Rattan, jute, and a pile of seashells. Going all out with tropical materials can put you at risk of becoming a boho-chic cliché. So when Caroline Rafferty, a Palm Beach designer known for creating mod, Euro-tinged interiors, was tasked with creating a Bahamian- style getaway down the road, she knew she’d have to put her own spin on it.
“Usually if someone wants that look, I’m not the first person they’d call!” she laughs. But homeowner Melanie Charlton, founder of luxury closet company , was a longtime friend, and Rafferty knew she had great taste. “She came to me with a vision,” says the designer. “She and her husband loved Tom Scheerer’s work in Lyford Cay, so I made it my job to guide her to her own version of that.”
One of Charlton’s ideas was a shell-covered fireplace. “It definitely could have gone in a very different direction and become kitschy,” Rafferty admits. “So instead of using big conch shells, we used a single layer of smaller shells so that it would feel like a mosaic. It’s a real piece of art.” And when Charlton mentioned an old-school sea-grape wall mural at her local tennis club, Rafferty enlisted her decorative painter to create an updated version for the home. “We tried to interpret it in a new way, making the design more open and changing the colors,” she says.
For the palette, Rafferty used pinks, pistachio greens, and ocean-hued blues both indoors and out—albeit carefully. “It can easily go saccharine when you bunch pastels together,” she says, “so I was always thinking about ways to keep it fresh, whether it was by adding materials like metal, stone, and natural fibers, or mi in other colors, like the black railing in the stairwell and an acid-green lamp shade in the daughter’s bedroom.”
Rattan and cane were obvious options for the interior furnishings, but Rafferty knew they wouldn’t hold up outside. (“You can’t let real wicker get wet or it falls apart!” she warns.) So she and Charlton filled the outdoor spaces, designed by landscape architect , with Celerie Kemble’s faux-wicker furniture for Lane Venture. “It’s honestly so good, you’d never know it was made of plastic and metal,” Rafferty raves.
In the living room, Rafferty combined a pair of pink sofas with two side tables—one blue-painted wood, another raffia-wrapped. “I think it’s good to have a pair of something in a room, so your eye isn’t going everywhere, but I hate when things are too matchy-matchy—it can end up looking like a catalog,” she says. “As long as the height and size are similar, using mismatched pieces can work.”
An enclosed porch off the master bedroom had a ceiling so low that the designer could easily touch it. So she embraced it, upholstering the whole thing in a striped fabric “to create the feeling of being under a loggia.” A woven rug and burl-wood table enhance the natural feel.
The final result captures both Charlton’s island-inspired vision and Rafferty’s eclecticism. “If anyone else had come to me and said, ‘I want a copy of a Bahamian home,’ I probably wouldn’t have thought I could do it,” says Rafferty. “But by taking all the best elements of the style and mi them up, we made it original!”
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