Designer Michele Smith of Ocean Ridge won the Storybook House competition with three designs for rehabbing the Hypoluxo Island cottage. Photos by Jerry Lower

Designer's three approaches | Participating designers

By Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley

Like many people, Roseanne Vaughn is trying to sell her house. Known as the Storybook House for its cottage details, her home was built on Hypoluxo Island in 1946 when the only way to get there was by boat.
Vaughn moved into it 35 years ago. She added shingles, green shutters and a green awning over the front door. Then she built a sun room with a view of the Intracoastal Waterway and turned a number of closets into a blue-and-white tiled master bathroom.
The Storybook House — with its warren of rooms, picket fence, flamingo mailbox, brick walkway and towering royal poinciana in the front yard — has the feeling of a vintage home redecorated with love over the years.
Jennifer Spitznagel of Manatee Cove Realty in Manalapan got the listing for the house. “I like to see historic homes retained, not torn down. They have a lot of charm that’s not available in a new home,” she says.
Then she got an idea.
A self-proclaimed HGTV “junky,” she contacted The Coastal Star and set up a competition asking area designers to suggest improvements to the house. She gave them a budget of $10,000. Then homeowner Vaughn agreed to give whoever buys the house that money toward work on it.
Participating designers included Jimmy Deitch and Patty McWilliams of The Beached Boat Co. in Delray Beach, Michele Smith of Michelesmith Design in Ocean Ridge, Taryn Renee Blankenship of Robb and Stucky Interiors in Palm Beach Gardens and Ed Paez of Sea Laurel Construction in Delray Beach. Each entrant put together presentation boards detailing their plans.
People who visited the Storybook House during two open houses in November viewed the plans and voted for the one they liked best. After counting the 40 ballots, Spitznagel determined first prize goes to Michele Smith.
A native Floridian and self-taught decorator, Smith started her design career creating pamphlets for high-end cruise lines. But her passion was home renovation and design.
“I’d always look for properties that needed tough love,” she says. She began buying affordable homes that were near the beach that she loves. “I’d start from scratch and turn the homes into beautiful spaces,” she says.
She stopped working for the cruise industry in 1998 to take care of her son, Tanner, now 12. She’ll never forget renovating one house while she lived there with her son and her mother, who was not well. “That was certainly a challenge,” she says.
She also helped friends decorate their homes, and it was they who persuaded her to follow her passion.
“I’m lucky to have an innate sense of vision and imagination,” she says.
In 2010, she opened her own design firm.
When she heard about the Storybook House competition, she wanted to get involved.
“It’s always been my philosophy to save older homes by updating and refreshing them. I love their character.”
But she had trouble settling on just one set of ideas.
“People love to have choices,” she says. So she offered three different plans putting the $10,000 budget to good use in each. “That kind of money doesn’t go far, but you can refresh, update or expand a home with it,” she says.
Her various plans — to Refresh, Redesign or Redecorate the home — feature white-painted walls and trim, aqua shutters, redone hardwood floors, porch swings hung indoors, opened-up spaces and a kitchen redone with cottage flair.
Owner Vaughn is pleased. “She gave people perspective of what they could do with
the house,” she says.
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