Nate and Kimberly in her home

For Kimberly Dellamonica, a perfect house is one that's "tropical, tranquil, luxurious and really inviting—I want people to feel comfortable as soon as they walk in the door." Mission accomplished, says Nate. "This place is like a sanctuary, a Zen retreat."

When Kimberly and her husband, Mark, began renovating their lagoon-front condo near San Francisco, she took her cues from her favorite holiday destinations: Southeast Asia, which she frequented in her 10 years as a flight attendant, and Mexican resorts such as Las Ventanas al Paraíso and Esperanza, both in Cabo San Lucas.

"I love the beach lifestyle," Kimberly explains. "So I told my husband, 'Let's just do it in our house.'"

Nate surprised winner Kimberly Dellamonica with an orchid, which fits perfectly in her tropical-themed home.
Kimberly's husband built floating stairs.

Luckily, Mark, a businessman by day, was game for some hands-on work at home. "I'll say, 'Honey, I want floating stairs,' and he just gets his hammer and nails and goes for it," Kimberly says. Mark also fabricated sconces for the stair wall and installed decorative beams in the dining room. By building the look into the home's very architecture, the couple kept the house from veering into the realm of tropical kitsch.

Give small plants a bigger presence by putting them in large cachepots. Just fill the container with packing peanuts or Bubble Wrap before placing the plant on top.
Kimberly made this room neutral but not boring.

Nate also notes how Kimberly kept her design choices consistent. "Everywhere you look, there are natural materials. And she chose soothing colors on the first floor—that's very typical in resorts. The whole place feels grounded and organic, even down to the accessories." In the living room, for example, a palm-wood sculpture hangs over the mantelpiece, an Asian steamer basket serves as a cocktail table, and a majestic palm invokes the tropical forests of its native Madagascar.

Mirrors are one of the best ways to open a tight space. This wall-facing desk feels less claustrophobic because it's tucked under an oversize looking glass.

Neutral is not another word for boring. Kimberly varied this room's earthy palette with several tones and textures—from the glossy chocolate-brown lamp and woven caramel basket to the sueded tan chair. The few hits of bright color—the green palm leaves and fuchsia orchid—are straight from nature.

Kimberly found the suede chair for her loft-office at Pottery Barn.
Kimberly's tropical bedroom

Nate appreciates what these design decisions reflect about the couple and their home: "They really honor themselves and their guests by having everything so beautifully arranged," he says. "It shows what a couple can accomplish when they work together."

Kimberly created the duvet cover in her master bedroom by sewing two sheets together.
Kimberly filled gaps with beach rocks.

Even without a green thumb, you can bring natural materials into your home—as Kimberly did with these large bamboo stalks, which are sold at local flower marts. When a miscalculation created a gap between the carpet in Kimberly's bathroom and its threshold, she filled the space with grouted beach rocks. The fix worked out so well that she repeated it in every doorway.

"When people decorate with a theme, as Kimberly did with her tropical retreat, they often think that buying accessories to 'fit' that theme is enough," Nate says. "But Kimberly and her husband went above and beyond—they redid the doors, the hinges, the walls. Even the vanity in the bathroom was roughed up to look like old wood. It's more than just design, and that's what makes this home so successful."

More with other O at Home contest winners…