Sunshine State of Mind

A coastal gem is infused with new life thanks to John Oetgen’s joyful refresh in the form of whimsical patterns, bold colors and thoughtfully displayed collections 

Who better to decorate your home than a best friend who is also an incredibly talented designer? John Oetgen has orchestrated interiors for clients galore, but for the owner of this stucco beauty on a lagoon in Northeast Florida, it was an exercise in utter trust. “She is a dear, dear friend,” says Oetgen.

Oetgen and the homeowner became close while neighbors in Ansley Park, which grew into antiques-gathering getaways in France and working together to outfit homes in Atlanta, North Carolina and Florida. After grieving the loss of her beloved husband, the homeowner asked Oetgen to give her Florida abode a joyful update. Oetgen knew the talented cook, adept hostess and ardent traveler would embrace a spruce-up that celebrated her passions and love of sharing them with family and friends, and their close relationship meant he could follow his instincts when it came to capturing her style.

“I know how she dresses, I know how she entertains and she’s a great cook,” says Oetgen. “She studied under Simone Beck in France; she’s been all over the world. She’s a great entertainer. She’s a great personality. She’s fun as can be.”

What evolved is a Florida-meets-French aesthetic that honors the home’s coastal station and the owner’s affinity for French cooking, antiques and general joie de vivre. Whimsy abounds in color, pattern and her impressive collections.

“Everything I see in her home, I think of a memory,” says Oetgen of the treasured antiques and art they’ve hunted on their travels.

In the kitchen, a wall of framed menus hangs above the French bistro set. “They are from restaurants where she studied under chefs around the world,” says Oetgen. “They drum up a lot of memories about being in France over the years and going to that restaurant or another.”

The intimate library honors the homeowner’s husband, with his collection of landscapes nestled among floor-to-ceiling paneling.

A menagerie of tropical birds, seahorses and shells creates a soaring botanical focal point in the living room, where multiple vividly hued seating configurations coalesce.

“She’s not afraid of color,” says Oetgen. “And we never worry about matching. I have my favorite colors for her, and whenever we work together I pull that mental file out.”

The home’s tropical aura may be most palpable in the foyer. “I had an extra hour before a flight,” recalls Oetgen, “so I decided to paint all those palm trees on the wall. She said, ‘Ok I’ll fix you a drink, the ladder is in the garage.’”

INTERIOR DESIGN John Oetgen, Oetgen Design;