In Palm Beach, a stark-white contemporary structure stands out like a glittering island in a sea of red-tile-roofed mansions. But this monumental Florida home, perched along the Intracoastal Waterway on tiny Ibis Isle, wasn’t just designed to catch the eye of passersby. Rather, every inch of it was created to showcase a couple’s spectacular private collection of contemporary artworks.
After 15 years of serious collecting, the homeowners have acquired more than 500 pieces. “You name the visual art–photography, video art, painting, sculpture–we like to collect it,” the husband says. “We buy only what we both love, because we live with it.” Their dynamic assemblage is ever-growing–and always moving from room to room, house to house–so their new Palm Beach abode needed to accommodate a range of works, from an illuminated display by Leo Villareal to one of Nicole Wermers’ floor-to-ceiling totems.
To bring their vision to life, the couple chose an architect who understands their style: Kyle Webb, who had designed a 2,400-square-foot art gallery for their Colorado home several years before. “We had a clear vision for that gallery, and it is sitting there today,” the husband says. “We knew Kyle could design what’s in our heads.”
For the couple’s Palm Beach home, Webb and project architect Lauren Walton designed a contemporary residence comprising simple boxy forms of white stucco and pale limestone. An ipe-wood column marks the front entrance, which leads to an open kitchen, dining and sunken living area with views of the water. To the right is a cozy den; to the left is a guest wing that includes three suites. The second-floor master suite includes a bedroom, a bathroom, a gym and his-and-her offices.
Connecting the two levels is a sculptural steel staircase that appears to float in midair. Walnut treads and risers “offer a nice place to put your bare feet,” Walton says, and a wall of glass affords a clear view of the illuminated handrail. “There was no hiding flaws in this staircase,” says general contractor Larry Frankel, who collaborated on the project with his partner, builder John Shahzade. “The execution had to be perfect.”
Other walls of glass–in the living area, kitchen and master suite–open onto spacious terraces, uniting the home’s indoor and outdoor living spaces. “Almost every room has a sliding glass door to the outside,” the husband says. “We’re so connected to the water, we feel like we’re on a boat.” To counterbalance those sleek surfaces, the architects created a warm mix of interior finishes, including ash and bleached-walnut floors, book-matched walnut cabinetry, textured limestone walls and, in the master bathroom, a seamless expanse of white marble walls, floors, countertops and cabinetry.
The materials set a backdrop for the artwork, and Webb and Walton actually designed the residence with a few specific pieces in mind–most notably, Liam Gillick’s colored-Plexiglas screen that separates the dining area from the entry. Yet to offer adaptability, they focused on creating flexible display spaces. “We planned for power for electrical pieces, mounted adjustable tracks for hanging art and installed â…-inch-thick plywood walls behind the drywall to ensure artworks could be hung securely,” Webb says. A lighting engineer installed 164 recessed and surface-mounted accent lights to emphasize the art and architecture. “We didn’t want anything too fancy,” Webb explains, adding the illumination was intended to be simple and flatter the home’s finishes.
The same rule applied to furnishings, which are minimal in number and style. Webb and Walton helped the homeowners with their selections, choosing pieces that lean toward rich wood tones and neutral, understated fabrics–with the occasional pop of color from a red footstool here, a patterned pillow there. “We focused on creating a soft, muted palette with lots of contrast, because we knew the art would be really colorful,” Walton says. As they did with the structure, the architects designed rooms to accommodate special pieces, like the sofa that fits the sunken living area’s dimensions “down to the inch,” Webb says, and the dining area’s circular ceiling light fixture customized to perfectly match the circumference of the marble-topped table beneath it.
Woven outdoor furnishings carry the streamlined aesthetic onto the home’s spacious terraces, where the simple structure merges with manicured grounds by landscape designer Keith Williams and project manager Matt Jackman. Roofs planted with green island ficus soften stark walls, recessed terraces blend seamlessly with lawns, and patches of grass are inlaid into the stone-paver driveway. “We wanted the driveway to be functional but artistic–almost pixelated in appearance–with contrasting stone colors, grass joints and LED lighting,” Williams says.
A meandering, multilevel water feature is equally elaborate: An infinity-edge lap pool follows one side of the house before stepping and turning around to the front. “You can walk through the entire pool and fountains, and the walls direct your view to important features,” Williams says, pointing to Rafael Barrios’ Dislocated Vertical–a 14-foot-tall sculpture that punctuates the entry fountain.
The home’s ability to showcase art at every turn comes as no surprise to the homeowners; what they didn’t expect was for the structure to become part of their collection. “Everywhere you look, there’s something interesting to see,” the husband says. “There’s a lot of great art in the house, but this house itself is a piece of art.”