Southwest Florida : Home Tour : Historic Style

Creating a stylish and contemporary renovation can be difficult, especially for Naples, Florida residents with historic homes. These Old Naples cottages typically feature a closed architecture with many internal walls, and as a result, are often too expensive to redesign. However, homeowners Bruce and Karen Larson were ready to take a risk and give their new Old Naples-style residence a modern makeover.

The Larsons are no strangers to home building. Bruce Larson got his start in real estate in 1971 and has since developed numerous properties. Karen spent most of her career in the financial services industry, but has recently found her calling in the renovation and construction of homes through the Larsons’ company Dreamhouses of Old Naples. “She’s really good at it,” Bruce says. “She gets all of the credit for the projects that we work on.”

The process for this home started with a two-day trip to North Carolina, where Karen began to select the furniture and fabrics. It is within these early choices where the color palette for the home began: all neutrals featuring shades of grays, whites, and taupe. Next came light fixtures, paint colors, cabinet selections, flooring, wainscoting, countertops, and tile. “The choices are endless, and the devil is in the details. You need to be efficient and extremely organized for a successful design project,” describes Karen.

This advice will be especially apropos, as this is just the first of many homes for Dreamhouses of Old Naples. The Larsons have five more projects currently being developed, with the next one to be completed this February, and the rest through the end of 2015. All of the homes are located in Old Naples for the preferred “walk to town, walk to beach” way of living. “We make a great team,” says Bruce.

“For many who have seen the house, the final results are simply amazing,” Bruce notes. But it took patience for the Larsons to get through the entire renovation process. The project brought a unique challenge, that of preserving the home’s history, while giving it a modern look and feel. The couple considered a myriad of options to reinvigorate the residence and sought help from numerous experts along the way.

Much of the home’s exterior shape remained intact, thanks in part to the efforts of Matthew Kragh, President of MHK Architecture and Planning. As the project’s architect, Kragh followed the Larsons’ instructions to preserve the house’s New Old Naples design. “Typical to all historic re-establishments, the existing building footprint did not conform to today’s zoning standards and setbacks,” notes Kragh. By working through the city’s approval process, “we were able to establish the lines of the existing perimeter walls as the new building setbacks. This allowed us to expand the structure to today’s living standards.”

“In addition,” adds Kragh, “Our goal was to help create the standard for the ‘New Old Naples’ with this design. This means respecting the past while creating a timeless jewel for our clients.”

The classic Florida style of the structural exterior is the carefully complimented by the landscape architecture of Christian Andrea of Architectural Land Design. “The pool and patio area was designed to be a clean rectangular shape, reminiscent of simpler times,” explains Andrea. “To the side of the pool, we were able to create a sunken seating area complete with fire table, and intimate seating. The entire pool and yard are completely screened by a mature hedge to provide privacy from its downtown location.”

Most people would never realize the Larsons’ home was built in 1935 when they step through the renovated home’s front door. This 3,800-square-foot residence is unlike other Old Naples homes because it features an open design that’s present throughout the home – everywhere from its kitchen to its wine room. “The new open great room plan incorporated a kitchen, dining room, and living area all in one space,” remarks Kragh. “We were able to build three bedrooms upstairs in a very unique way, squeezing them between the historic roof lines,” adds Kragh. The Larsons’ home also features a guesthouse, a two-car garage, an indoor-outdoor room, and a pool.

Chris Hylemon played a crucial role in updating the home’s appearance. Hylemon founded Hyland Custom Cabinetry, a provider of high-end custom cabinetry and woodwork in Naples, in 2001. When the Larsons gave him the freedom to showcase his creativity of design development and innovation, Hylemon relished the opportunity. “We really don’t do the same thing twice,” states Hylemon. “Karen and Bruce were willing to step outside of the box with only a few parameters, and we were able to create something that has never been seen or done before.”

According to Hylemon, the Larsons wanted an open, inviting space where family and friends could take their shoes off and relax. They also wanted to maintain the home’s integrity and keep it within the style of the “old houses of Naples.” Functionality and storage were also important to the Larsons and Hylemon incorporated their feedback into all of his designs. “We had a really good idea about what the space would look like,” notes Hylemon. “We were fortunate to have two clients that were willing to take some risk and trust our judgment, and it really paid off for them.”

Hylemon’s golden touch is present throughout the house, as roughly 90 percent of the property’s interior was renovated. “All of the interior was essentially removed,” Karen says. “Chris proved to be a creative genius throughout the project. He just brings a different type of energy that made a huge difference on the final results,” raves Karen.

The home immediately became more open and spacious. Now, the Larsons have a dazzling wine cellar that “pops,” a kitchen that features open shelves, and a bar that includes spectacular pewter countertops. “Chris just takes your wishes and knocks it out of the park and delivers results that go beyond even your wildest dreams,” adds Larson.

When it was time to accessorize the Larsons found themselves drawn to the furnishings and style of St. Tropez Home. They quickly found a kindred spirit in the store’s owner, Kathryn Frank, who helped complete their vision. “She has such a good eye and impeccable taste. She knows exactly what a client is looking for,” says Karen. Also an expert in interior design, Frank sought timeless decorations such as a classical chandelier and a black oyster shell mirror to keep up with the Larsons’ goal to preserve the home’s history.

When it came to the final finishing touches, Frank helped the Larsons find a balance with the old and new. “Contemporary lighting and grasscloth wallpaper are two of the interior design features that help all of the home’s rooms flow together,” explains Frank. “It was fun mixing different elements into the project.”

And what do the Larsons think of their renovated home? Karen says the couple couldn’t be happier because they were able to perfectly blend the best of two worlds – old and new. According to Karen, “We love helping define the Naples of the future while being true to its history.”

Written by Daniel Kobialka
Photography by Giovanni Photography

Architectural Land Design
2780 Horseshoe Drive Suite 5
Naples, FL 34104

Dreamhouses of Old Naples, LLC

Hyland Custom Cabinetry
A Thomas Riley Company
1458 Rail Head Blvd.
Naples, FL 34110

Lighting First
28801 South Tamiami Trail
Bonita Springs, FL 34134

MHK Architecture & Planning
975 6th Avenue, South
Naples, FL 34102

St. Tropez Home
1300 3rd Street South
Naples, FL 34102

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