In the mid-aughts, when Ashley and Matthew Wotiz moved from Jacksonville, Florida, where they both grew up, to New York City, they both assumed they would never return. They eagerly embraced Manhattan as their new home, eventually moving into a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side, which they filled with art from the likes of Fred Wilson and Donald Judd, and they had kids.
About five years ago, when Ashley became pregnant with their third child, they started to question their life in Manhattan. They briefly considered moving full-time to Long Island, but on a whim they also decided to check out real estate in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, a sort of mini Palm Beach not far from Jacksonville, where they still have family.
Among the listings they came upon was a 1930s shingled cottage right by the sea. “I immediately knew it was special, but it needed a lot of TLC,” recalls Ashley. Although she had dabbled in design (while in college, she had interned for Bunny Williams), she decided to turn to the Charleston-based interior designer Angie Hranowsky, someone she had been following for years on social media. “I loved her use of color,” says Ashley, “and that she was from the South.”
Hranowsky, who is sought out for her eclectic take on Southern interiors, knew within minutes of seeing the place that the couple had found a rare gem. It was one of the few houses from Ponte Vedra’s earliest days that hadn’t been torn down. “It just had a special feeling and great bones,” she says. “After just a few hours walking around the house I had already figured out the whole plan and had sketched it out.”
The original cottage contained a bedroom and living room constructed mostly of cypress, as well as a kitchen. Over the years, different owners had made additions; the property now has two wings and overlooks a 1,000-square-foot lawn that acts almost like another room.
One of the first things Hranowsky did was to turn what had been the kitchen into the dining room, knocking down a wall to connect it with the living room. Then she turned the former dining room, which was the heart of the house, into a kitchen. To create a visual connection between the three original rooms, she installed cypress walls in the new dining room and painted them the same grayish hue as the walls in the other two rooms.
Hranowsky and Ashley decided against a seamless, builtin kitchen. Instead, they planned a more organic space—“like a true beach house,” says the designer. One of Hranowsky’s great skills is selecting that one standout piece that makes a room. So she designed an Art Deco–inspired double cupboard, which she had made in Charleston. It holds a bar, the coffee machine, even the family’s tableware. The kitchen has polished-concrete countertops, a wall of latte-colored faceted tiles, and a whimsical hanging light sculpture by Portland, Oregon–based artist Stephen White. When the Wotiz family moved to Florida, they brought all their furniture from New York, including a Beckley bed that they passed on to their daughter and over which Hranowsky suspended a custom canopy.
It’s Hranowsky’s skill with color, however, that makes the project feel complete. “I tend toward neutral tones,” says Ashley, “but Angie is so good at using punches of color to give a space a fresh and modern atmosphere.” That is clear from the choice of wallpaper: the bold pink-and-gold Cole & Son in the laundry room; the hand-painted palm trees and leaves from Ananbo in the guest powder room; and the blue-green bonsai trees from Timorous Beasties in Matthew’s office.
After the two-year renovation, the house feels more modern, more useful: It’s a year-round home, not just a place for holidays. “Having three children means we’re never really on vacation,” says Ashley jokingly, “but every time I enter this house I pinch myself.”