Saturday, April 18, 2015

Palm Beach Red Cross Designer Show House: The Upstairs Tour

La Florentia, the house that was selected to be the 2015 Show House will celebrate it's 100th birthday in just 10 years but being part of a birthday is not new to this home.  In 1954 it was dubbed The Birthday Cake Castle because it was given as a birthday gift from the new purchaser to his wife.  The castle-like turrets and the thick stuccoed walls resembled a cake like structure and so the name has endured.

La Florentia was charming and full of inspiring ideas created by all 20 Interior Designers.  It was a true blend of the old, the new and the unexpected.   At the end of the  previous post I mentioned there were three staircases and surprises at the top of each one.

Up the back staircase we found what was most likely originally quarters for the cook or the staff.  It had been transformed into a charming eclectic guest suite with a fabulous view.

Upholstered panels behind the headboard add a modern feeling and drama to the sleeping side of this room but the bed is otherwise understated.  

The "area rug" underfoot is actually a beautifully designed and executed painted floor.  What fun!

In the sitting area the designer used a combination of a tailored sofa with contemporary tables and chair giving the room an interesting mix of styles.

Placing a small  area rug over the larger "rug" not only adds another layer but helps define the conversation setting.  Orchids are a great way to introduce a pop of  unexpected color.

With a view like this and a balcony for lounging what guest would want to go home? 

 Another staircase lead us to The Old Master Bedroom, but it was much more, with a few surprises of it's own.  Again the bed was simply dressed but so inviting.  A coffee table at the foot of the bed forms a type of footboard but with the added function to hold books, flowers or maybe a breakfast tray.

Opposite the bed the fireplace offers a place to sit or warm your toes.  The formal balance of a pair of windows, a pair of chairs and a pair of sconces as well as a pair of white orchids creates a more formal but still appealing grouping

A library in the corner of a bedroom seems unusal but makes sense when you see the rest of this delightful suite.  Built in bookcases, a paneled raised ceiling and pretty lantern turned this corner into the perfect spot to select a book to read curled up in a comfortable chair at the other end of the room.

What was once likely to have been an upstairs porch is now a lovely retreat lined with windows and filled with sunlight.

This is a wonderful space to relax, read, catch up on handwritten notes or a chapter in your new novel  or even play a game.  It is interesting to see how many ways this large area can be used.   It is very functional as well as pleasing to the eye.  Blue and white is a classic coastal color scheme.

 This is a more traditional style yet it still combines English Chippendale with Moroccan. The palm on a pedestal even feels a little Victorian.

The perfect spot for a little daydreaming.

Across the hall The Old Master Bathroom had been updated with a custom designed royal blue vanity, individual mirrors with "picture lights" , semi recessed rectangular sinks and a spectacular counter top.

 If it looks like the counter top is glowing, it is!  This translucent material is lit from below creating a dramatic effect.

It's surprising even with the lighted counter tops, modern sinks and contemporary faucets this bathroom still feels timeless.

A daybed in this Second Guest Room with metalic pillows and a chrome chair are contemporary. Topping a cocktail table with a cushion provides a dual purpose.  Was it originally like this? What do you think?

 Abstract art and silver lamp shade also lend an updated feeling

 Across the room this slender skirted table, 'ruffled" mirror and pair of candle stick lamps feel more like classic Palm Beach....or maybe it is the soft aqua and white colors?  What lies beneath that table? On closer inspection we saw a simple construction in raw wood....but who would know?  Another excellent idea for protecting skirted tables in particular, is to top it with a piece of glass. The button tabs offer a pretty detail, too.

Here is a clever idea.  Replace standard closet doors with panels from a folding screen.  Not only is it a great way to repurpose an old screen but it is so much more attractive!

What was particularly interesting were some of the small spaces that might have gone undecorated.  The designers of this house took full advantage of them.  Below is a small wall between The Old Master Bedroom and The Old Master Bathroom.  The shell console and mirror are stunning and lighting it from below is a simple thing to do but very effective.  You see this wall at the end of the hall.  It's almost like a foyer to The Master Bedroom.  (The chair is for the host/hostess of the room.)

Coincidentally the passageway below is outside The New Master Bedroom.  Though the room beyond is in a traditional style the modern art, artifact and clean lines of the cabinet make this transitional area contemporary.  

The most intriguing little spot was this wall at the foot of that tiny spiral staircase leading to the most fascinating room in the house, The Turret.

The exotic design of this narrow wall was a forecast of what was to be discovered as we climbed that staircase, one step at a time.  (Signs posted warned us to beware.)

This is the way we entered The Turret, one twisted step at a time, but the risk was well rewarded.

Above our heads was a beautiful tented ceiling in navy fabric with little gold stars.  The celestial aura continued with the wonderful starburst light fixture hung from a golden sunburst.

There were globes suspended in front of the windows like the planets. 

 A faux animal skin covered bench introduced a splendid spot to sip a sweet concoction.

Arched windows surrounded The Turret inpiring the designer to create Art Deco type columns in between.  Another bench perhaps to purch while conjuring up travel plans or gazing at the stars. This was by far the most creative room, proving imagination is not limited by the size of a space.

To celebrate the title of The Birthday Cake Castle one of the owners replaced one of the original stained glass windows with this one!

Though this tour is over the inspirations will continue.  Unexpected touches like a painted floor, treating a little space in a big way, using lighting in a different way, replacing old closet doors with carved panels from a screen or French door, mixing modern art, lamps, accessories or furniture with antiques breathes fresh air into an interior design.  Interiors with a twist are more interesting, fun and offer a way to express your own personality and style.

( To find out more about the Show House and for a list of the participating Interior Designers please visit or )

How do you like to express yourself in your decorating?  In what way would you bring in the unexpected?  As always I invite you to share your experiences and ideas in the comment box below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Decorating!

If you would like assistance with a interior decorating project please email me at

Saturday, April 11, 2015

2015 Palm Beach American Red Cross Designer Show House, Trendy and Classic

How can a house built in 1925 by a protege of renowned architect Addison Mizner, G. Sherman Childs, be trendy?  This year's Palm Beach American Red Cross Designer Show House was a delightful mix of new and old, classic and trendy, and the unexpected..  The 20 Interior Designers who transformed this beautiful 7,000 square foot waterfront home left no detail unattended to.

Palm Beach’s Birthday Cake Castle

There was so much to see and enjoy. It will take more than one post to explore it all.  So let's begin with The Loggia.

What is more striking the bold turquoise used liberally throughout the room, the sunlight flooding the space or the guilded furniture?

Some would say the blue orchids dyed to match the decor are a little "over the top".  Some would say they are the perfect finishing touch.  What do you say?

From the Loggia we entered the serene elegant Living Room.  It invited us to sit and stay awhile.

The Living Room is spacious with beautiful windows dressed simply with drapery panels and plain iron rods.  The molding on the ceiling is not overly ornate and could be replicated in any home today.  Ceilings, or the fifth wall, are frequently overlooked but they are a perfect place to add unexpected detail.

The sideboard was overscaled but right at home in this room.   The ornate antique gold leaf mirror gave a formal feeling and the pretty round ottoman found the perfect hiding place tucked underneath.

One delightful surprise was the pair of lavender velvet tufted chairs. Lavender has been popping up in design showrooms here and there.  It breaks up the simple soft blue and white scheme so subtley.

The addition of a band of trim on the skirt of the sofa is a lovely detail.  That's something you could do yourself.  Once I hot-glued boullion fringe to the skirt of a sofa just to dress it up for a model home.

Off the formal living room is an area called The Cigar Room.  It is decidedly masculine. The walls are navy blue creating an intimate but dramatic space.

Peering through the French doors we could see the patio and garden with the waterway beyond.

Off The Loggia is another welcoming room, The Study, with it's eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary. Is that lucite cocktail table a mid-century find or new?

Including odd pieces like this bench, which could have been from a trip to the Orient or Africa gives a more collected feeling. The sun shining on it puts it right in the spotlight.

On one side of the sitting area is a comfy traditional tufted club chair and antique table, resting on a more trendy geometric sisal rug.

On the opposite side are a pair of contemporary chairs with chrome arms and a sled base.
If you look back at the first image of this room you might spot a sculpture of 3 tall sticks, an interesting mix of classic and modern.

Continuing on our downstairs tour we entered the spectacular Kitchen.  Why spectacular? First because of the height of the ceiling and exposed beams.  And then there is that walk-in wine room!  This end of the house was remodeled and included an addition, which we understand was only finished the day before the designers moved in!

Using three light fixtures hung at different levels can be more interesting than all in a row or one big fixture.  This unexpected touch also gave reference to the tall ceiling.

At one end of the casual dining area was a large cabinet that offered display as well as a hiding place for a small refigerator.

The simple white cabinetry and marble countertops were classic but an intricate marble mosaic was a stand out on the backsplash.

The Formal Dining Room also blended old and new. Old were the antique oak dining table and well worn leather chairs. New were the chandelier, and the sisal carpet.

Again navy walls lent a warm cozy feeling but the beautiful classic Mizner style windows welcomed lots of sunlight.

The mirror and mantel accessories also brought in a more contemporary artisan touch. Although they are not seen in these photos there is a pair of three and four foot tall giraffes occupying one corner of the room.

Down a few steps from The Kitchen is The Family Room.  What was different here was the more tailored, simple style.  For someone who appreciates a more understated interior, this would be a great look. Still the walls were covered in grass cloth, the draperies had pretty banding and a scalloped cocktail table broke up the straight lines of the sitting group very nicely.

One of my favorite places in The Family Room is the wall with a writing desk.  How unexpected to find it in front of a very overscaled floor mirror!  The result was fabulous along with the pop of color in the red chair.

Wood floors are continuing to gain popularity and wood-like porcelain or ceramic tile is getting more realistic every day.  Below are photos of both a real wood floor and a tile that looks like wood.  Can you tell the difference?

Below is the photo that reveals which is which.  Do you know how to tell?  It's the grout.  The grout on this floor is dark and blends nicely with the tile which is set very close together.  Its a great look and is sometimes a more practical solution to a natural wood floor. (The first picture is also tile.)

The natural wood floor appeared when we entered what was called The New Master Bedroom.   The seating area was so large you could entertain there.  It was a beautiful blend of old and new.  The new was the area itself having been the recent addition to the house.  The "attitude" was old because there were touches of old Palm Beach design. 

The color scheme was taken from the fabric which is a leafy pattern in many shades of green.  Combining citron and tuquoise is very "Florida".  The whole room had a vintage feeling.

Walking through the sitting area a spacious bedroom appeared.  The chaise in the corner and piles of pillows on a elegantly dressed bed gave a very relaxed ambiance to this retreat.  The morrocan lanterns over the night chests reminded me of the architecture of the house.

Looking up were two large tray ceilings with a hand painted leaf motif relating to the pattern on the drapery fabric.  The design in the metal grid fabricated as cornices is repeated in the border of the ceiling as well.  Details like this are what makes all the difference in a well designed space.

This close up reveals the color sheme.  Because the shades, tints and tones of the many colors are used in such variation nothing seems to be to matchy matchy or contrived.

The painted glass bedside chests could be modern, but they could also be mid-century.  Which do you think?  A peak inside the drawer reveals they are new.

On a wall adjacent to the chest above is a striking vignette with an large antique desk, and a gorgeous vintage mirror and lamps with black string shades.  This unexpected grouping could have been used as a desk or dressing table.

Being in The New Master bedroom hardly felt like it was a new addition at all because of the talent of it's interior designer.

Part of the allure of this home were not just the unexpected things that the designers did to add interest to their areas, but the interior architecture as well.  There were four staircases....three real and one was a fabulous fake.  Is the one below real or an impostor?

It's the fabulous fake!  What an incredible effect this wallpaper mural had in The Playroom off The Family Room.  It is such a tease and a fantastic way to add architectural interest.  This is definitely an idea worth remembering.

But there are three real staircases that do beg you to venture up and explore, like the one below.  It leads to a turret!  When was the last time you were in a turret? Do you even know what a turret is?
According to Wikipedia:

"In architecture, a turret (from Italian: torretta, little tower; Latin: turris, tower) is a small tower that projects vertically from the wall of a building such as a medieval castle."

That is as intriguing as this tiny winding staircase, literally only wide enough for one person at a time to pass through.  Does it lead to the turret? What's up there?

There is so much more to be revealed but you will have to read my next post to find out what lies up those narrow steps.

Do you enjoy going to Designer Show Houses to get decorating inspiration?  How do you feel about mixing old styles with more trendy ones?  Can you think of a spot to add something unexpected to your decorating?

For more information on this Show House and a list of the participating Interior Designers go to  or visit

As always I invite you to share your experiences and ideas in the comment box below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Decorating!

If you would like assistance with a interior decorating project please email me at