“Simplicity in design is the ultimate sophistication.” That has been John Sculley’s mantra throughout his well-known career, from his days as CEO for Pepsi and Apple, to his current investment ventures along with his wife Diane. The mission statement was no different when the couple embarked on building a new house on the island of Palm Beach. “We wanted the result to be an exceptional, comfortable living experience expressed in a contemporary minimalism of space and materials,” John says. They found a soul mate in New York designer Jennifer Post, who is reputed for her crisp, white modern palette.
In this case, Post’s aesthetic would be dressed in the architecture of Bermuda, where John grew up and whose whitewashed stucco walls and stepped rooflines he has always loved. “I wanted to make it magical,” says Post, who outlined a vision for a modern, chic, sophisticated beach home that would reference and incorporate organic materials. “I wanted there to be light, air, freedom of space, simplicity—and architectural heroes.”
The first “hero” was established right away: a square entry with its own stepped roof that replicates a classic Bermuda buttery, designed before refrigeration to keep butter and other perishables cool; it was a collaborative effort among John, Post and architect Peter Papadopoulos.
The design-savvy owners worked closely with the architect on a blueprint of large rooms and high ceilings that would flow from that focal point. “We really studied that architecture and balanced the whole house around the Bermuda buttery structure,” Papadopoulos says.
Inside, Post created an indoor-outdoor dialogue punctuated with statement-making architectural elements. The massive central living room is anchored on one side with a plantation shutter-style wall—a sculptural metal screen that reveals an equally distinctive stairwell on the other side. “That is the hero of the interiors,” Post says. “It’s reminiscent of iconic plantation shutters, taken to a completely different level.”
The designer also took cues from the stucco exterior, which she had slurried and painted to achieve an airy feeling, like a marshmallow, she says. Its interior iteration is Venetian plaster on every wall—a luscious foundation for the Sculleys’ formidable art collection that includes Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Marc Chagall, among many others.
Next, Post lacquered the floors and ceilings throughout the house, creating a high-gloss juxtaposition to the plaster. The living area got special treatment with soaring beamed ceilings—yet another study in white. “The way the light reflects through the house—it’s jewel-like,” Post says. The Sculleys note that the spare palette makes everything else pop. “It gives you an incredible sense of openness,” Diane says, “and it makes the objects in the house appear even more special.”
Working closely with Post throughout the entire process, Diane was able to draw from her background in the design industry. “Jennifer and I share an obsessiveness to detail,” says Diane, who built more than 100 houses on Palm Beach as vice president of design for Wittmann Building Corporation before leaving to work with John; her former partner, Paul Wittmann, handled the home’s construction. During the project, a productive dialogue was generated between homeowner and designer. “I knew up front I wanted wallpaper and blue accents throughout,” Diane says. For Post, blue was an intuitive choice for an island abode—but not wallpaper, something she had always dismissed as overly decorative. They finally landed on soft botanical motifs for the master and guest bedrooms. “It works very well,” Post admits. In return, she got her client to warm up to Corian, which she used liberally on shelving and surfaces throughout the house. Never before a fan of the man-made material, Diane says, “Now, I love it!”
Post stayed true to her wheelhouse with an all-white kitchen of statuary Carrara marble and custom lacquered cabinetry, anchored by a carefully curated dining area. She designed a Giacometti-inspired frame for the table through Paul Ferrante in New York, and paired it with Roche Bobois chairs that resemble praying mantises. “The table is the hero here,” she says, with the chairs placed as organic sculptures around it.
Nature itself plays a large role in the home’s design. The front door opens on an axis that pulls the eye through the living area and out to the loggia and pool. Floor-to-ceiling doors fold back across the rear, revealing a catwalk, as Post calls it, where the lacquered floors blend seamlessly into the stone terrace. A plate-glass window by the dining table frames a waterfall in Diane’s outdoor yoga area.
The Sculleys wanted the landscaping to be designed so none of the surrounding homes are visible. And landscape designer Keith L. Williams delivered. “The house from the beginning was Bermuda-influenced architecture, so we wanted the gardens to mimic this style, as well,” he says. “We worked closely with John and Diane to achieve a lush tropical look, keeping in mind the house and its architectural features.” In the end, John appreciates how the classic Bermudan exterior morphs into a thoroughly modern interior that’s as sophisticated as his and Diane’s New York apartment. “Both of us are very, very sensitive to design,” he says. “What we love about Jennifer is she’s into pure simplicity— and she has impeccable taste.”
— Jennifer Sergent