Inner Peace

A light-filled retreat near the bustle of the beach, this modernist abode feels like its own private world

With its beautifully landscaped streets, pristine white sand beaches and stunning bright blue ocean waters, the planned community of Alys Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast seems tailor-made for the Instagram era. 

In fact, people regularly pose for photos at the posh pocket park just steps from the entrance to Joe and Mary Clark’s house, which makes a dramatic backdrop. “It’s clean and almost monolithic, but it’s also open and airy with punched out spaces and screen louvers,” says architect Bill Ingram. “It has a quiet appeal.”

Walk through the arched doorway and across a tranquil pool, and you’re in a private courtyard, the bubbling water drowning out the sounds of the walkable street that often attracts visitors. “It feels like you’ve just entered your own world,” he says. 

Indeed, the structure stands behind a two-story louvered screen painted in the same white as the exterior stucco. As a result, it feels like a private, light-filled retreat despite its location near a main thoroughfare leading to the beach. “They let natural light and breezes in,” Ingram says. “Perfect for the beach.”

That light subtly reflects off of the textural white Venetian plaster walls. Leaning into the simple palette, Mary—an interior designer who owns several local lifestyle boutiques—selected tailored furnishings in neutral fabrics accented by rustic textural pieces. 

In the family room, for example, a jute rug plays off the linen-covered furnishings. And in the formal dining room, she paired a clay-beaded African chandelier and rope-back chairs with an elegant custom round oak table. “This is a serene, sophisticated beach house,” she says, noting color comes from the sand, the water and the verdant palm trees outside.

When color is used, it packs a punch. A graphic painting punctuates the white walls in the office, where an African rug and an antique desk balance the contemporary architecture, streamlined leather chairs and modern white pendant lights. 

And evoking the surf and sky, powder blue draperies complement the white walls, painted flooring and pecky cypress ceilings in one of the well-appointed guest suites. “The house is very interactive but there’s privacy if you want it,” says Mary.

One of Mary’s very favorite spots is the rooftop, where, shaded by a pergola, two stylish swings and other modern furnishings surround a woodburning fireplace just steps away from the swimming pool. The couple often sit out there to relax and gaze at the twinkling carpet of stars overhead. “Bill created a dream house for us,” says Mary. “It’s a masterpiece.”

INTERIOR DESIGN Mary Clark, Mast Alys Beach, (850) 909-0406; ARCHITECT Bill Ingram, Bill Ingram Architect, (404) 348-4497;