How Interior Designer Gil Walsh Transformed A Home Into A Nautical Escape
When a real estate professional asked interior designer Gil Walsh of Gil Walsh Interiors to update her home in Tequesta, she wanted a design that reflected her love for the ocean. She also requested Walsh combine some of her existing furnishings with the new design, including two orange club chairs that would set the tone for bold accent colors throughout the home.
Walsh, who has offices in West Palm Beach and Martha’s Vineyard, believes every detail matters when bringing a design to life. The key to creating an outstanding design, she says, is to combine the art of listening with intuition to gain a deeper understanding of the client’s needs, wants and lifestyle wishes. With each design, she says, she works to build rapport and trust as a foundation for a beautiful home.
Originally, Walsh considered a career in fashion, but with a deep interest in art history, antiques and architecture, she realized that interior design was her passion. Her goals are to deliver comfort, timeless style and classic beauty. In addition to her design work, she is the author of “Gil Walsh Interiors—A Case for Color.”
Walsh’s design of the 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home on the Intracoastal Waterway takes its cues from the yachting world, using classical beach and nautical motifs in fresh, modern applications. She kept the beige travertine flooring but used crisp, clean white for many of the walls and furnishings to create a backdrop for punches of color and bold, graphic statements. “There are windows only on the east side of the house, and I wanted white for reflection and brightness,” she says.
A dramatic palette of blues and oranges begins in the foyer with a simple console table finished in deep navy with chrome hardware. “I needed to lead the eye into the great room with furnishings, and the navy blue picks up the navy there,” Walsh says.
Accessories on the table, including an oblong silver platter, a silver dish with a shell motif and a pure white pot holding a white orchid add visual interest. A tall lamp has a thin metal stem and a small white shade. “The furniture needed to be scaled to the size of the hallway, which is narrow,” Walsh says. “The console isn’t that deep, and the lamp’s thin post complements the scale of the console.”
Above the table hangs a stunning circular mirror with a sprawling frame that recalls sea coral. A flat, woven runner on the floor in tones of cream, camel and red blends with the travertine and also picks up red in the mirror frame.
In a nearby powder room, delicately patterned blue and white wallpaper sets off a simple, Shaker-style white vanity with a gray and white Carrera marble top, a dropped sink and chrome hardware. The vertical rectangular mirror above has a clean white frame, and a pair of nautical-style sconces illuminate the space.
In the great room, solar shades help protect artwork and furnishings from the Florida sun and work to keep the space cool. To begin, Walsh removed the dining table and chairs to create an open space. The décor needed to incorporate the orange club chairs as well as a large abstract painting splashed with deep blue, orange, yellow and red that the owner’s mother had given to her. Walsh used accent pillows to help pull the vibrant colors together. On the floor, she laid a flat, woven area rug with a marine blue background and a white Suzani medallion pattern.
A comfortable sofa is upholstered in white Sunbrella for easy upkeep, and two apothecary lamps stand behind it. White lacquer end tables add brightness. One holds a piece of blue blown glass and the other a vase filled with bright orange flowers, tying in the color scheme. The rectangular coffee table has a waterfall glass top, and between two club chairs covered in white canvas is a glass drink table with a chrome base. A white leather ottoman can provide additional seating or serve as extra table space.
Another eye-catcher is a large, dramatic painting of a fish in tones of blue, orange and black set against a white background. It hangs above a raffia-wrapped chest with drawers for storage. On top is a display of blue bottles, a silver fish and a bouquet of orange flowers. An orange shade crowns a white lamp with a base that recalls a piece of driftwood.
A collection of framed prints featuring horses covers a large area of one wall. “She loves horses and used to ride a lot, so I hung the prints as a collection,” Walsh says. The homeowner also loves dogs and wanted her large papier-mâché model of a friendly canine to be part of the décor. Placed on the floor, it may not have been an outstanding focal point, but Walsh knew just how to maximize the look of the unusual piece. “We had a pedestal specially made to raise it,” she says.
Since the former dining furniture had been taken away to create an open space, Walsh designed a small, informal eating area in a corner of the great room next to a glass door leading to the patio. The small white circular table has a resin top and bronze metal legs. Woven wicker chairs hold blue and white pillows. On the patio, deep blue furniture that complements the interior colors blends the outdoors with the indoors.
In the master suite, Walsh created a luxurious, comfortable sanctuary where the owner can retreat at the end of the day. Clean white shades open to let in light or close for privacy. A flat, woven navy and white rug with a geometric pattern adds softness to the light wood flooring, and on the wall are pictures of white coral set against a navy background.
The bed’s headboard is upholstered in white canvas that resembles the fabric of sailing ships with nailhead accents around the perimeter. The white linen spread has navy blue trim, a navy and white fringed throw, and navy accent pillows that add more color and interest.
White lacquer end tables have mirrored inserts and a fretwork overlay of white circles. “I wanted them to sparkle,” Walsh says. Each table holds a blue and white Delft lamp with a rounded base and a drum shade, as well as small vases of orange flowers that provide colorful accents.
In the master bath, a steeply slanted ceiling presented a challenge. To create a dramatic look, Walsh clad the ceiling, walls and floor with the same large gray marble tiles. The freestanding oval tub in the wet area provides a focal point. “It acts like a piece of sculpture,” Walsh says. The wet room also has both an overhead and handheld shower; all plumbing fixtures are chrome. Outside the wet room is a white lacquer vanity with double sinks and a gray and white Cerra marble top.
The nautical theme continues in the guest bedrooms, both of which have wood flooring and the same white window shades as the master. In one of the bedrooms, clean white walls display framed prints of shellfish, and accent pillows have starfish motifs. Blue and white spreads on the twin beds have a paisley pattern, and headboards are stylishly contrasting brown wicker. A graceful blue and white lamp is an Asian-style design.
In the third bedroom, a flat white and navy rug accents the wood floor. A lacquered headboard with a fretwork design set against white walls creates a tone-on-tone look, and the blue and white spread is patterned with a Suzani design. Above the bed is a dark blue, framed architectural drawing of a ship. Blue and white accent pillows add color and visual interest, and since the homeowner has a beloved bulldog, it’s not surprising that one of the pillows features an adorable picture of a pup. A circular mirror with a wide, fan-shaped bronze frame creates a focal point above a white lacquer chest with bronze handles, while glass candlesticks and a rounded glass lamp create an open, airy look.
COMBINING OLD AND NEW
Walsh took the challenge of mixing some of the homeowner’s cherished pieces with new furnishings, finding innovative ways to create a seamless, integrated interior. Walsh is not afraid of color, and the project provided her with an opportunity to make creative use of bold, dramatic hues in ways that remained true to classic, elegant design while indulging in touches of playful whimsey that personalize the spaces.