A Mediterranean Palm Beach Home with Indian-Inspired Details


Mediterranean Green Bedroom with Turned-Spindle Bed

A Careena textured wool carpet from Stark provides a subtle pattern that sets off a spectacular Indonesian-style turned-spindle bed designed by Garrigues in the bedroom. Custom linens of Marrakesh fabric by Jane Shelton purchased at Jerry Pair accent the green walls. The owners’ loveseat was covered with Nobilis’s Zen fabric; the bedside lamp and end table were purchased at Jennifer Garrigues Inc.

Mediterranean Neutral Sun Room with Piano

In the sun room, Garrigues kept furnishings sparse to ensure the room remained a versatile entertaining space. Along one wall a painting by Moshe Rosenthalis hangs over a settee from Lee Industries, upholstered in Henry Calvin fabric from Donghia. An embroidered Manuel Canovas textile on the pillows, and an antique hand-carved elephant table (circa 1880 from Randall Tysinger Antiques in High Point, North Carolina) provide the Eastern accents.

Mediterranean Neutral Hall with Mahogany Transom Grills

The front hall leads past the dining room and living room, ending at the master bedroom. Garrigues designed custom mahogany transom grills, and Webb Builders fabricated and stained them to give doorways more architectural detail. Lanterns (a glass and brass Moroccan mosque version by the front door flanked by two Indian specimens studded with faux jewels, bone and mother-of-pearl) carry through the Anglo-Indian theme.

Mediterranean Neutral Dining Room with Ikat Chairs

A neutral palette in the dining room allows a colorful abstract work by Charlotte Culot to take center stage. Most of the furniture belonged to the owner, but Garrigues injected exoticism by recovering the chairs in an ikat fabric from Donghia. A custom abaca and sisal rug from Natural Elements in Jupiter grounds the whole design. The capstone trim was inspired by a detail Garrigues photographed in an old Rajasthani palace.

Mediterranean Green Family Room with Floral Chairs

In the verdant family room, adjacent to the kitchen, interior designer Jennifer Garrigues layered on lush textures, freshening the owners’ sofas with a tan Nobilis fabric and dressing up the owners’ armchairs with a floral print from Lee Jofa. Diaphanous Schumacher drapes mute the strong Florida light and provide a soft counterpoint to Stark’s patterned sisal carpet.

Mediterranean Neutral Living Room with Mahogany Pillars

Subtle prints and ikats create a backdrop for mostly Indian accessories that visually transport the home from its Atlantic shores to the banks of the Ganges. However, Moroccan and English pieces, as well as two massive mahogany pillars from Africa that separate the living room from the sun room ensure the Indian aesthetic does not look contrived.

Spec houses are not, by their very nature, generally concerned with the creation of peerless architecture. Their basic ethos—build fast and frugally, often in multiples—is to turn a profit, not turn heads. The result is most often bland structures characterized by pallid finishes and unadventurous materials and fixtures. In other words, expect the expected.

If that approach had ever been enough for the couple who bought this home in North Palm Beach, its allure had seriously paled by 2008 when, desperately craving a space with more character, they called Palm Beach-based interior designer Jennifer Garrigues, who had revamped houses for them in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Quogue, New York. “It was very traditional and a little 1980s,” says Garrigues rather diplomatically. “My client rang up one day and said, ‘I can’t bear it anymore.’ She wanted the place updated to look fresher, more modern, as well as a little more exotic and fun.” Not too modern, however, since the husband was a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist.

Garrigues found her answer in the colonial aesthetic of the British Empire, which was inherently traditional, though casual enough for the South Florida locale. It had just enough sub-continental mystique to enliven the diluted Mediterranean style that is as ubiquitous as palm trees in this part of the world. “It was sort of a shoe-in because I spend so much free time in North Africa and India,” Garrigues explains. “And they had just gone on a tent tour of India themselves, so they were completely ready for it.”

To dress up the interior envelope, Garrigues engaged her longtime collaborator Jesse Fors of Webb Builders in Juno Beach. She disguised the unimaginativeness of the basic squared-frame openings between rooms with mahogany grills of her own design that recalled Indian jali screens, which Fors stained and installed as transoms in the doorways. Then Garrigues gave him a photo showing an architectural detail she had loved in one of the former palaces she’d visited in Rajasthan.

“Using a computer-run knife-cutting system,” says Fors, “we were able to duplicate it exactly.” Now a capstone cornice runs just below the regulation stepped crown moldings around the public rooms, adding a hint of Rajput flair. Fors also contributed new millwork, doors and trim, replaced existing windows with mahogany impact-rated units and re-honed the marble floors.

The revamping extended outdoors as well. “It was a lot of house on a small lot,” says Palm Beach based-landscape architect Mario Nievera, who was hired for the job, “and there wasn’t a lot of connection to the outside.” Nievera began by erecting a tall hedge that closed off the open end of the U-shaped structure, isolating it from the road. He cut arches in the hedge for access, simultaneously creating an enclosed inner courtyard reminiscent of a Moroccan riad. He also ramped up the green by ripping out paving surrounding the house and pool and replacing it with grass-ringed terraces off rooms.

Garrigues combed through the owner’s furnishings, “took the pickings of what we thought would be wonderful for the look we were trying to achieve, and reupholstered them,” she says. Relying mostly on solids, with subtle prints and ikats sprinkled throughout, she created a back- drop for mostly Indian accessories that would visually transport the home from its Atlantic shores to the banks of the Ganges. However, Moroccan and English pieces, as well as two massive mahogany pillars from Africa that separate the living room from the sun room ensure the Indian aesthetic does not look contrived.

The newly worldly home is continents away from the American spec home we all know and don’t really love. Visitors can now, thankfully, expect the unexpected.

—Jorge S. Arango