A stunning transformation was achieved for a private residence in Boca Raton, FL, with customized pieces of French limestone. Designer Bridgette Caporaso, founder and owner of Sketch Design Studio, also in Boca Raton, purchased the home with her husband and transformed it with influences of Parisian architecture after a visit to Paris. Maintaining a strong line of communication between the stonemason and fabricator resulted in the designer’s vision coming to life.
"Fun fact, it's actually our home," said Caporaso. "When we purchased the house, it looked completely different. We did a full-scale remodel. It was very much like it tried to have a Tuscan flare to it, but the way South Florida did Tuscan did not look good. There was a lot of stucco, brown, yellow and the roof lines weren't nice."
Although the designer did not care for the style of the residence, she explained she knew it had potential. "I really love classic architectural design styles," she said.
"The day that we closed on the property, we actually were headed to Europe for vacation," Caporaso went on to say. "Our first stop was Paris, and I was completely blown away by the Parisian architecture – just everything about it. I loved all the limestone. As far as I'm concerned, the French nailed the architecture. I knew I wanted to give the design a more French inspiration.
So, although we couldn't change the roof lines and everything to that mansard-style roof with the pitch, I did extend all the eaves, and I wanted to incorporate limestone."
Caporaso explained the whole front facade was fairly underwhelming and had a great deal of foam moldings. "My husband, said, ‘I want real stone.’ He wanted to cover the entire house, and real stone probably would have cost a small fortune. Instead, we settled on that main entrance tower to really give it that grand effect. I designed that by hand and I drew and sketched it out. I worked with a really great stone fabricator called Haifa Limestone, and I knew I wanted to work with French limestone because I just thought when I saw it in France it was so beautiful. I incorporated it everywhere we could. So all of the molding on the house is real solid limestone. We did all the casings around all the doors and windows, and garage doors. But the most fun is the backside of the house. We actually carved out some of the crown molding and used them as gutters."
According to the designer, the backside of the house has a balcony on a portion of the second story. "The whole roof out there, when we purchased it, had these three small shower drains in the middle of the floor, and there was a parapet wall that went all the way around. Part of the remodel included removing all of those walls and taking those drains out. We re-pitched that entire deck so that it was more like a roof and all the water would run off it. With pitching that, we had to add two gutters. I didn't want to add black metal gutters on the house because I knew that would destroy the look of the whole backside of the house -- having this black line run through the middle. In talking to my stonemasons, we decided because the molding had a sharp 90-degree corner and it was solid and only carved with a detail on the front we were able to cut out a square from the corner and attached it to the house. Then we did a waterproofing membrane and turned it into gutters. Now the backside of the house looks beautiful. We have a continuation of the French limestone all the way across the back. It was a really great use of stone."
Caporaso could not say enough good things about the stonemason. "It was a really good effort on the mason's part," she said. "They did such a nice job doing it with how labor intensive it was.
Those folding pieces are only about 18 inches wide and there are so many of them. They probably had about 50 pieces that they had to cut out an entire chunk with hand tools on a jobsite.
"Being a craftsman is one thing, but also having that artistic mentality to be willing to say, ‘Yes, I'll do that because it'll look great and supports the design,’ is another," Caporaso went on to say. "How many guys would have just been like, ‘I'm not doing that. That's just way too much work.’"
Caporaso explained she contracted Haifa Limestone to do all of the original part of the design. "The gutters weren't an original part of the design," she said. "It was sort of an afterthought after we got into it and I knew how bad the black gutters were going to look. It wasn't directly with Hafia so there wasn't shop drawings and things like that done to prepare the guys in the field. It was literally just us sitting there with our arms crossed saying, ‘What can we do? How do we come up with this?’ It was me and the mason that physically did it. He was just such a good team player."
Inside the Home
While the exterior of the residence is a beautiful testament to the use of natural stone, there is not a shortage of the material in the interior living space as well. "I purchased 15 slabs of Cristallo quartzite for this project," said Caporaso. "There’s a ton of it in the kitchen and master bathroom."
In the kitchen, Cristallo quartzite was used for the countertops and backslash. The master bath is a showcase of the material, as it was applied for the walls, floor and ceiling in the shower, as well as the bathroom floor itself. "I made moldings out of the Cristallo, too," said the designer. "Haifa did that as well. It was a challenge. It is a crystallized stone so it is quite difficult to work with that material. Carving detail into it is really tough."
Caporaso explained additional detailed work included relief panels on the inside of the doorways and a sandblasted floor to make it slip resistant. "It's really beautiful," she said. "They were probably on the jobsite for six months."
Creating cohesion throughout the first floor, Absolute Black granite floor tiles with a textured finish flow from room to room. "They have a rough wire-brushed texture to it," said Caporaso. "The rough texture almost gives it a look of little speckles of white. It has a very leathery-looking finish. It looks soft. The black floor creates such a great canvas for everything else to sit on."
For the designer’s son’s bathroom, an undermount tub features a deck fabricated from quartz surfacing supplied by Pompeii Quartz. The quartz was also employed for the walls and ceiling of the tub. A subtle accent was created on the tub wall with a star pattern, which was another labor of love for Caporaso. She worked with the tile contractor to bring this idea to life.
"I found a star pattern that I really loved," she said. "I wanted to incorporate it in the tile on the wall. I didn't have the geometry for it, so I couldn't even give the tile contractor the dimensions. He must have cut probably six different tiles before we got the configuration right."
Caporaso went on to say the tile contractor also cut a chevron pattern from a 3- x 6-inch tile in the downstairs shower. "He was meticulous and a perfectionist," she said. "He installed it three separate times because he wasn't happy with it. He took it down until it was perfect. He was another super team player."
According to the designer, she collaborated with her fabricators to create another interesting feature in a second guest bathroom. "I was obsessed with the idea of having porcelain on the walls, but I didn't want just to put straight slabs on them," she said. "I had my fabricators cut the porcelain tile into strips, and then in between the strips, we put chrome strips of Schluter. I wanted the shower and the vanity to match and I'm not a big fan of a really busy design and a lot of visual information. I like to repeat materials in different ways."
In the end, Caporaso’s labor of love paid off. "I do so much custom design and it takes longer because I can't just go buy it," she said. "It's all worth it in the end. I try to tell that to my clients while we're in the thick of it. I'm like, I promise you the pain goes away. You don't remember it when it's done."
Moreover, Caporaso's work on her home's remodel earned her a 2023 Coverings Installation & Design Award in the Residential Stone Design category. A presentation was held during Coverings, the international stone and tile exhibition, which was held in April at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.