Photos by Alyssa Lee
While the exterior of this sprawling estate nods to traditional Mediterranean architecture with a red terracotta tile roof, white-painted stucco siding, and generously rounded arches, the grand front door opens to reveal modern design at its finest. Inside, elegance is evident in the simple, spacious interiors, where bright walls, warm woods, and open floor plans allow for sweeping views of the surrounding landscape and seamless connections to the outdoors.
A Stylish Home for Cultured Clients
“One was a little bit rock ‘n roll, and one was a little bit country,” jokes architect James McNeal about the clients, a globe-trotting couple originally from Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. McNeal, owner and principal of Plymouth-based JMAD (James McNeal Architecture and Design), went on to explain that while the husband’s design tastes leaned more traditional, the wife enjoyed a modern edge to her spaces—two styles he expertly combined with the home’s traditional exterior and sleek, modern interior. “The spaces were designed to be very defined, but very open at the same time,” explains McNeal, “and I worked to create nice volumes, a functional flow, and axial relationships between each one so that whatever view you’re looking at is really well-composed. There’s 360-degree eye-candy wherever you turn.”
Interior designer Brooke Voss adds, “To me, this house doesn’t feel Midwestern—it feels European and traveled, just like the clients. It was fun to see all that knowledge and experience through their eyes and be able to bring it back into their home.”
Careful consideration of how each space would be used played an extremely important role in the design process. The home had to be large enough to comfortably house the couple, their four children (all under the age of 18), and the wife’s mother and sister, while also providing functioning spaces for both private retreats and public gatherings.
The entire second level is dedicated to the children’s suites, while a pool house provides another escape. On the lower level, their grandmother can enjoy her personal suite, which includes a private entrance, bedroom, bathroom, laundry, and kitchen. When everyone wants to get together, though, they can head to the main level, where most of the home’s entertaining spaces are found—each appropriately sized to accommodate the large family.
The kitchen in particular is a masterpiece, comprised of eight full slabs of marble and boasting a 60-inch Wolf range. “We knew we needed something big and dynamic to balance out the massive island,” says Lily Reed, senior designer at Designed and Made, who also installed the kitchen’s cabinetry. “You need a big island for a big family, and you need something equally large to fit the space and balance it all out, so we ended up installing this huge architectural hood wrap.”
“Food is a very important part of this family’s culture, so we wanted to give everyone space to come together and eat,” Voss adds, “but the lower-level kitchen is great if Grandma wants to be independent and cook her own meals, or just take a step back from the busy-ness of having four active kids in the house.”
In true Mediterranean fashion, the clients wanted plenty of indoor-outdoor entertaining space, requesting terraces, covered porches, and extensions to open up the main floor and allow the outside in. “The home is really about main-level living, which I’ve found to be the biggest trend that’s happening right now,” says McNeal. “We don’t want to have to walk down to the lower level to go outside; we want main-floor walkouts to a terrace and the swimming pool.”
Two large bifold doors open up the entire wall of the dining room to the rear patio, explains Brody Schmid of Nor-Son Custom Builders, and hidden Phantom Screens provide protection from warm-weather bugs. “When you have both open, it almost feels like the back of the house has no wall at all,” says Schmid. “There’s a very large, beautiful stone patio out back that leads to the pool, so when the doors are open, you really lose that feeling of two separate spaces—instead, it all seamlessly blends together.”
Each space on the main level was designed with connections to the outdoors, from the side yards to the backyard to the garage. The grandmother’s suite also features her own terrace and yard space, and the separate pool house, designed in the same style as the home, has several areas that lead to the outside as well.
“The home is truly about outside-in, so you can open up all those beautiful doors to the pool and it feels like the 4 Seasons Surf Club in Miami,” says Voss. “And it’s incredible how the light floods in through the doors with the big Phantom Screens so they can perform all season long.”
Geometric Hermès wallpaper acted as the launching point for the home’s color palette, and every detail that followed further incorporated the idea of dynamic design and punchy moments of color. (Case in point: the striking chartreuse armchairs in the living room and bright yellow hue in the laundry room.) “The wife’s style was so chic, and her vision so on point—she knew exactly what she liked and didn’t like, and came in with a very modern European sensibility,” says Voss. “She’d reference seeing something in a city or hotel, and was very thoughtful about where each piece came from.”
Voss sourced from both local showrooms and companies in England, France, Italy, and more to find unique pieces. Colorful birds make a statement in the laundry room, courtesy of modern chinoiserie wallpaper by French designer Christian LaCroix, and an over-scaled mural by Italian company LondonArt dresses up a powder bath.
Modern takes on Moorish arches and a recurring diamond pattern can be found in doors, paneling, and cabinetry, and colors and textures were also inspired from the couple’s time living in Abu Dhabi. “Part of their culture involves praying a few times a day, and washing their feet before they pray,” explains Voss. “So, we made sure to install foot washers in the showers for easy access. It was the little things like that made this home so fun to design.”