Paradise Found


Matt and Katie Calavan wanted a house near the river. Both teen daughters row and their middle school-aged son is just starting to express interest in the sport, as well. With all three children at Bolles, they thought a home in Epping Forest Yacht Club could be made to work, thanks to proximity to the river and the school. They found one they liked, but quickly determined that the house (built in 1987) was in need of substantial updating. After expressing interest in the décor of Epping Forest’s club-house, Katie was referred to Jacksonville interior designer Shirley Kishek.  A quick meeting and a rough concept later, the Calavans were ready to start fresh and Kishek was put in charge of updating, brightening and preparing a home for the Calavans’ top priority—their children.

After spending 12 years in Santa Fe, New Mexico  (where the couple still has a home), the Calavans wanted no terra cotta, no Spanish-influenced traditional furniture and no Native American art. Instead, they were aiming for light, clean lines, comfort and function.

“It’s a second home for us, so we could take more risks with this one,” says Katie, a newly certified Guardian ad Litem. “You might feel obligated to play it safe and traditional in your primary residence but this time around we wanted something completely different. A great example would be our dining room table which is made of reclaimed wood from China. It’s just gorgeous and something we would not normally do.”

Kisek and the family eventually settled on a light, airy palette of grays, blues and yellows. Though they weren’t always in the same state, the couple and the designer kept in touch via Facetime chats and emails. At every decision point, Kisek focused on ensuring that nothing in the residence was too modern or too formal.

The kitchen was updated starting with the cabinets, which were painted a fresh, crisp white. New granite countertops (which is much more durable than the currently popular marble) were also installed, and a breakfast bar was added so that Katie could spend more time with her children each morning before school. Brushed stainless steel was used as the finish for all the kitchen appliances, which added a contemporary feel that began to inform the rest of the design. “There’s no question that the finishes are a nod back to all the ironwork in our Santa Fe home,” says Katie.

By far the biggest update in the home was to the electrical system. It may not sound very sexy, but the impact of a whole house being rewired is that every room now has natural feeling, blue-ish LED lighting, and every room is now on dimmers. “It’s made a huge difference to this house,” says Katie. “Before, every room felt yellow thanks to the ’80s-style lighting. Now, we can change the mood of the space just by sliding a button.”

The living room’s focal point isn’t the fireplace, but actually a very large picture window, now framed in colorful yellow damask drapes. A set of gray and yellow paisley swivel chairs add a bit of whimsy to the room, which is otherwise anchored by natural accents such as stone and wood.

A comfortable, gray sectional seats the entire family in front of a newly updated fireplace. Though it was once surrounded by bland marble tile, layers of stone now top off a wooded mantel made to look like driftwood by local artist Willie Meyers. The driftwood is continued on the cocktail table from Reual James and in the floating shelves covered in family photos, which make the space feel more homey, according to Katie. The stunning cathedral window mirror is a special piece brought from the couple’s former home in Dallas.  The bold, gray and yellow paisley swivel chairs add a bit of whimsy—something Katie’s grandmother always relied on. “She always said that there should be a little whimsy in every room.” You can see it in the bedroom, too—courtesy of an elephant with his tusk up—and in the den, thanks to a set of small green birds.

The master bedroom provided the biggest challenge during renovation, as nearly everything was custom made, including the drapes, the dresser, the headboard, the chaise and even the bedding. The Francesca wing-back tufted chocolate brown headboard was raised to an imposing 65 inches, so as to create a dramatic focal point balanced by a matching bookshelf and set of drawers. The mirror-fronted Old Biscayne dresser adds a luxurious, old world flavor, as does the fainting couch, which provided a bit of a problem on moving day. The 72” piece didn’t fit through the front door, which is only 30” wide. Nor did it fit through the patio door. So, despite being handmade to exact specifications, the piece had to be sent back to the craftsman, and re-purposed with legs that can now screw on and off.

Despite a few minor setbacks, the couple and their kids (with the help of a passionate designer) are feeling right at home. “We love Northeast Florida,” says Katie. “It’s such a blessing to be near both a river and an ocean and we are taking full advantage of each.”

Indeed. With the purchase of new jet skis, this crew is happily settling in to riverfront life.