Text by Robert C. Martin / Photography by John O’Hagan
Narnia is not only a classic when it comes to children’s literature; it’s also a revered beach house found along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Designing a beach house that combines the quaintness of a coastal retreat with the sophistication of a New York townhome is no easy feat, but when executed by renowned architect Robert A. M. Stern, it becomes a project to emulate. As if the task wasn’t daunting enough, Stern, along with design partner Gary Brewer, added elements of 1930s Swedish classicism to this beautifully articulated home, located in Seaside, Florida.
Lovingly called Narnia by its owners, this storybook home comes to life through an amalgam of architectural styles. For starters, the ground floor resembles a rusticated stone base, but it’s actually made entirely of wood. On the same level, engaged and fluted Doric columns encompass a secluded sleeping porch. The columns along the main-level porch are both fluted and embellished with bands of inscribed Greek motifs. On the upper porch just off the master bedroom, a single Ionic column bears the distinct yet seemingly gravity-defying task of supporting a cantilevered trussed roof.
Among the rolling dunes of white sand and sea oats, Narnia stands as a testament to the fact that even a beach house can set the tone for an entire community. And in a place like Seaside, that’s no small accomplishment!
French doors connect the second floor living room to the gulfside porch. When opened, the interior and exterior spaces flow together seamlessly—a must-have in a beach home.
Since every square inch of this beach house is designed as prudently as a ship’s cabin, what better choice is there for the cooking space than a galley kitchen!
Wooden planks with beaded edges give the rooms an unexpected charm. And in keeping with the architects’ nod to Swedish classicism, the furniture and accessories in Narnia evoke a traditional, restrained elegance.
From fluted Doric columns and vintage-inspired light fixtures to Greek key motifs found on pillows and inscribed in woodwork, Narnia abounds with clever features that reference the past and its beachfront setting. This combination of comfort and refinement is evident on the sleeping porch, with its swinging daybeds, comfortable fabrics, and canvas curtains.
Even areas that are commonly overlooked in many homes are given special attention. Most notable are the interior stair handrails; one is adorned with a delicately carved rosette, while a spindle-less handrail curls to embrace a finely turned newel post. Exquisite details such as these elevate staying at the beach to a new level!