It’s still possible to build something great, something marvelous to match the grand Florida estates of the 20th century. It just requires a little patience and ingenuity, not to mention an ace design team. For a Florida couple looking to create their own iconic addition, the story begins when they amassed a series of three Boca Raton properties along the Intracoastal Waterway over several years—giving them a canvas for discovery. Of course it helped that “the programming was specific from the beginning,” says designer Kristen LeSchander of Marc-Michaels Interior Design. LeSchander, along with senior designer Lindsey Snyder, was responsible for the interiors. “The clients knew what they wanted and how they wanted it to function,” she says.
But first, to build on the knockout site, the clients tapped Tom Benedict, an architect well-known for his facility with Mediterranean-inspired forms. Drawing from Spanish and Italian sources, he created a classic of the genre with columns, archways and colonnades reaching across the palatial estate. He devised a formal plan, putting the house on an axis and affording it spectacular views. The ceilings are high, intensifying the feeling of space and grandeur. Even moving out from the main residence, other structures Benedict designed—the guest house, pool cabana, an open-trellis pergola at the boat dock, for example—“enhance the experience each way you turn,” he says.
Builder Leonard Albanese, a longtime acquaintance of the clients, helped make the project a reality. A part of the undertaking from the get-go, Albanese brought with him his own knowledge of the area’s design as he and the rest of the team “brought back the essence of Palm Beach architecture,” he says. “It’s in line with what you’d find back in the day.” He also brought his two sons along, Nick and Anthony, who had just joined his firm and served as project managers.
Inside the house, LeSchander and Snyder imbued the interiors with a sense of luxurious discovery spurred by the husband’s desire for a feeling that was at once timeless and remarkable without being excessive. “The client wanted us, if we were feeling the instinct to step back, to step forward and push the envelope. The more gold the better, the more carving the better,” says LeSchander, noting the owner’s request for a layered, detailed and warm aesthetic.
Throughout the home, each space had its own unique starting point and finishes that were indeed layered on top. The onyx selection for the foyer floor provided the foundation for the palette in the living and dining rooms, while in the family room, large pieces of sandstone set the tone there. The furnishings, though set in a fairly neutral palette, carry the same level of opulence courtesy of gilded details, and textural fabrics offer comfort and durability for the owners and their friends and family. “You never want to be limited or have blinders on. We let things evolve naturally,” LeSchander remembers. “In the VIP suite, for instance, the detailing—including the paneling and herringbone floor—is very traditional. And those traditional details were complemented by the unexpected layer of the hair-on-hide rug that we inset on the wall behind the bed.”
The clients entrusted the landscaping of the 3-and-a-half-acre site to landscape architect Krent Wieland and senior project manager Stephanie Portus, who created an experiential environment. Although it presented a great opportunity, the property’s sheer magnitude did sway the clients, during early meetings, to ask, “What do we do with all of this space? How do we make it feel like home?” For Portus and company it all came down “to creating destinations and linking them all together,” she says. Showstopping moments mingle with quieter ones, so a grand allée of date palms leads to the pool area and cabana, while a flowering arbor leads to a kitchen garden, one of the husband’s special requests, which also functions as a secluded and intimate dining area.
For Benedict, the work he and the rest of team completed has translated into a home that will “continue to excite and never disappoint,” he says. No matter the need, be it for quiet, for morning or afternoon sun, for a glimpse of the water, or the chance to revel in nature, it’s all there.
—Lisa Bingham Dewart