Written and produced by Julianne Hilmes
All photographs courtesy of Betsy Speert
Betsy Speert, whose mastery of color and pattern to create a look of comfort and warmth has made her a longtime favorite with Traditional Home readers, wanted her winter home in Florida to have a completely different feel from her abode in Massachusetts. Speert, who has closed her design firm to fulfill her passions for designing furniture, selling antiques, and writing design books, says, "When I got my Florida house was when I first discovered eBay. My theme was tropics. I wanted something that was different. Everything I did was tropical birds or tropical prints, but I didn't want a clichéd Florida look. I went for a more West Indies tropical look."
Here's an exclusive look inside the designer's exuberant Florida getaway, where, Speeert says, she allows herself to be a little bit silly. "I was so giddy with the reality of living where there were palm trees I just wanted the house to reflect that joy and surprise."
You'll see examples not only of her finds, but also of the way she reinvented them to achieve the insouciant look she was going for. "Trial and error," the designer says, "is the key to reworking old stuff." Speert is an indefatigable collector who has a unique sense of humor. Her Florida home shows both.
Speert found the hat rack in the front entry of the home at an antiques store. The image in the center of it however, came from a tambourine, and was an embellishment by her.
The armoire in the living room originally had mirrored doors on it. To create a West Indies vibe, Speert removed the mirrors and instead set woven raffia into the panels.
Above, the drafting table in the living room where Speert likes to sit and draw. The chairs in this photo have since been replaced with peacock chairs that have more of a cottage feel. For more photos, visit Speert's Web site, badass bungalow. 
"Those wooden chairs [flanking the shelf] were the first pieces of furniture I bought, and they kind of set the tone for the whole house," said Speert of her eBay purchases.
The lamp, birds, and shell were all eBay finds.
Speert bought all of the items on the side table from eBay to elaborate on the tropical theme of the home.
The designer chose a palette with colors that flow from room to room. Here, the blues of the living room give way to the blues and greens of the study. Faux bamboo detailing on the imperial desk adds a touch of the West Indies flair that characterizes the house.
Paint-by-numbers pieces decorate the walls in the study. Says Speert, "I don't remember what gave me the idea, but it just seemed like such a fun thing to do and such a silly thing to do. I wanted this house to have a little bit of silliness in it because it's my vacation home. "
Not many of us would look at an antique drying rack and think "chandelier." Speert added some metal wiring to fashion the antique into a light fixture.
The bar in the dining room is ideal for a second home where entertaining and relaxation are frequent.
In the kitchen, Speert changed the original drawer and cabinet door fronts, changed the countertop to mahogany, and continued the tropical theme of the home by adding a backsplash made of seafoam green subway tiles.
The nightstand lamps in the guest bedroom were an antique store find that Speert thought were too wonderful to pass up. Finding the right lampshades took time, but, she says, "One of the advantages of decorating your own house is that you can put in temporary stand ins until you find what you're looking for--you can't do that with a client's house." For photos of the new lampshades, visit badass bungalow. 
At first, the bird paintings that hang above the bed were too crisp and white for the look the designer was going for, so she scrubbed them with tea to give them a more aged appearance.
"The fun thing about [second homes] is that you're starting with a blank slate. You can go in any direction you want," said Speert. It also gave her the green light for collecting. "I like collections. Once I've got more than one of something I'm in trouble." The most prominent collection in the Florida home is 1940s ceramic figurines of tropical birds.
The top of the guest room armoire is the perfect place for displaying Spert's collection of vases.
The mirrors in the master bath were originally a dark mahogany, but the designer repainted them to resemble bamboo and better fit the tropical theme of her home.
All of the rooms in the house are covered in bamboo wallpaper. "I liked the woody tropical texture," Speert says. "If there's a wall to put wallpaper on I will. I find walls that have wallpaper on them are cozier."
In order to avoid cords visible on the counter and dangling behind the vanity, Speert drilled holes in the countertop. The result: a cleaner-looking counterspace.
The fabric on the draperies in the master bedroom has an allover print, while the fabric on the furniture has a subtle stripe in the background. Speert has since re-covered the chair cushion with the same fabric as the draperies.
"This is one of my favorite fabrics. I just think it's beautiful. Although it has somewhat of a tropical feel, it's reminiscent of the cabbage rose prints that I like," says Speert of the pattern that appears throughout her bedroom.
The flower painted on the back of the worn chair next to the dresser gives it a cottage feel.
Photos of Speert (front) and her mother (rear) sit atop the dresser, giving the room a homey feel.
The layout of Speert's U-shaped house allows for lanais access from both bedrooms and the living room. Here is the view from the master bedroom.
Speert wanted the inviting pool area under the lanais to function like an outdoor living area. Outdoor curtains and awnings have since been added.
One of Speert's favorite things to do in Florida is to spend time relaxing by the pool. "I love to sit by the pool on one of the club chairs with my feet up on the ottoman and drink a cup of coffee while I read my newspapers and talk with good friends on the phone."