A young Midwestern family trades urban digs for a laid-back spot at the beach—bright colors and big porches included.
Knee-high and glassy or waist-high and choppy, no matter: Kris Zarczynski takes waves however they come. "I never miss a chance to surf—if there are waves, then I'm in the water," he says. The Chicago native and his wife, Kate, moved from Illinois to this low-key northern Florida community in Ponte Vedra Beach roughly five years ago to chase waves and a more laid-back, outdoors-centric lifestyle. And now, from his second-floor porch across the street from the beach, Kris has an ideal perch for work (he swapped his post as a floor trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to work from home), ensuring he doesn't miss out on the wave action.
With three young children—Penny, age 9, Luka, 6, and Jaxie, now 4—the Zarczynskis have plenty of action around the house, too. "We wanted a house that was vibrant and colorful and full of life in every room, which is pretty much how we like to live," says Kate. The two commissioned Jacksonville-based designer Andrew Howard to help create a modern aesthetic energized by graphic punch and vivid hues, a welcome departure from their Chicago condo and its darker colors, Kate says. Howard also understood the family's practical priorities: indestructible fabrics, durable surfaces, flexible spaces. "Andrew has young children, too. He totally got our chaos," she says with a laugh.
Inside, they opted for a central living hub, where broad pass-throughs between rooms keep the living room, kitchen, and breakfast nook visually connected. Rustic washed-pine trim frames the spaces and sets a laid-back vibe in line with their beachy locale (and creates a fun contrast to a glossy tile backsplash in the kitchen). Sliding glass doors along the rear wall overlook a lagoon where the family canoes and fishes. "Over the years, we'd gotten a good sense of what worked for us and what didn't, and just put it all in one house," says Kris.
In the playroom, groovy Jonathan Adler draperies frame the entrance to the upstairs porch. "We're always out there at night—it's our favorite spot for reading to the kids before bed," says Kate.
Perhaps the most personal piece, though, is a heart-shaped collage Howard crafted for Kate using family photos—a nod to her journey back to health, "and the heart that it took to get through it," Howard says.
Personal collections like vintage surfing books reflect the owners’ passion for life at the beach.
In Kate's mod office, a hand-painted credenza doubles as funky art. "It started out as a plain Jane white cabinet, but I had seen this piece of modern art on a recent trip to New York and just really loved its geometric design," says Howard. He had a decorative painter adapt a similar pattern to the built-in, and then hung an abstract print by a local Fernandina Beach artist above it.
Get the look: An abstract painting by Florida artist Casey Matthews hangs above a hand-painted credenza in Kate's office.
Surfboard wallpaper and blue cushion fabric make this mudroom right at home at the beach.