Home & Condo
Blue crystals shimmer among clear prisms in the three chandeliers that illuminate the heart of Elise and Charlie Brown’s Port Royal home. The unanticipated presence of the cobalt blue sparklers symbolizes all that the Browns have done to convert a 19-year-old house into a highly personalized home that reflects their love of art, color, modern and Art Deco styles and distinctive design. And, oh yes, the unexpected.
Charlie likes to say they decided to move from the Rum Row home they built in 1988 because Elise needed more closet space. His wife, on the other hand, counters that the opportunity to build a floating dock and have more garage space was what spurred her husband to start home shopping.
Whatever the motives, the Louisville, Kentuckians were quick to agree that this waterfront house, with its larger dimensions (9,200 square feet at completion) and lot-and-a-half area, had the potential to satisfy their desires. Potential, that is, because there was plenty of work to do, and a team had to be assembled to do it.
"We worked with a local architect, Brian Fleming, who actually had the original plans to this house in his possession," Charlie says. "That was a good thing, because we wanted to establish a Bermuda-Island personality for the exterior, and we needed to make some additions."
The alterations included a change in the roof line, enlargements of the master bedroom and kitchen, new pool deck, two more bedrooms over the garage, and of course, the floating dock and super-size closet. Local builder Jay DeAngelis took on the challenge of tailoring the home to the Browns’ specifications.
Outside, brick was removed, and the new louvered shutters Elise wanted to convey the island spirit were painted a soft ivory, to serve as a becoming accent to the slate green paint and new Brazilian mahogany doors.
Inside, the formal living area at the center of the home was transformed into a colorful garden of art and furniture, bordered by sunny yellow walls, topped by those chandeliers glittering from a 22-foot cathedral ceiling and punctuated by a gracefully curving pair of custom-designed wood and metal staircases leading to the original guest suites.
"The home had just one conventional staircase and a bridge to the other guest suite," Charlie explains. "We liked the architectural enrichment that two sets of stairs, minus the bridge, would bring to the scene."
The couple didn’t have to look beyond their own inner circle to find design professionals perfect for the task of making the home unique.
"Our son, Brice, is an artist and a writer," Elise says. "He also has an interior design business with a partner, Don Joint. Their business associate is David Beideman. Since Brice was busy publishing a book at the time, Don and David did the design work."
For instance, Beideman designed the twin staircases that were fabricated in Tampa and finished locally. Joint designed the brightly colored medallion insets that punctuate the Crema marble entry floor.
"Circles are a theme throughout our home," Charlie says. "We chose an area rug for the living room with a circle pattern, and our major painting also has circles in the design."
That eight-foot by 12-foot modernist triptych by Stanton MacDonald-Wright is the living room’s focal point and the inspiration for the lively color palette in play throughout the residence. The Browns had lent it to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville for three years until they needed it for their new living room.
It’s not the only spectacular art on view in the living room, however. Joint found unused, 19th century, hand-painted Chinese export wall-coverings and mounted them, bordered in blue silk, on 14-foot panels. They dramatize the walls near the staircases. And there’s a first-century Roman sculpture standing on the round reception table.
The living room’s multi-tone, ultrasuede furniture is also art, designed by Karim Rashid as prototypes, but never manufactured. "We actually sit on our art," Elise says with a laugh.
Vivid colors pulsate in the nearby wine room, which the Browns call their key entertaining space. There, a mustard-yellow, leather sectional and orange leather chairs face a room-width, wall-mounted bar with wine storage at each end.
It’s a short stroll from pre-dinner socializing in the wine room to the formal dining room, where lime and taupe walls showcase a frosted-glass table and citrus-colored leather chairs with a sleek, bridge chair look.
"We had the table and chairs in our other home," Elise notes, "but Don found wonderful, antique, Japanese accent chairs to place next to our chest, and David designed the floating buffet."
More MacDonald-Wright artwork above the buffet reflects the couple’s affection for the artist, but its red/black granite top exemplifies their fondness for dramatic stone. In the master bath, white Carrara marble, veined in gray and black, goes from floor to ceiling. The floating guest-bath vanities also are built with marble.
And the Browns are big on wood as well. "When we enlarged the kitchen, we created a pyramid ceiling clad in cypress," Elise says.
Joint created mosaic panels for the backsplash trimmed with hand-painted tiles and gold bordering. Although the lady of the house confides she has little culinary passion, she installed gas and electric cooking facilities for the family and friends who might want to whip up a thing or two.
"We wanted the casual area to be open, so we knocked out a fireplace wall that separated the kitchen from the family room," Charlie says.
That room’s deep-olive leather sectional, a holdover from the Rum Row home, provides ample space from which to admire the quartet of Chagall etchings on the walls.
Joint and beideman added color to the bedroom furniture by making valance insets and toss pillows from 19th century Japanese obi fabrics. The room also benefits from a two-piece lounge that was part of the living room’s Rashid collection.
"I thought it was too big for the formal living room space," Elise says, "and I thought I could get some relaxing time on it here."
Guests—and there are lots of friends and family who visit—can relax in the two original guest suites, which unexpectedly feature wall-mounted, wooden deer heads, or they can hunker down in the two Asian/contemporary guest suites the Browns added over the garage.
Charlie relaxes in his wood-paneled office suite or out on the dock where the 42-foot Sea Ray and the fishing boat are moored. A real estate developer and restaurateur, Charlie enjoys his work, but is also an avid boatsman. His wife, a retired physical education teacher and mother of three, confides that the whole house has a relaxing quality, but her dream closet is a source of particular tranquility.