A young Florida designer revisits a house once designed by his father.
Written by Amy Elbert
Photography by Jessie Preza and Colleen Duffley
Produced by Elizabeth Beeler
Andrew Howard is accustomed to nudging nervous clients into making strong design statements, but no coaxing was required for friend and client Jennifer Ward, who couldn’t get enough glam. “I would characterize this design style as Mad Men meets Valentino and Jen,” laughs Howard, a Jacksonville, Florida, interior designer who helped Jennifer and her husband, Peter Sleiman, update their home in Ponte Vedra Beach.
It’s part Hollywood decadence (think Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), part comfort (the couple loves to entertain), and totally pet-friendly (they have one rescue dog and a cat who have free rein in the home). “Jen has a very modern aesthetic, and she’s also a warm human being,” Howard says. “This design reflects both.
“Before I took over, the house was big and spacious with great light and volume,” says Howard, whose father, James Howard, designed the interiors, including the architectural detailing, when the house was built in 1995.
Jennifer and Peter took ownership of the residence several years ago and worked with James Howard to update the interiors. During that period, Jennifer got to know Andrew, and their design personalities clicked. So when she was recently ready to shift from florals and antiques to a modern aesthetic, she turned to Andrew.
Jennifer’s bold instincts allowed the younger Howard to play with edgy materials and patterns he’d been longing to use. First up was the faux tortoiseshell wall covering he’d spotted in a New York design showroom. “I’d been dying to use it but had been hesitant to show it to anyone,” he says. Jennifer loved it.
“Jen wanted to update the rooms and make the experiences in them feel more memorable,” Howard says. The wall covering, printed on heavy artisan lokta paper—Nepalese handmade paper—does just that, giving the dining room an unforgettable, dramatic presence.
To top off the room, the designer painted the tray ceiling a deep blue trimmed with cocoa brown molding, and even Jennifer was surprised by this choice. “When I said blue for the ceiling, both the decorative painter and Jen gasped,” Howard relates. “But in my opinion, blue was the most logical choice, as it gave some relief to all the warm colors.
“I lost a lot of sleep over that room,” confesses the generally confident Howard. “The wall covering, the blue ceiling, trim color, yellow leopard rug, and ostrich chairs—it was bold. But I found the rooms you lose the most sleep over always come out the best.”
Drama also played out in the nearly 30x20-foot living room, where the couple frequently entertains large groups. “This is the first room you see when you enter the home,” Howard says. “It’s the center of the house and has magnificent ocean views. It really needed to be a showstopper.”
For the floor, Howard chose a 25x17-foot navy-and-cream wool rug he designed—an electrifying 21st-century version of a traditional Bargello needlework pattern. “I had to reshape and re-imagine typical Bargello patterns,” he explains. “We rendered this in Photoshop about 10 different ways until the spacing of the lines was absolutely perfect.” He lost some sleep over this space, too, he admits, but not as much as over the dining room. “It’s bold, but the rug’s electricity provides that needed juxtaposing element to all of the decoration.”
The large-scale pattern of the rug opened up possibilities for fabric choices in a variety of pattern sizes. The chaise is covered in a medium-scale herringbone that stands up to but doesn’t compete with the rug. Jennifer insisted that the fabrics had to please the cat, too, so Howard chose a snuggly cotton velvet for the chaise longue.
Seating was also selected with human entertaining in mind; the chaise and armless chairs make it easy for people to perch and share sitting spots. Howard designed a crescent-shaped sofa covered with blue velvet—a luscious color somewhere between cobalt and royal blue—that complements the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
The room’s silver-leafed, multi-armed chandelier remained in place by virtue of its size—nearly 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall. Howard had planned to replace it, but finding another fixture with the proper scale proved difficult and unnecessary. “Once the room was done, we loved it just the way it was.”
Windows and French doors are draped in velvet panels with an ogee scallop on the leading edge. The velvet curtains, while admittedly not a typical fabric choice, drape beautifully and play nicely against the back of the blue velvet sofa, explains the designer.
The spacious foyer with its 12-foot-plus-high ceiling was updated as well, with a high-gloss white paint with a blue-gray tint on paneled walls and millwork. “Lacquered surfaces are so gorgeous and unexpected,” says Howard. “They are the new wallpapers.”
An antique Swedish daybed was spruced up with silk upholstery and paired with a chrome-based coffee table topped with petrified wood. These combinations of old and new—with fresh takes on traditional forms—are what make the spaces work, Howard says. A father and son story played out to stunning effect.
Interior designer: Andrew Howard, Andrew Howard Interior Design, 4128 Herschel St., Jacksonville, FL 32210; 904/389-5100, andrewjhoward.com.
Decorative painter: Steve McKnelly, 904/710-8793.
Wall, trim, and ceiling paint (“Stone White” #2120-70): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, benjaminmoore.com.
Area rug (“Kasane Rug,” custom): Tai Ping Carpets, 404/233-4151, taipingcarpets.com.
Pedestal table; tables with leather doors by mantel: custom.
Mirrors over tables: Mirror Fair, 212/288-5050, mirrorfair.com.
Chaise (“Jupiter Chaise”): Holly Hunt Studio, 800/320-3145, hollyhunt.com.
Chaise fabric (“Marmont”/Fline #Z101/02, by Zinc, discontinued): Romo, 800/338-2783, zinctextile.com.
Side table (“Lincoln Large Sugar Pull-Up Table” #10555-STL): Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, mgbwhome.com.
Art over mantel (Untitled #16, Dominican Moves Series, Pigment Print, 2006, by Mikhail Baryshnikov): J. Johnson Gallery, 904/435-3200, jjohnsongallery.com.
Roman shade fabric (“Ibana” #1010250991); Zimmer+ Rohde, 212/758-7925, zimmer-rohde.com.
Chandelier; sconces (by Lalique); piano: owner’s collection.