This Miami-Based Designer Transformed Her Childhood Home Into a World of Color and Pattern for Her Own Young Family

Throughout the renovation, Jennifer Bunsa made sure to preserve the spirit of the house that’s been in the family for three generations

As a child, Jennifer Bunsa spent many happy hours on the shag rug of her Miami bedroom, building elaborate Lego houses. More than 30 years later, it’s this same bedroom where Bunsa—now an interior designer known for relaxed, livably elegant spaces—puts her six-year-old son, Jack, to sleep in a bunk bed that she’s transformed into a cozy tented hideout. “It’s still amazing to me that this is his room now,” she says. “I guess it’s what people call coming full circle.”

Bunsa and her parents moved out of the modest midcentury house in the historic neighborhood of The Roads when she was eight, relocating to Orlando. But her family held on to the dwelling, which had been passed down from her great-grandmother, as a rental property. Bunsa eventually went on to study architecture at Harvard, practice at Rogers Marvel Architects in New York City, get married, and start a family of her own. But the house was always in her heart. “It held so many memories, especially of my [late] mom,” she says. In 2016, Bunsa and her husband, Bryan Whitefield, were living in a Brooklyn rental with their then toddler when they started to crave more space. “We wanted a yard but weren’t interested in the New York suburbs,” she recalls. They realized that the Miami house, only a 12-minute drive from South Beach, was the answer staring them in the face.

At some 2,000 square feet, the home has the same footprint as when it was built in 1948. But Bunsa has refreshed nearly every inch, tweaking the layout and mixing furnishings that reflect her ardor for color, pattern, and midcentury Scandinavian design. She notes: “My goal was to respect the house, but also update it in a way that felt like us.”

In the Florida room—or sunroom—which functions as a conversation space, office, and play area, Bunsa replaced louvered windows with hurricane-proof glass and swapped the terra-cotta tile floor for limestone, adding a vintage Moroccan rug. The focal point is a love seat covered in Josef Frank’s Mirakel fabric, one of several prints by the Swedish designer. A hand-blocked wallpaper by another of Bunsa’s favorites, Marthe Armitage, carries from one wall into the kitchen, formerly clad in laminate and melamine and closed off by pocket doors. Bunsa opened the kitchen to the dining room and installed a backsplash of Calacatta gold marble, radically brightening the space. She made sure, however, to preserve the wavy glass embedded into the wall on either side of the sink. “When I was little, I would sit on the countertop and trace my finger on the bumpy surface.”

Other subtle changes made a dramatic difference. She bleached the wood floors in the living room and bedrooms, which she deemed too orange for her liking, and shifted a hallway, creating space for a media wall in the living room. Functioning as her own client, Bunsa also coached herself to splurge and economize. The Lindsey Adelman chandelier in the dining room is an example of the former, the CB2 sectional on the patio the latter. The kitchen cabinets and her bedroom’s wardrobe are a bit of both: good ol’ IKEA disguised with walnut doors from Semihandmade.

“According to my dad, I’ve spent too much on our old house,” she says with a laugh. “But you know what? It’s going to Jack next.” —Catherine Hong
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