Inside a Houston couple’s gorgeous new beachfront condo in Galveston

Their timing couldn’t have been better.

When Katherine and Jonathan Palmer started looking for a vacation home in Galveston, they had no idea they’d be closing on a place and then have it ready for use just as the coronavirus pandemic was settling in.

The Palmers, whose primary home is in River Oaks, long kept a vacation home in Florida, where they both used to live. In the 11 years they’ve been married, they had a daughter and gained a couple of dogs, so trips to Florida had gotten more complicated and less frequent.

A beach house closer to home seemed more prudent, so they sold their place in Florida and started searching in Galveston. They found a 1,700-square-foot condo in Palisade Palms, bought it and got some remodeling done in time for summer 2020, when staycations had become our primary mode of relaxation.

In their building and elsewhere in Galveston, the Palmers have run into Houston friends and made some new ones, too. At Palisade Palms, most residents are part-timers, but a handful live there full time.

They initially didn’t think a place in Galveston could compare to the splendor of the sandy beaches in Palm Beach, but the island’s quiet charm quickly won them over.

“We’ve both had the experience of having a primary residence on the beach, and we know how tough the weather can be on a house,” said Jonathan, a retired banker and entrepreneur. “We weighed lots of factors, and one was convenience. It’s 62 minutes door to door — and we love this view.”

Facing due south, the Palmers can look one direction with a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise, or the other direction with a different beverage and enjoy sunset.

They’re library supporters, and their 9-year-old daughter, Elle, is an avid reader, so a trip to the Rosenberg Library is a must on every trip to the island. And now, when she goes to summer camp, she learns to sail and surf.

Interior designer Laura Manchee of Laura Manchee Designs helped the Palmers with two different homes in Houston and stepped in to help remodel and decorate the condo. They gutted the kitchen and bathroom and added new lighting throughout.

“For this place, it was, ‘Laura, you come up with it.’ What works the best is when she has free rein,” Katherine said. “We didn’t want to rip out the (beige marble) floor, so she came up with a brown tonal design.”

The living room — which opens to a spacious balcony and a glorious view of the Gulf of Mexico — is heavy on neutrals as well as rich textures and materials. A white sofa shares space with a pair of cane-wrapped chairs and a coffee table made from a block of burled wood. Above it all, a framed collection of shimmering shells — artwork by Christopher Marley — adds to the beachy sense of place.

On an opposite wall, a TV above a credenza has a sculptural front reminiscent of chiseled layers of sand left behind by a receding tide.

“There’s a connection to Houston because we’ve worked with the family a long time,” Manchee said. “It’s nice to be more playful away. This is meant to be a place they can get away from the big city and enjoy family time with friends and not be too serious.”

“Last year was such a strange year for everyone … everything going on in the world was so heavy. We had clients renovating vacation homes because they were spending more time there, and they realized how important the home environment is,” Manchee continued.

The kitchen remodel updated cabinets and surfaces, with Taj Mahal quartzite counters and a herringbone/mosaic backsplash tile in light taupe.

The dining room is still waiting for a painting the Palmers had commissioned, a piece inspired by a photo they took of the beach. A white table is surrounded by six Andreu World Nub chairs, no-fuss wood chairs with tall backs and knobby spindles, and a chandelier with strings of wooden beads hangs above.

Blues dominate the primary bedroom in soft and subtle ways, from John Robshaw bedding made with block-print patterns to textural grasscloth wallcovering. Darker blue draperies frame the big window during the day and shut tight to darken the room at night.

In the primary bathroom, the vanity counter was rebuilt, adding more storage.

Daughter Elle’s bedroom is pretty in pink, with a bed upholstered in a pale-pink print, coordinated with pink-and-white polka dot draperies and wallpaper in a simple floral/shell-like pattern.

The powder bath — a full bathroom since it’s across from the study, a room that could also be a bedroom — got a lively update with wallpaper that has gray-blue fish on a deep-blue background and a new cabinet with interesting door fronts made of thin strips of wood laid in geometric shapes. New lighting tops a round mirror framed with woven natural fibers.

Jonathan is retired but still tends to business interests, and Katherine, 51 and a native of Illinois, is an account executive at Cardtronics, the ATM company, so a home office comes in handy even at their vacation home.

Its setup is simple, with a glass-topped desk, a comfortable chair and a credenza. A shell-covered round chandelier and Lauren Williams fiber art on the wall finish the room.

“We wanted the office to be a really beautiful spot where Katherine or Jon could go to get work done. If you are on vacation and need to make a call, that’s fine,” Manchee said. “It’s not meant to be a heavy-duty workspace. It’s an inviting place to work, even when you’re away at the beach.”

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