Had Lori Feller not traveled nearly 1,500 miles from Burlington, Vermont, to Hobe Sound, she may not have launched Lori Feller Design in 1999, nor broadened her prodigious talent for interior design, construction and renovation. The flaxen-haired entrepreneur and mother of two may also have missed the opportunity to meet her clients and close friends, Dennis and Brenda Blauser.
Feller met the Blausers by referral. When Dennis and Brenda were in need of a talented design pro to lend some TLC to the Singer Island condo they’d recently acquired, their real estate attorney recommended they invite Feller around for a tour. They did, and before she was out the door, she had landed the job. Three months later, the condo’s renovation was complete.
After three years living along the Atlantic’s windswept coastline, Dennis and Brenda were ready to decamp for a more idyllic setting with vestiges of the Intracoastal Waterway and invited Feller to go house hunting with them. A boat slip, a pool, a backyard with privacy and a no-wake boat zone to accommodate paddleboarding and other saltwater pursuits were on their shortlist of requisites.
The Marietta, Ohio, residents spend at least a week every month in South Florida and wanted their second home to serve as a relaxed haven for entertaining guests and spending time with their family.
After scouting dozens of properties between Jupiter and Palm Beach, they discovered a 6,300-square-foot, two-story structure in North Palm Beach. Set on a half acre next to a Florida cracker–style house, the residence’s Mediterranean appearance exuded little curb appeal while its western-facing rooms beckoned toward wide, hypnotic views of the turquoise inlet.
The Blausers may have been seduced by the property’s tranquil location and easy water access, but they weren’t smitten with its Tuscan flair. They wanted a modern showcase home with a minimalist, contemporary and abstract theme, and a Miami vibe. “We wanted bright light and big pops of color and not lots of knick-knacks,” Dennis says. “We wanted to be able to lock the door and leave.”
After they closed on the house, Dennis and Brenda sat down with Feller to discuss the floor plan, design ideas and remodeling costs. Dennis wanted a quick turnaround. “Being a contractor, I’m always very schedule conscious, and I wanted the project done as soon as possible,” he says. “But with my persistence and Feller’s tenacity to execute, we were able to get most of it finished in about six months.”
Once the plans had been worked out, Feller and her contractor, Gary Guttveg, owner of Dreamworks Remodeling in Stuart, commenced with a two-week demolition.
The project’s overarching goal was simple: replace what couldn’t be reused. “We wanted to salvage as much of the charm that we could,” Feller says. “But most of the house needed to be taken down to the nails and gutted.”
One of the first undertakings was replacing the brown marble flooring on the staircase and around the home with glossy, white porcelain tiles that mimicked fine Carrera marble. The staircase’s risers were replaced and the wooden treads squared then faux finished. The banister’s slope was corrected and painted a light steel gray.
Feller, who applies a three-to-four color rule to her clients’ homes in Ballenisles, Mirasol and Loblolly, stuck to subtle casts of white and gray and a lot of chrome. Colors like royal blue, green and bright red provide contrast. Fewer hues in similar shades tie a room together and make it feel more gracious and inviting, Feller says.
The living room was given a glamorous spin with a deep royal blue velvet sofa from Macy’s and white leather and chrome side chairs. The crystal Eternity chandelier hanging above brings a touch of theatricality. Israeli artist Dalia Kantor’s commissioned work adds bombastic pop while a glazed sheet metal design in blue and green winks down from the fireplace. A gas fireplace with blue LED lights nods to cool Miami nights.
An adjacent space off the living room was allocated as a home office. Feller placed a custom-made desk and file cabinets near the window and ferried in a black-and-white pony fur chair and a framed photograph of Dennis’ jet in homage to his passion for aviation. “I like having fun, little things here and there,” she says. “That’s the eclectic-ness.”
In the downstairs guest room overlooking an enormous oak tree in the gated courtyard, oversized plantation shutters were salvaged and repainted, and impact windows were installed. A good designer preternaturally knows to weave in small details that speak to the homeowners’ interests and personalities. A ceiling fan with steel blades resembling an airplane’s propellers was hung and a bespoke bench filled in the empty space near the bed and also serves as extra seating and storage.
Letting go of the ornate, traditional cabinetry in the downstairs and upstairs guest bathrooms, floating vanities were brought in and expensive-looking hardware sourced from Home Depot that would’ve cost triple elsewhere. Marble flooring, marble-inspired wall tiles and decorative backsplashes were finishing touches.
Upstairs, the public areas transition gracefully to become private. On the staircase landing, a dreamy, Technicolor carpet puts art underfoot and silently reminds passersby that sitting rooms need not be staid. Resting against the wall, an oversized mirror reflects a seismic chandelier whose crystal tendrils suspend gracefully over the staircase. “We wanted something with some glitter to fill up the space, so I chose one with LED lights because they last for over 10 years,” Feller says, motioning to the glamorous fixture. “I had to think of every little detail because if a light bulb ever went out, I’d be in trouble.”
In the second floor master suite, which opens onto a rounded, private terrace, the room and walls were kept monochromatic so art could take center stage. In the corner, there’s a TV that mechanically raises and lowers at the touch of a button. Beyond the sleeping area are his-and-her closets that sub as panic rooms with phones and electrified locks.
The Blausers wanted their master bath to possess a clean and streamlined aesthetic, so hardware was installed inside the cabinetry to allow cellular devices to be charged and blow dryers and electric shavers to get plugged in and remain hidden. When the original bathtub was removed for another, the wall it shared with the neighboring shower fell down, so a new wall was installed with state-of-the-art fixtures. The shower was given double rain heads, four body sprays, a waterfall feature and a thermostatic valve that memorizes temperature preferences.
While tearing the flooring out in the second floor guest bedroom, Feller discovered the framing beneath the adjoining terrace had been severely water damaged and was only months away from falling into the pool. A shorter terrace was constructed and the bedroom’s walk-in closet was minimized to allow for additional living space.
The wall separating the dining room from the kitchen, wet bar and family room blocked its sightlines of the beautiful water views, so Feller convinced her clients to knock it down. From there, she redirected the pantry and flipped the kitchen’s footprint. A long dining room table crafted from reclaimed wood acts as a room divider.
In the family room, a Natuzzi leather sectional was juxtaposed against a conversation-sparking, 9-foot-wide TV console with colorful LED lights. A dark pole connecting the bar’s counter to the ceiling proved to be another challenge. If removed, it would have compromised the integrity of the house and cost $16,000 to bridge, so they kept it and gave it an industrial effect with brushed steel. “It’s kind of funky, and Dennis loves it,” Feller says.
Every room boasts at least one artful showstopper: a “melting” interpretation of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in the upstairs guest room, a découpage and crystal-covered mannequin that stands stalwart inside the stairway’s wall, and a trio of life-sized “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” sculptures Feller scooped up on a furniture trip to West Palm Beach stand at the base of the stairs.
Finally, the home’s exterior edifice was whitened to contemporize its curbside appearance. The rust-colored terracotta barrel roof and rails were also painted a light steel gray to match the iron elements inside. The home is gorgeous by day, but everyone’s favorite part comes once the sun goes down. Feller says, “The outdoor light fixtures have blue bulbs, so everything lights up in color.”
Dennis still marvels at Feller’s effort and élan. It’s no small task considering she spearheads nearly five projects a month and manages her eponymous company single-handedly. He says, “I could not have done this home without her. I can’t say enough good things about Lori Feller.”