Colorful By Design

Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn; styling by Brian Carter
At his family's home on Florida's Gulf Coast, architect Tim McNamara proves that fun follows function.

If anyone understands the design guidelines for Rosemary Beach, Florida, it's Tim McNamara. "The original inspiration was Dutch Caribbean, but Rosemary Beach has sort of morphed into its own style―a mix of traditional and contemporary that adds spice," says the former town architect. At first glance, it appears Tim strayed a bit from the community's official palette of muted tones (mostly earthy greens, browns, and gray-blues) when he designed a house for his own family. Outside, it's a study in black and white, with one small patch of conciliatory olive siding. Inside, muted tones are nowhere in sight. You can see why Tim's wife, Paige, declares, "We like color."

Vibrant red sets off the frames of French doors and windows in the open living/dining/kitchen space on the ground floor. Apple green kitchen cabinets rise to the ceiling's Mondrian-inspired composition of squares and rectangles, some painted yellow, green, or red. "We like to think we have lively personalities, and that the colors reflect that," Tim says. "Having renovated a lot of old houses, we decided to let loose with this new one."

Upstairs, they gave the color wheel another spin. Dark brown and pale blue impart an elegant air to the master bedroom, while orange tiles make a bath glow. In a bedroom that serves as a play space for the couple's sons―Connor, 13, and twins Mitchell and Davis, 10―multihued stripes run up the walls to meet in the center of the ceiling. And that vivid red shows up again on bedroom doors, which sport numbers. "You get a lot of visitors at the beach," Tim explains. "This way you can tell them, 'You're in room 3.'"

The imaginative use of color lends the interiors―created by Tim with the aid of designer Susan Massey―a sense of whimsy and freedom in keeping with the seaside setting. "This is a resort area, where people can have fun with design," he says. "Some worry that color will affect resale value, but your home is where you spend a lot of time, and you should enjoy it. If it doesn't work, just repaint it!"

Second homes at the shore are often decorated as though summer never ends; this year-round residence takes a different approach. "We wanted the house to avoid a strong beach influence while still fitting in," Tim says. Contemporary furnishings strike an urbane note, but the design's casual spirit suits the coastal context. And the colors get a boost from color-free elements, such as the living space's white upholstered seating, rugs, and draperies, and black ottomans and floor.

In addition to its 2,100-square-foot interior, the house embraces the balmy climate with 1,500 square feet of outdoor living space, from compact balconies to a screened room atop the porte cochere. Tall French doors connect the living room to shady front and side porches, the latter equipped with outdoor-fabric curtains and a fireplace for cool-weather lounging. The upstairs bedrooms all connect to a partly screened veranda. Looming over all is a corner tower with "a Mary Poppins view over the roofs of Rosemary Beach," Tim says. "It's a beautiful place to watch the sunset."

The vivid dusk sky seems to support Tim's opinion that more people should embrace color. "Some of my clients see my house and say, 'I love this but I could never do it,'" he says. "I tell them, 'Sure you can. You only live once, you might as well go for it!'"

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