Chad Renfro takes fresh approach to Palm Beach home's interior

By Christine Davis

Take formal and make it fun. That was interior designer Chad Renfro's challenge when he was asked to redo a 3,800-square-foot Regency-style house on Palm Beach's north end.

"My clients wanted light, colorful, young and fun," Renfro says. "And the house was completely the opposite. It was all one color, very formal, loaded with gold. It had a beautiful layout, was situated perfectly on its lot and was designed for entertaining.

"My clients, though, wanted to live a more casual lifestyle."

Even though the home's ambience was to change drastically, no major renovation was in the offing. So how do you pare things down without ripping things out? With ease and ingenuity, thanks to the talented Renfro of Chad Renfro Design in Palm Beach.

"The home is beautifully landscaped and all built around the pool courtyard in the back, with an awninged area so that you can have living space outside," Renfro says. "It has good bones and a great layout and does lend itself to lots of light."

The entry is by way of a gracious foyer with a powder room and den to the right, while the formal living room and dining room are to the left. Beyond them is the main staircase, which eases the transition to the family room – where French doors open onto the courtyard pool patio – and its adjacent kitchen. Also on the first floor is the master bedroom suite, with more French doors leading to the pool. Upstairs are the guest bedrooms and a laundry area.

To help make the transition from formal to relaxed, Renfro played down the glossy, stately aspects of the home and worked to create new textures.

"We honed the polished-marble floors and painted some of the woodwork," the designer explains. "We also did away with the monochromatic color palette."

In darker rooms, Renfro went with cool colors, and in light-filled rooms he chose more saturated hues.

To ground the living and family rooms, he ordered sisal carpeting in a flat-weave herringbone pattern.

"The walls are white in the living room. It's a good background for the aqua, green and gold. The room faces north, and I used the colors to make the room light and bright," the designer explains.

A large dark walnut coffee table with a mirrored top is the focal point. Pillows with a palm-leaf motif complement the clean-lined sofa by Kravet Pelham. Draperies of dupioni silk in an aqua-and-apple-green stripe hang from rods with glass finals in a tortoise-shell finish. A custom-made bench with aluminum legs is upholstered in a Lee Jofa fabric.

"The two Asian-inspired chairs have been with my clients for a long time, and they asked me to use them. I love the idea of using the trays as end tables. The vintage lamps are from Cashmere Buffalo in West Palm Beach.

The sunny family room is painted white, while the rear walls of the built-in display cases are colored coral.

"In the family room, I utilized some floor lamps and ottomans that my clients had – otherwise, everything else we custom-ordered or found locally."

The Pierce Martin Lakeside sofa and chairs are rattan with wheat-colored linen upholstery. Throw pillows in a Lee Jofa fabric bring in color and pattern. Renfro also dressed up the leather ottomans: "I found the red lacquer trays to make them more useful as coffee tables."

Apple-green accent tables add other spots of color.

"This room frames a beautiful view," Renfro says. "It brings the outdoors in and vice versa."

You could say the room knows no boundaries. "Often, people won't put a sofa in front of the (French) doors, but I set the space up in such a way that you could enjoy all of the room, rather than pointing everything to the swimming pool. It's a very livable room.

"The kids can come in, and nothing is so precious that it's going to matter. There's nothing overly serious. And it has some funky pieces, like a painted red frog placed on the floor."

Light touches in the kitchen include the coconut drum-shaped pendant light fixtures by Niedermaier and the China Seas Java Java printed-linen coverings on the bar chairs.

Opposite the staircase, the generously sized dining room retains a level of formality – but with a twist: "The way I kept it young and fresh is with the apple-green color," Renfro says.

Over the table, Renfro hung a chandelier that already belonged to his clients.  "It happened to work beautifully with the staircase, as it has a similar black-wrought-iron element," he notes.

The dining room's artwork adds an exotic touch, as they are hand-carved pieces that the owner's mother brought back from China.

The nearby master bedroom's walls have been drenched in a color called "Antiguan Sky," while the woodwork is painted bright white. With its icy color scheme, the room has seen quite a departure from its former décor. "In this room, even the woodwork, had been yellow," Renfro recalls.

Wool sisal covers the floor. The custom headboard and bedskirt are fashioned from a whimsical printed linen by Thibaut. The lamps with blown-glass finals were found at Maine Cottage. A Jack Young photograph of swimming pool steps strikes a pleasant note.

The white-lacquered bureau – with its gleaming polished-nickel hardware – is Dorothy Draper-esque, playing subtle tribute to the famous New York decorator whose trend-setting rooms enlivened the 1940s and '50s. So, too, are the nightstands, which were once part of the old Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach. Renfro refurbished the bases, while keeping their aqua tops. "We wanted the room to have that Old Miami feeling," Renfro says.

One of the two guest bedrooms features grass-green walls and custom twin headboards with a China Seas printed linen. Between the beds is a mirrored-and-latticed nightstand. A chair has been painted white and covered in a green-and-white fabric that echoes the latticework.

"The lamp was a found object," adds Renfro. "It's funky, and it takes this very comfortable, sort-of-quiet bedroom and makes it just a little bit more playful."

A predominantly white guest bedroom, meanwhile, was designed with a tranquil spa-like feeling accented by splashes of coral. The bedding is by Ralph Lauren, and the 1950s ceramic lamps with linen-drum shades and shell finials are from Cashmere Buffalo.

Executing the entire project was a pleasure, Renfro says. "The shopping sprees were fun, and mixing furniture from my clients' collection with new and vintage pieces was challenging and interesting."

Creating a playful style was surprisingly satisfying, too. "I remade the interiors without starting from scratch," Renfro explains.

Take the powder room, for example.

"I love powder rooms. They can be excessive and still make sense. The vanity in this house's powder room is the original, but I lacquered it in dark coral. I replaced the swan-and-crystal fixtures with polished nickel with rock-crystal spheres. I used Thibaut chocolate brown wallpaper, polished-nickel sconces and an antique gold bamboo mirror," he says.

On the other hand, some elements in the house are completely new, like the mirror and lighting, pictured on page 8, that Renfro designed for the foyer, working with a local iron fabricator.

"All of that piece was made locally. Even the coral-and-brown silk shades were made in West Palm Beach. Many of the lampshades are from Heath and Company, and it was a pleasure to work with them."

Overall, his clients appreciated the lighting, and Renfro appreciated his finds. "My clients walked into the living room, and said they loved the lamps," Renfro says. "When I saw those aqua lamps, I said, 'I have to have them.'"

After all, they fit perfectly into his vision for the house. By focusing on color, using some of the clients' furniture and sticking to a "not-out-of-this-world-expensive" budget, Renfro gave this house a glamorous dressing down.