Cookie and Bruce Creger were pretty open-minded about the bright, airy home they built in Boca Grande. True, going into the project they knew that they would like a colonial West Indies–style house. And they definitely wanted a deep veranda and a screened porch on the back. Then their design team took the framework of the house and expanded it, designing a home that extends into the outdoors in every direction and off virtually every room.
That’s an interesting development considering two of the team members—interior designer Susan Kroeger and kitchen designer Mick De Giulio—hail from the Cregers’ hometown of Chicago, a city not known for year-round outdoor living. But, by pooling their talents with Naples, Florida, architect A. Jeffrey Harrell, they embraced the best of what Florida living has to offer: 12 months of warm weather that encourages the use of an outdoor kitchen and dining room, cabana bar, outdoor living room, widow’s walk with outdoor bar, 12-foot-deep front porch, screened rear porch, and swimming pool. "We do this with pretty much every house we design," says Harrell. "People want to live outside here, especially in the winter."
The open, flowing floor plan of the home allows each room a view into the next—and outdoors. Kroeger, who describes the architecture as "refreshing and open," was involved during the building process from the beginning. "I really didn’t feel like I had to do a lot in terms of changing or adding anything because Jeff’s plan was so complete," says the designer. "Of particular note is the beautiful detailing in the molding." Kroeger developed a color palette that coordinated with both the water and the sunny southern weather and still incorporated Cookie’s color preferences. The designer chose a neutral background of creamy beige for the entire house. She brought Cookie’s favorite light blue into the dining room and master suite and used what she calls "sun-kissed colors" to give each room its own personality.
Architect A. Jeffrey Harrell designs outdoor spaces that are large enough for a grouping of furniture, as shown in this seating arrangement on the front porch of the Creger house. The arches that form the vaulted ceiling are finished with beadboard, miter-cut to follow the cross-barrel vaults.
"The whole effect is like a bouquet of flowers," she explains. Where the relationship between the architecture and the interior design really shines is in the great room. The most important architectural component in the room is the row of arched windows looking out over the water. Their graceful symmetry draws the eye to the view—after all, the water is the main feature of the property—while capturing the spirit of the colonial Bermuda style. "I particularly love the windows in this room," enthuses Cookie. The striking windows have the added advantage of being timeless, which was critical to the architect. "A hundred years from now, they won’t want to tear this house down," claims Harrell. "They’ll be able to repaint and redecorate, but the bones of the house are so good, it will last forever."
The great room is large enough to contain two seating groups. One is anchored by a handsome fireplace topped with an arched mirror that echoes the shape and scale of the windows, and the other is focused on an antique armoire that houses the home-entertainment system. Even though there are two distinct seating areas in the room, Kroeger coordinated the fabrics so that it feels like one seamless room when the Cregers entertain.
In the dining room, Cookie wanted to use wallpaper she had seen that imparted the look of a gazebo, but Kroeger felt the scale of the pattern was not in the right proportion for the room. So, she hired Chicago-based painter Zulyka Benetiz to create the look Cookie wanted with paint. The faux gazebo—a pattern of grids, circles, and arches—is not only in scale but also complements the design in the rest of the house.
In the kitchen, De Giulio’s design is both casual and highly functional. The finishes and cabinets that meld seamlessly into the walls are second to the architectural feeling of light and space. De Giulio’s far-reaching list of materials—including marble, pewter, wood, granite, ceramic tiles, stainless-steel appliances, and butcher block—creates a range of colors and textures in the room. For example, the range is set into a niche and defined by an attractive paneled hood. A field of blue-and-white tile creates a backsplash between the range and hood. Flanking under-counter drawer units with granite countertops help create a vignette within the kitchen. Likewise, the refrigerator and freezer are set back in a recess on the opposite wall.
Rather than draw up one large island to service the room, De Giulio created a grouping of separate parts. So, there is a stained-wood-and-granite main piece with a sink and room for dining. Perpendicular to that is a sort of white farm table with turned legs and a marble top for pastry preparation and to serve as a buffet.
The master suite also is located on the first floor and faces east to take advantage of spectacular sunrises. And of course, the room has a private porch accessed through French doors.
The master bath suite consists of his-and-her bathrooms on either side of a spa tub set under an arched window.
All of which adds up to Cookie’s dream of what this house should be: "We wanted a house that felt like an informal, inviting beach home." And thanks to her design team, that’s what she got—from screened porch to veranda, plus a whole lot more."
Cookie, left, and designer Susan Kroeger.
Photography: Gordon Beall
Produced by Sally Mauer