A Look Inside a Mediterranean-Inspired South Shores Home

A Look Inside a Modern Day Heritage House

With Mediterranean-inspired adornments and heirloom decor, this South Shores home becomes a personal space.

Nestled deep in the quiet bayside neighborhood sits an unassuming one-story, ranch-style home. With its once citron green shag carpet, paneled walls and terrazzo tile, the house was a sight straight from the 1950s. That is, until its new owner William J. Chriss created a South Shores home that can only be described as individualistic. 

Chriss, a longtime attorney, law professor and rare book enthusiast, had a sense of what he wanted his dream home to feel like when he decided to renovate his newly purchased property and hired local interior designer Elizabeth Welsh. With her expertise, they created not just a functional, updated home, but a unique space that reflects the essence of its owner.

I love my home,” Chriss said. “I’ve always wanted a house that evoked my heritage, which is Greek and Mediterranean … it fits my personality.”

The white walls and fireplace create the illusion of a larger space while maintaining a comfortable ambiance. | Photo by Jason Page

The home depicts his roots, as well as giving life to the finer details and the building blocks of his identity. “Everything in this house is intentional,” said Welsh. From the layout of the flooring to the color and texture of the walls, she created an environment that could provide insight into the more personal aspects of Chriss’ life while transporting his guests to the Mediterranean countryside.

The foyer introduces the purposeful “old world” feel that is intended to spread throughout the entirety of the home. The uneven texture of white plaster walls and the pitted concrete Peacock Paver tiles emphasize the purity of the raw materials, while the gold acanthus leaf chandelier adds a modernized ode to ancient Greek coliseums. A unique Romanesque bench anchors the room, introducing a subtle sense of cultured masculinity. Keeping true to his heritage, Chriss has a small assortment of antique belongings that were passed on to him from relatives. One such item is a small wooden chair in the home’s entryway that once sat in a restaurant owned by his grandparents.

One of Chriss’ favorite rooms in the house is the library. Being an avid book collector, he needed a unique space to showcase his equally unique collection. The custom-designed, floor-to-ceiling shelving is painted a cool white to place further visual emphasis on the vast collection. 

The white walls and ceiling contrast the warm tones of the hardwood flooring, the wooden French doors and the decor, creating an inviting space that could make anyone feel at home. “We wanted it to be warm, but not heavy. It’s intended to feel very intimate and comfortable,” Welsh said. 

The windows are adorned with louvered shutters to control lighting, giving the space more flexibility to evoke a cozy environment. One unusual feature is the hidden TV; amid the book shelving, the TV is recessed to allow for a motorized panel to drop down, hiding it from view. The dining area is also incorporated as part of the prized library to create one cohesive space.

We wanted it to feel like you were eating dinner in a library, rather than in a dining room,” Welsh said of the design. Chriss calls it his “eat-in library,” surrounded by books and memorabilia from his life.

One of the most notable improvements to the original home is the kitchen. Pre-renovation, the space was cramped with minimal storage and lacked the open, family-oriented feel Chriss desired. After the removal of a 20-foot wall separating the kitchen from the living room, the functionality and footprint began to take shape. Welsh added every personal touch imaginable to keep the “old world” feel continuous throughout the space. 

The stunning Italian range and custom vent hood create a picture-perfect focal wall in the kitchen. | Photo by Jason Page

The stained wood and glass French doors that mimic the library doors lead into what Welsh likes to call the “exposed butler’s pantry.”  What once was a small eat-in nook is now the ultimate storage area. Wall-to-wall cabinets and countertops with a matching backsplash create a space that is both extremely functional and pleasing to the eye. The cool white cabinets, walls and countertops aid in brightening up the space to make up for the lack of natural light, while adding a modernization to the traditional feel.

In concert with the concrete flooring, the patterned Moroccan zellige tile backsplash — meant to replicate a cobblestone street — adds a cultured touch. Another intentional detail is found in the hammered gold hardware embellishing the cabinets. “It’s an unlacquered brass, so it’s a living finish. The more you use it, it will patina and show the age,” Welsh explained. “It weaves in the old-world perspective.” 

Among the cabinets and modern appliances stands the showcase of the kitchen: the artisan Italian range, a massive, 60-inch stainless steel beauty complete with a custom-designed vent hood and gold-toned pot filler. Before renovating, Welsh realized the cabinet and pantry space were scarce, so without removing the essential footprint, she designed a custom floor-to-ceiling cupboard. The combination of the showcase range with the accenting hardware and each unique feature makes the kitchen truly one to be envied.

A statement furniture piece anchors the room, giving the space character with minimal effort. | Photo by Jason Page

A drastic change to the original home is the fireplace focal wall. What was originally a chestnut orange brick looming in the dark wood paneled living room is now a textured, white-washed statement that draws the eye upward, expanding the space and creating the perfect canvas for exhibiting one of Chriss’ many remarkable art pieces. 

The fireplace and its surroundings is the biggest change we made aside from the lighting and the walls,” Welsh said. “It gives the textural feel we were trying to achieve in the house.” The surroundings Welsh points out are ornamented with custom millwork created by John Gansley, a highly talented local craftsman.

Seamlessly flowing from the living room, the matching cool-toned hallway bears gold acanthus leaf sconces accenting the foyer and the plaster walls, furthering the consistency of the design. The white walls provide the opportunity for Chriss to display important art from his noteworthy collection combined with additional pieces that are a thoughtful tribute to his family.

The primary bathroom is tiled with a warm Crema Marfil marble tile providing a luxe feel, while the clean lines of the white cabinets, white countertops and gold hardware give a lavish impression. The sunken shower, tiled with the same marble as the floor, is closed in by a partial wall and glass door, effectively creating a steam room. The rain shower head and individual French gold shower controls provide that expensive spa-like atmosphere, but the alabaster wall sculpture inlaid into the shower wall offers a symbol of Greek intention.

The guest bathroom maintains the cool tones the living room and kitchen portray with concrete flooring, gray cabinets, white marble shower tile and black countertops, while the warm burnished bronze shower fixtures add a touch of contrasting color. The vessel sink suggests the Mediterranean aspect, and to maintain functionality, Welsh personally designed the large vanity to allow the sink to sit level with the countertop. 

Chriss can attest that every facet, from the library to the remarkable shower wall sculpture, has fulfilled every expectation. “It’s been a journey, for sure,” Welsh added. “This house is truly a summation of who Bill Chriss is.” The home itself, with its extraordinary culture and personality, accurately reflects the life of the man who holds the deed.

Interested in finding more interior inspiration? Check out this Del Mar house of hues