When Heidi and Ruben Mendoza’s oldest child left for college, the couple realized they were due for a home change. Not quite ready to declare empty nest – they still have two children at home, a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old – they nevertheless decided more space and a change of neighborhood were in order. So they embarked on a four-month search, eventually swapping out their 3,000-square-foot house in the Castaways for an Eastern Seaboard-style 5,000-square-footer in Bayshores.
One less kid, almost double the square footage?
Heidi acknowledges that the decision wasn’t exactly expected, but she says they couldn’t resist the home’s generous proportions, one-block-from-the-beach location and five-star finishes. “We didn’t even realize it was a spec home when we walked in,” says Heidi. “Patterson is a wonderful builder. It’s not just the finishes, but also the way they put in these unexpected touches like a huge skylight right above the stairwell and huge hallways. Sometimes it’s the things you don’t expect that make the big differences.”
And then there is the marble-tiled, massive master bathroom, one of the factors that tilted the decision into must-buy territory. “It’s one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen, and probably my favorite room in the house,” says Heidi.
Not that the home was without its flaws. The Mendozas found the backyard to be too small, their primary hesitation before purchasing. But ultimately, the enormous family room, French pine floors and pocket windows that disappear to open the home almost entirely to the outdoors, won the day. After buying the home, they almost immediately had the yard re-landscaped by Bridget Skinner. Now, with a Jacuzzi and better placement of plants and grass, the space feels bigger and gets near-constant use.
When it came time to tackle the interiors of the house, Heidi enlisted interior decorator Stacia Dunnam, who had designed two of their previous homes. For this project, Dunnam took its proximity to the beach as her primary design cue. But instead of executing a straight-ahead, by-the-book beach redo (cue the captain’s steering wheel and blue-and-white-striped fabric) Dunnam took a subtler approach. “I wanted to make it sophisticated and elegant, but relaxed and casual, too,” says Dunnam. “I consider it a beach house, so I used those natural curiosities like shells, but in a way that’s different from the typical – more mixed in with other pieces to give it an overall modern feel. Most important to me, I want their house to look different from any other home. I want it to truly reflect them.”
To give it that ultra-personal feel, Dunnam added wallpaper to certain rooms, swapped out certain lighting fixtures and mixed materials and surfaces to keep it visually interesting. Take the dining chairs, which use three kinds of fabrics (an embroidered Ralph Lauren paisley on the back; a Kravet trellis pattern inside; and a stripe on the seat). They are far from standard-issue stuff, much like everything else that she used in the five-bedroom home. But instead of overdoing it with furniture and accessories, Dunnam was hyper aware to “reel in my tendency to make everything lavish,” she says. “If you do too much, then it kills the whole point, which is that I wanted this home to be restful and relaxing. That’s the whole point of being by the beach, to feel like you’re permanently on vacation.”