The term “Florida style” means different things to different people. While some might picture gilded Versace-like mansions, others might envision beach bungalows with palm tree-imprinted pillows. One New York couple had something else in mind entirely, and their idea aligned with a classic Regency- style house in North Palm Beach’s prestigious Lost Tree Village. Enamored of its formal presence and original detailing, but underwhelmed by the timeworn materials and dated proportions of the original 1970s home, the couple believed that, given the proper attention, the house could become the elegant yet inviting family getaway they imagined.
Architect Brian J. Collins was brought aboard first to assess the situation. “The house was structurally sound,” says Collins, “but the distribution of rooms wasn’t ideal. Given the bones of the edifice, though, you could tell that something special could be done.” And that’s exactly what he did. Because the house was “undersized for its lot,” Collins explains, the owners wanted to maximize the space they were allowed without changing the aesthetic that first attracted them. “The plan was basically an H-shape that we expanded,” says the architect. The center portion containing the public living areas remained in place, while in the back, a new master suite was added to one side and a large kitchen and breakfast room to the other. In front, an updated garage and a new detached guesthouse flank the entry.
Despite the major construction changes, Collins designed the expanded structure to incorporate the existing Regency-style details. “It had an extensive cornice, which we took down because most of it had rotted out, but we replicated it and made it better,” he says. “If the clients hadn’t kept that detail, the project might have lost its charm.”
Builder Michael Conville carried out the labor-intensive work. “We also redid the quoins, rebuilt the columns in the same style and replaced the pediments on the roof,” he explains. “To tie the new construction together with the old, some of it needed to be rebuilt.” The exterior architectural elements were set off with a two-tone paint job in hues selected from Lost Tree Village’s original approved color palette. “The whole intention of this project was to stay true to the architecture,” says Collins. “I was just the caretaker; we enhanced what was already there.”
The same could be said for the inside, where interior designer Lisa Erdmann enhanced the architectural shell and created an environment that supports the owners’ lifestyle. “The clients wanted a mixture of formal and casual spaces,” she says, “but they didn’t want it to feel so precious that you couldn’t go in wearing a swimsuit.” Erdmann, along with senior designer Eden C. Tepper, first established a relationship with the exterior by creating a rich material backdrop—selecting marble floors for the entry and designing detailed millwork throughout.
“The original interiors were a little minimal,” she notes. “There wasn’t any sign of moldings in some of the rooms.” Now, elements such as wainscoting in the dining room, built-in bookcases in the informal living room and ceilings in the newly constructed kitchen made to look coffered underscore the traditional and sophisticated sensibility of the architecture.
Once the surface finishes were decided, Erdmann turned her focus to the furnishings. The clients’ collection of 18th-century English antiques and a refreshing love of bold design choices provided the direction. “There was no talk of muted or understated,” explains Erdmann. “The wife wanted pattern and color.” Happy to oblige, the designer selected vivid blue fabrics to reupholster the owners’ tailored pieces in the formal living room and painted built-in millwork in the adjoining room in a similar hue. Sherbet-colored seat cushions adorn the breakfast area while deep navy wallpaper lines the dining room. In the master bedroom, wallcovering and draperies were made from the same yellow toile.
The exterior rooms were the only spaces Erdmann allowed a muted palette. Collins carved out a large covered terrace at the back of the house between the master suite and the octagonal breakfast room, and Erdmann appointed it with dining and lounging areas. “We kept the colors neutral so your eye goes out to the pool and foliage,” she says.
Landscape architect Krent Wieland and senior project manager Stephanie Portus were brought in to completely transform the greenery and redesign the site to “reinforce the elegant lines of the architecture,” explains Portus. Using tropical coral stone for the terrace, podocarpus hedges to provide privacy and tall Italian cypress trees to line the entrance, the duo created dynamic spaces and formal boundaries. “The last thing we wanted to do was compete with the architecture or cover up detailing,” says Portus. “We more or less created the frame for a masterpiece.”