Charmed by whitewashed pecky cypress walls and earthy terra-cotta floors, designer Scott Sanders felt an instant connection with an apartment tucked inside The Reef in Palm Beach. “It was dark, and the interiors hadn’t been touched since the original owner purchased it in the 1970s, but when we walked in, it just spoke to me,” he recalls. “We bought it the next day.” Sanders and his husband, Peter Wilson, were enamored with the storied residential building. The stark-white, postmodern stunner on South Ocean Boulevard had been designated a historic landmark, and the frozen-in-time unit offered them the chance to embrace the building’s rich architecture. “I didn’t want to rip it all out,” the designer says of the interior, “but wished to retain some integrity that matched the exterior of the building.”
Part of what drew the couple to this residence were its existing furnishings—which, in a kismet moment, were offered to them at closing. They immediately agreed and, like a treasure hunt through a time machine, Sanders discovered covet-worthy pieces around the unit and inside the poolside cabana that would ultimately be updated and used to meld the past with the present. “The previous owner had fabulous taste and hired a designer in the ’70s who had a lot of style, and they created this apartment,” he says. “I’m very fortunate to pick up where they left off.”
Desiring a separate identity from his New York home, the designer pursued an overall white palette recalling the building’s façade. He reupholstered a 10-piece midcentury sectional in white linen and scattered the set throughout the living area, primary bedroom and cabana. “I was inspired by Ralph Lauren’s apartment designed by Angelo Donghia, with white slipper sofas and chairs that I saw in a magazine in the ’80s,” explains Sanders, who helped launch and lead the interior design department at Ralph Lauren before striking out on his own. “It’s such a clean look.”
Other significant finds included 50-year-old draperies made of oatmeal-hued Belgian linen with a white open-weave pattern that now—after a proper cleaning—regally hang in the living area and bedrooms. But it was the gem hiding in a corner that’s the showstopper of the dining area: a brass floor lamp by Tommaso Barbi fashioned in an oversize leaf form. Because the piece had oxidized over time, Sanders replated it. “It’s just incredible,” gushes the designer, who also reinvigorated a brass orb chandelier that punctuates the space and a chrome Curtis Jeré Skyscraper lamp that rests in the living area next to a reimagined cane sofa. “I was so happy to be able to bring all these beautiful pieces back to life.”
Sanders seamlessly blended the midcentury furnishings with vintage pieces he meticulously sourced from Antique Row. “I didn’t just go to one showroom and buy everything,” he explains. “I started collecting unusual things on Dixie Highway, and it all works together.” Rattan pretzel chairs the designer acquired are now swathed in a white terry cloth similar to the living area sectional, and small brass accents positioned throughout the space connect the brass chandelier and leaf floor lamp.
To further create an airy, light ambience, Sanders swapped the living area’s heavy Oriental rugs for an expansive jute and replaced wall-to- wall brown shag carpet in the bedrooms with seagrass. New glass impact doors also contribute, flooding spaces with natural light. To break up the white backdrop, he added pops of bright colors, including orange living area pillows that mingle with the terra-cotta flooring and the primary bedroom’s turquoise lamps and settee.
Bold artwork further accomplishes this color goal—like the six Sol LeWitt pieces that hang in the living area and primary bedroom. “It’s a collection of pieces Peter and I have amassed over the years,” the designer notes, pointing to the hand-painted plates above the entry’s credenza that were a wedding gift from the artist who created them. A mix of old and new, the residence is now uniquely them. “I call it ‘Palm Beach eclectic,’” Sanders says. “It’s a layered, happy place. It doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter apartment, because it has so much history and a lot of depth.”