to create a substantial residence, big enough to entertain their large family. The couple has six children and Edgardo’s sizable Colombian family visits frequently.
They also needed room to display Edgardo’s artwork. A realist painter whose works are exhibited at Gallery 14 in the Historic Downtown Arts District of Vero Beach, the Abellos wanted a home with sufficient wall space and openness to showcase his art, but also to provide a cohesive atmosphere with the water and greenery of the surrounding outdoors.
Some of the elements of the house, such as fireplaces, extra-height ceilings and the enormous kitchen are impeccable, bold features that still manage to seem discreet.
The towering ceilings amplify the main living areas and the stark white interiors are used almost as a canvas for presenting art, artifacts and family heirlooms that adorn the 5,000-square-foot home.
A solid family legacy is attached to the house, and Morgan made a point of contemporizing the look yet maintaining a classic design field that is timeless. Down a hall, family photos rest on custom-built railings rather than hanging on the walls.
NEW ENGLAND INFLUENCE
The home is bifurcated, with one section containing the master wing and a library, a writer’s retreat that resembles a previous room in their Connecticut home. The fireplace is graced by a black walnut mantel. Susan Abello’s father, S. Prestley Blake, co-founder of the Friendly’s restaurant chain, was an old-fashioned New Englander and a connoisseur of wood. He had a mill in northern Connecticut and created the mantel from a tree he planted and harvested 30 years later.
Morgan used photos from the Connecticut house for reference in designing the library, and sample wood chips to create similar shelving to hold the large book collection. The rich color is called Lakeshore and it helps harmonize the elements, including in the private bathroom.
Farther down the hallway, behind double doors, is the master wing. The bedroom is accessed through an oversized entry and the broad scope of drama is sharpened by large square windows offering a view of the pool, the lagoon and the open tropical landscape beyond.
Recessed ceiling and molding details seem to expand the entire room, while behind the bed, an accent wall of blue grass-cloth is a corresponding shade to the custom-built bed. Susan Abello told Morgan she wanted caning on the bed structure, and Morgan’s craftspeople made it happen with caned foot and headboards.
The bespoke bed is rich with the traditional style of curved and carved woodwork that are then paired with contemporary features, such as the wall of the fireplace. Inlaid with capiz shells, the shimmer of the background resonates against a stone façade with a white oak mantel, another one of several which Susan Abello’s father made for his daughter’s new Florida home.
The dual components of beachy Florida and traditional Connecticut synthesize effectively and beautifully including in an adjacent wet bar, which carries the cayenas theme. A sink, which Susan Abello found, incorporates the flower hammered into impressions in the metal sink.
MASTER OF ALL BATHS
Alongside is the elegant spa-like master bath. Nearly as large as the bedroom itself, an oval soaking tub sits in front of the window, perfect for taking in the serenity outside while never having to leave the bath. With custom-built cabinets by THR Cabinets in Stuart, the tones are earthy, the fixtures luxurious, and the effect is remarkable. Cohesion of color, texture and patterns makes the master bath a standout feature in an already exceptional home.
Another wing on the opposite side of the house is all about family and making visitors comfortable. And between the two wings, the open dining, kitchen and living area enhances the home’s mission of entertaining with ease. Like the cut of a fine suit, the neatly finished details are less immediately recognizable but add up to a subtle feeling of elegance. The 12-foot ceilings are crowned by seemingly endless stretches of over-sized coffers, perfectly designed for such an expansive space.
The fireplace, anchoring the far end of the room, carries a bit of New England style.
“It’s very similar in proportions to my Connecticut house,” Susan Abello says. “I didn’t want it to be low and tiny, I wanted it to be chunky and big.”
Morgan and Susan Abello found photos of the type of fireplace she wanted. And the perfect, thick wood, angular and modern framework became a reality in the hands of builders Robert and Bob Carlson.
“You just tell Robert and Bob what you want, and they will make it,” Susan Abello says.
A smaller, adjacent sitting area is designed for chess, or music, or simply enjoying the view of the pool and lagoon. Numerous sliding glass doors open wide to access the pool.
At the opposite end of the living space is the kitchen, which is a splendid representation of good design sense rendering a beautiful outcome.
There are few visible appliances in this kitchen. Refrigerator and dishwasher are housed behind cabinet facings, so that the room magically seems less like a kitchen and more like a gallery.
Gold instead of standard silver metal handles accompany a large, gold light fixture over the enormous island.
“I just like gold,” Susan Abello says. “I was worried that I was going to date my house, but Francesca gives me options, and she doesn’t let you make a mistake.”
Morgan maintains a design philosophy that is client-friendly yet also uses skill, training and experience.
“Don’t go with the style of right now,” she says. “If you go entirely with what’s in style, you’d have an entire gray house. But with this, a good 40 years from now it should still look good.”
The kitchen counters reflect this philosophy. The beautiful white veined surface is made of a Neolith, a sintered stone product. It’s more durable than marble, and was also used in the fireplace façade, creating a cohesion of elements at each end of the room.
At the back of the kitchen, a butler’s pantry, tucked behind mahogany doors with frosted glass, reveals retro deep-turquoise tiled walls, open cabinets and additional dishwasher and a dispensing icemaker.
CHALK ONE UP FOR VISITORS
The home’s other wing is where guests will find their comfort zones. A guest room with spring-green walls is punctuated by complementary colored, large, leaf-patterned wallpaper. Morgan’s staff expertly handled myriad paper treatments throughout, which solidify the imaginative and vibrant soul of the home.
The most unique and fun bedroom is reserved for young visitors. The bunk room is kitted out with four queen-sized bunk beds and a staircase, midpoint, leading to the upper births. Lighting above each riser on the steps adds safety for climbing as well as a cool atmosphere in a multi-inhabitant sleeper space. Individual lights are also installed at each bunk, and double doors lead out to the lagoon side of the home.
The chalk board, just outside the room, is filled with messages from friends and family who have passed through and left their mark.
Another guest room has a water view and private bath. Each bathroom throughout the house has individually styled tile flooring, which adds a unique experience that helps uphold the spirit of the home, rooted in comfort but also imagination and beauty.
Down an additional hallway one reaches the studio space where Edgardo Abello works, with a wet bar and a view to the exterior pool and lagoon. Further studio space is planned.
THE TROPICAL FEEL
Outside, the deep-sapphire, water-side pool has twin fire pillars that also contain waterfalls, while colored lights change the pool’s aquatic atmosphere on a rotating basis. In one direction, the travertine pool deck steps down to a sandy beach, and in the other, a paved walkway leads to a boat-lift, a stack of kayaks and a launching dock. A guava tree and twin banyan trees, lit at night, reinforce the tropical feel of the secluded property.
The crowning demonstration of family legacy is the cupola at the apex of the roof. Every Friendly’s restaurant had a cupola and, Susan Abello says, “My father said we had to have one. He had a lot of influence on this house.”
The result is a home of exceptional style and splendor, a residence called Las Cayenas, which is as colorful and magical as the chic flower it’s named for.