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

By Cathy Still Johnson
February 28, 2003
Deborah Whitlaw

Remember when you were 15 and thought summer would last forever?When warm days stretched lazily into nighttime and responsibilitiesamounted to no more than showing up on time for dinner? Rememberyour first true summer love, and wishing it would never, ever end?

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

Designed by architect Tom Christ for developers Charlie andPatty Renfroe, the house has the enviable position of beingdirectly on the water. "The whole theme got started when I found acollection of antique ships' wheels in Key West," Toby recalls. "Iremembered the wonderful old beach cottage in the movie, so Icalled Charlie and asked if I could buy them. It all spun off fromthere."

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

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

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 accentedwith cream, is almost like finding a long-lost sepia-toned phototucked in an album of colored glossies. "I wanted to stray awayfrom the bright blues and bubble-gum colors," he says.

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

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

Just as prominent as the seashell motif is the generous use oftaupe-and-white gingham. Although this simple check is oftenconsidered ultracasual, the added crewel detail and exaggeratedrepetition 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 andfabric 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. Forthem, as for Toby, the home embodies the reveries of a long-agosummer by the sea.