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How The Hendry Family Gave Their Home Along The St. Lucie River A Contemporary Look That Still Honors Its Past

When interior designer Marcia Hendry and her husband, Gary, purchased an old Florida cracker house built in 1939, they were faced with a dilemma: How would they create a contemporary-style home while maintaining the rich history and as many of the original materials as possible? “I fell in love with the primitiveness of Old Florida that the house conveyed,” Hendry says. “It felt like you were in a different time. I was afraid we’d lose that, so we were careful to preserve what we could.” Yet with four teenagers, the family needed a spacious environment with modern comforts. Hendry loves to incorporate unexpected, repurposed elements into her designs, so for her, pairing the two concepts became an exciting challenge.

Pivoting the House

The home originally lay parallel to the St. Lucie River, and Hendry began by having GM Construction pick up and pivot the 1,900-square-foot structure so the front porch overlooked the water. The next step was building a 3,200-square-foot addition on the original footprint and connecting the two with a hallway. Hendry grew up in the Midwest, and to remind her of farm country, she designed a silo-shaped tower at one end of the addition.

home’s interior
Glass doors slide open to create a seamless transition between the home’s interior and the patio outside. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)

Rough-sawn cypress clads the exterior of the home, while shell stone flooring throughout most of the living areas and patio creates continuity. “We wanted to have something that would transition to the outside when we open the sliders,” she says. Wide steps lead directly from the patio into the pool, which is shallow on both ends so the kids can play volleyball. The focal point of the cabana bath housed in the silo is a rowboat Hendry discovered on a morning jog. Installed vertically against a wall covered in dark blue horizontal laths that alternate with white drywall behind them, the boat frames a sink with a faucet that was once a whirlybird sprinkler head and a towel rack made from a vintage shoe rack. The light fixture above is fashioned from the top of a rusty milk can, and the door handle is an old oar. Hendry furnished the adjacent game room with pieces that her great-grandfather built himself. Walls are covered with the same cypress as the home’s exterior, and the floor is black cork. “It’s both soft and quiet,” Hendry says.

focal point of the cabana bath
An old rowboat that holds a sink with exposed plumbing is the focal point of the cabana bath. Dark blue laths panel the walls, and an overhead light fixture is fashioned from the top of a milk can. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)

The Great Room

In the great room, dark cypress covers the arched ceiling. Rusty tin tiles salvaged from one of the property’s outbuildings panel a focal wall, where a TV screen hangs above a linear fireplace framed in mother-of-pearl. Crowning the wall is a dramatic piece of driftwood found on a family excursion to the Bahamas. The living area is furnished with an eclectic mix of pieces the Hendrys owned before the remodel, except for a newly purchased black lacquer baby grand piano.

Rusty tin ceiling tiles
Rusty tin ceiling tiles from one of the property’s outbuildings cover a focal wall, which also features a linear fireplace and a TV screen. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)

“I designed the windows around it,” Hendry says. The dining area features a custom table with a base made from wine barrels and a plywood top wrapped in pressed aluminum. A pew taken from the church Gary Hendry attended while growing up provides seating on one side, and antique chairs painted with black lacquer to match the piano line the other side. Above the table hangs a light fixture that was once a steel roller belt.

Mostly Modern Kitchen

The mostly modern kitchen has a cooktop facing the river, a convection oven, commercial refrigerator and an L-shaped island topped with Silestone. Vintage tin ceiling tiles cover an awning over the refrigerator, and cabinets are rough-sawn cypress. Brushed aluminum clads a wall holding shelves cut from one of the property’s oak trees, as well as a nine-foot bar sink.

Brushed aluminum
Brushed aluminum covers two kitchen walls. Light fixtures are goosenecks salvaged from a Michigan gas station. Oak shelves were cut from one of the property’s trees. Naturally distressed double doors salvaged in Michigan lead to a walk-in pantry where lights twinkle on an ornate gate. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)

Light fixtures are goosenecks salvaged from a gas station in Hendry’s native Michigan. Painted double doors add a splash of color and lead to a walk-in pantry, where lights twinkle on an aged ornate gate. “I cook a lot, and my daughters bake, so the kitchen is important to us,” Hendry says.

The Master Suite

The original house, which has a coral stone fireplace, is now the master suite. Hendry designed the bed herself, with the fireplace in mind. “One side has a ledge you can sit on, so you can lean against the bed while you watch the fire,” she says.

the master suite
The original house is now the master suite. It features a coral stone fireplace, Dade County pine floors and pecky cypress ceiling beams. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)

Above the fireplace is a piece of driftwood, salvaged from the river by the children and painted with the phrase, “happily ever after.” Pecky cypress beams cross the arched ceiling, and the flooring is authentic Dade County pine. Framing the windows are honey-and-cream colored drapery panels. To make the vanity in the master bath, Hendry cut in half of a second pew from her husband’s childhood church and mounted it on the stump of a cypress tree. “The edge of the pew was rounded, and it made a perfect bullnose,” she says.     Just as Hendry planned, the home has modern comfort and style, yet it conjures the look and feel of a different era. “I love the quality and warmth of the way things were done then,” she says.