From living in it, “I think we really understood how to make the house function better for us,” says Rice. Post-reno, all the doors open, dissolving any barriers between inside and out. A new outdoor kitchen and courtyard reconfiguration have, in effect, made the living room twice as big. “For me, it’s blurring the lines between the indoor and outdoor. We wanted the architecture to breathe and for the house to live in a more friendly way,” says Alexander.
In the city, the family lives in what Rice describes as a “white cube.” For their beach house, “[Julie] wanted to bring a funkiness to it. While she doesn’t like clutter, she wanted to explore a more layered, Bohemian interpretation of this architectural property.” Organic was a keyword. Materiality was, to Alexander, the biggest element of accomplishing this particular flow and feeling—most significantly, plaster floors, ceilings, walls, and even countertops. “It doesn’t feel like Vincent Van Duysen or Axel Vervoordt, because it’s not as moody as that, but we brought somewhat unexpected materials to this modern space that are very clean but also soft, with that tactile nature and light play.” Otherwise, unity was achieved by the tight palette of bleached woods and matte black fixtures. Within that, they played with layering subtly textural, nuanced materials to create a sense of laid-back drama.
Because many spaces are flanked by floor-to-ceiling glass, Alexander set about choosing strategic furniture and lighting pieces to set the tone. A heavenly vintage Mario Bellini Camaleonda sofa and sleek stone Axel Vervoordt coffee table in the living room establish the aesthetic of elegant minimalism warmed up and softened. Throughout, custom furnishings by Alexander Design and a profusion of vintage pieces—such as wood objects and Moroccan rugs—pervade. A creative control freak she may be, Rice says she “let go a little bit on this one. I really trusted Vanessa.” And Alexander brought options that almost always made her friend and client very happy. Rice’s favorite: hanging bedside lamps with ceramic tops and woven shades.
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“The [primary] bedroom feels like it’s floating in the clouds, and I absolutely love it,” says Alexander, who helped reconfigure the layout to create a closet plus downstairs pool access and a deck with a fireplace for 360-degree water views. “Now the bedroom is this perfectly intimate size, a dreamy space that’s very ethereal, with linen drapes from de Le Cuona that the sun filters through.” Rice agrees, “the [primary] bedroom-bathroom situation is pretty epic. Vanessa tricked it out in the best way possible, so it feels like the most amazing, luxurious kind of hotel suite ever.” Plaster-wrapped, with a glass-ceiling double-rainfall shower, the bathroom is a particular area of envy for the rest of the family.
It’s no surprise the four of them clamor after the bright, airy shower when one considers that, come summer, “the entire sides of our house and every door in this place open up and it becomes like one giant box you can walk through,” says Rice. “I feel like that’s a big metaphor for the way we live.” Morning surfs with friends devolve into coffee, family beach days lead to lunches and pool parties, followed by sunsets on the sand, bonfires, live music, and picking up sleeping kids to bring them to bed. An annual end-of-summer party involves a big beach dinner and an ice cream truck. “It’s sort of like we open up the doors and people come and go and enjoy the ocean, and we all enjoy each other,” says Rice. This, the house that looks right at the beach, has been her one dream since starting SoulCycle in 2006. “It’s pretty magical.”