The Wild Life in Vero Beach

An Annapolis Designer Reimagines a Florida Home

By Kymberly Taylor  |  Photography by Daisy Burns

 

 

When the humble porcupine drops a quill, it rests unnoticed on the forest floor. However, Peter W. Busch, Anheuser-Busch family heir, has put an end to that. Inside his new Vero Beach home, a mirror is bedecked with this nocturnal visitor’s striking needles, naturally shed and collected on a farm in Cape Town, South Africa. 

The Porcupine Quill mirror is one of many appointments that interior designer Lucretia Hommel of Lucretia Hommel Interior Design discovered for Busch. The beverage magnate founded the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Center in Jupiter, Florida, and continues to help oversee Grant’s Farm, the Anheuser-Busch family’s wildlife preserve in St. Louis, Missouri. Its 283 acres house the much-loved Budweiser Clydesdales and many other animals. 

In the spirit of respect for the natural world, this interior is composed mainly of furnishings that are organic, hand-made, and sustainably sourced, with accessories, lighting, and mirrors crafted by indigenous African tribes. Many homes and stores today boast “sustainable” furnishings. However, Hommel advances the concept, freely incorporating exotic and raw materials such as grasses, cow horns, fibers, fronds, and quills to create a fluid mix of the raw and refined. 

This is exactly what Busch and his family wanted. “They wanted the home to feel very open: not kitschy, not Palm Beach, not Vero Beach. They wanted a South African feel.”

This has been accomplished. As if on a safari, the more time you spend within these rooms, the more you see. Within a field of neutrals, subtle details gradually resolve and come into focus, as do animals disguised in the Sahara. For example, in the living room, amid the shifting sand tones of the flooring, upholstery, and walls, the coiled threads in an African sea-grass rope table radiate, and the variegated brown tones in the bamboo chairs seem to flex—especially when silhouetted against the white-trimmed arched windows.  In the hallway, almost blending into the air itself, a blond cow horn has been carved into an intricate chandelier.

In the foyer, many sculptural organic forms are juxtaposed in close proximity. Under the porcupine mirror composed of hundreds of quills is another sea-grass rope table. Artists in an indigenous African tribe fashioned a nearby chandelier out of lyrical leather strips. The dining room table is centered by a chandelier composed of cow horn that seems in perpetual motion.

In the kitchen, the eye registers an unusual combination. Another chandelier, this time composed of coconut beads and accentuated by brown and black grass wallpapers, mirrors the subtle hues and texture of arid grasses.  

Hommel worked closely with the clients on their “South African” vision. Yet, there is a special influencer here: the home itself—it has a story to express. “When I walk into a home, it is telling me that story.  So, I try to listen. I combine that with the client’s dreams and wishes and what they want to have… Then, we marry it all together,” explains Hommel.

What did this home have to say?  Clearly, it seemed troubled. “This home was in need of TLC.  The sea wall was falling in, and the roof leaked… the previous owners just did not take care of it.  It needed a new start.” Hommel ripped out the kitchen, the floors, and more. “We did a whole lot to bring it back to itself, to its natural state. This, I feel, kind of gets lost when people are decorating, especially in Florida. It is OK to bring back in natural elements… and this is where this home sits, feels, and breathes.” 

She learned how to “listen” to houses from her mother.  During her childhood, she was raised Baptist. “Before we moved in anywhere, my mom would always go into the house and pray over it. You don’t know what happened in there or what kind of energy there is.  It would not necessarily be a murder, but it could be, you know, unhealthy relationships or abuse or whatever—and you just kind of get that all out of there.”

“And,” continues Hommel, “she taught me how to ‘just be’ in a house for a while.”  As an interior designer, this has been invaluable. “Most people jump right in before moving into their building.  Yes, I get that, but you need to be kind of in the space for a bit to hear what story it is trying to tell you. 

“I think listening to the home and designing in a way that captures its essence ensures that each interior has its own voice; none are quite the same. I am not implementing my taste, my style. I am telling my client’s story and the house’s story.” 

There were challenges to meet, especially in finishing this home, which was just completed in February.  “Covid—that was a huge shake-up. In Africa, they were having tough times with the illnesses. We are down to two workers, and there are usually 115 women working. They didn’t have the medicine we have—or the doctors. Production did take twice as long.” 

At last, the rooms are ready for relaxation and visitors. The Busch’s wildlife sanctuary, about 30 minutes away, shelters many creatures such as the Florida panther, mountain lion, black bear, as well as the alligator, whistling duck, eagle, and rat snake. These are animals that have been displaced by wildfires or found abandoned or injured. With its free-spirited décor, this home is both a personal sanctuary and a reflection of the natural world, with a generous touch of the wild. It reminds us that wild creatures must be healed and set free; they help us connect to what is wild and precious within each of us. 

 

INTERIOR DESIGN: Lucretia Hommel, Lucretia Hommel Interior Design, lucretiahommel.com | COUCH: Baker Furniture | DINING ROOM TABLES & CHAIRS: Restoration Hardware | RUG: Lucretia Hommel Home Collection | GLASS CANDLES: Zodax | AFRICAN GRASS NECKLACE, CHANDELIERS & WOODEN BEADED FIXTURES: Private fair trade sources and African tribal artists | OUTDOOR FURNISHINGS: Summer Classics; also available through Lucretia Hommel Home Collection.

 

 

 

© Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 3 2022