Tropical Punch

Heaps of seashells, antique treasures, and painted garden furniture enliven this color-saturated home.
Nancy Staab

Two garden urns, both painted purple and heaped with seashells, stand at the entrance to Nancy and Jim Allen's house, hinting that someone here possesses more than a trace of decorative panache. But it's the canary-yellow foyer, crowned with a magnificent seashell-encrusted chandelier, that proclaims the home as a place of pure fantasy.

Caribbean Colors
High-voltage splashes of color warm the walls of this residence, where each room boasts a different but equally vivid hue. Beyond the mango-orange living room and the yellow foyer, glimpses of both the turquoise dining room and lavender sunroom beckon. The shifting colors suggest a Caribbean sunset or a flower-and-fruit-laced cocktail. Nancy spent some early childhood years down in Florida, and that color-drenched subtropical setting never left her. Undeterred by a landlocked location and cooler climate, she decided to re-create the languid, sensual atmosphere of Florida beach vacations in her Kansas City, Missouri, home.

Islands of White
Not everything is primed for color. Soothing white slipcovers, as crisp as a boat sail, contrast with the vivid color palette. Inviting slipcovered love seats, piled high with pillows, act as cool, floating islands moored in a sea of color. The snowy scheme allows Nancy to move and rearrange pieces on a whim--even from room to room--without disrupting the overall decor. The white trim and moldings also offset her paint-box colors.

Garden Inspiration
Elements taken from the garden and brought indoors enhance the breezy informality of Nancy's interiors and conjure green and flowering spaces year-round. Wrought iron furniture, wooden benches, and peeling urns add texture and the patina of romance. Tables draped in billowing canvas display favorite exterior accents such as a cherub statue, a birdhouse, or a miniature glass conservatory sheltering a sea garden of starfish and corals. The outdoor atmosphere prevails in the lavender sunroom with its collection of painted watering cans and white wicker furniture. A crystal chandelier adds a touch of glamour.

Architectural Fragments
Stray columns, stone carvings, and weathered architectural fragments evocatively litter Nancy's home--as if they had strayed inside from an Italian terrace. Painted wood columns delineate doorways and serve as pedestals for everything from urns to mercury-glass gazing balls.

Seashells and Underwater Effects
In its palette and furnishings, the turquoise-and-white dining room re-creates the underwater atmosphere of a mermaid's bower or fanciful seashell grotto. The interiors, including the dining room, contain an ocean's worth of seashells. Nancy finds them at seaside shops or while beachcombing--for example, the pink-lipped conch shells she lugged back from the Cayman Islands. Shells spill out of urns, line mantelpieces, perch on table surfaces, and even drip from chandeliers. In the dining room, a sideboard holds urns, antique fish plates, and an array of natural and silvered seashells befitting a tribute to the sea god Neptune. Above the sideboard, a curvy mirror glints like the ocean's surface. And, of course, beach paintings--whether fine oils or souvenir watercolors--adorn the walls.

Oasis from Color
The rooms of keyed-up hues lead to the all-white kitchen, a space that dazzles through its utter absence of color. From cabinets and counters to furnishings, appliances, and painted wood floors reminiscent of a beach shack, the kitchen gleams in glossy white. The L-shaped banquettes, placed below a sconce and mirror piece, invite luxurious repose. The only other decorative accents are alabaster-white urns spilling over with a cornucopia of shells. Throughout the house, the windows remain bare and unadorned to let in every ray of sunlight.

Quirky Collections
Nancy's unique flair for display is as fascinating as the collected objects themselves. Treasured pieces of her trademark pink lusterware do not languish behind locked cabinet doors. Instead, they are festively stacked and arranged on a painted green garden bench in the dining room. Additional pieces are clustered on the floor around the bench, forming a puddle of pink. A delicate chair becomes more exquisite when it holds a silver tray of seashells. Along with shells, Nancy impishly tucks pictures of her family, some glass ornaments, or a single antique teacup into her garden urns. Defying the logic of conventional arrangements, Nancy delights in setting out odd assortments of treasures that sparkle and captivate. Rather than flowers, she prefers to fill her vases with "bouquets" of items such as pearl-handled flatware or antique magnifying glasses.

Nancy even transforms a mundane set of house keys into festive and magical objects. Dangling from colored plumes of pink, purple, and orange ribbons, they sum up the Caribbean fantasy and flair of her personality-filled home.