Endless Summer

Deborah Whitlaw
Interior designer Toby West re-creates the nostalgic feel of a classic coastal film, Summer of '42.

Such are the poignant memories evoked by the classic coming-of-age movie Summer of '42--the 1971 film that inspired interior designer Toby West to re-create that nostalgic feeling in this Seaside, Florida, home.

Designed by architect Tom Christ for developers Charlie and Patty Renfroe, the house has the enviable position of being directly on the water. "The whole theme got started when I found a collection of antique ships' wheels in Key West," Toby recalls. "I remembered the wonderful old beach cottage in the movie, so I called Charlie and asked if I could buy them. It all spun off from there."

Toby and Tom worked to make this brand-new home evoke the same timeworn appeal as the one in the movie. "We used exposed beams and joists, and boards that didn't quite meet," Toby says. "We wanted it to be a little rough so it would feel like the body of an old ship."

What Toby describes as "rough" is purely a romantic concept. Built as soundly as a yacht and outfitted with as much care as the finest captain's quarters, the home lacks nothing in detail. The coastal theme permeates every room in clever ways. "It's more upscale elegant than the typical beach theme at Seaside," says Toby.

The most distinctive mark of Toby's design is his color palette. Most homes in this Panhandle community boast lollipop pastels. Encountering this one, with its chocolate-milk-shake brown accented with cream, is almost like finding a long-lost sepia-toned photo tucked in an album of colored glossies. "I wanted to stray away from the bright blues and bubble-gum colors," he says.

Inside, texture brings dimension to the neutral tones. For the main living area, Toby took the tabby fireplace's bumpy, adobe-like mixture of sand, lime, ash, and oyster shells a step further by adding anchors molded out of the same material. "It was easy," he says. "We just attached them to the fireplace."

Other shells show up as trim on window treatments and encrusted decoration on chests of drawers, lampshades, and mirrors. Scatterings of the seaside jewels appear both individually and collectively as stand-ins for floral arrangements.

Just as prominent as the seashell motif is the generous use of taupe-and-white gingham. Although this simple check is often considered ultracasual, the added crewel detail and exaggerated repetition gives the country standard a modern sophistication.

"Toby is so thoughtful with everything he does," says Charlie. "He plans out each room and presents you with storyboards and fabric swatches. Once he gets going you can't stop his creativity. The best way to let him work is to just turn him loose."

The house now has new owners, who have kept Toby's touches. For them, as for Toby, the home embodies the reveries of a long-ago summer by the sea.

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