Some 25 years ago, when designer Janie Molster first visited South Florida, she fell fast for its retro charms and the sense of slow living that blanketed the area like pixie dust. Fast-forward 20 years, and the designer returned to find the region bustling. “The transformation, from the arts scene to the restaurants and nightlife, was like magic,” she recalls. At once, Molster saw the idyll as a place that would nourish her curiosities—and lure her large family brood.
Soon, after a couple rental stints, she and her husband, John, secured a condo of their own. Situated within a 1970s club property, their Delray Beach residence was a walk back in time itself. While certain period details were charming (see: the hallway to her front door, lined with a painted raffia grass cloth “you might find at Sister Parish’s house,” the designer quips) others, like vinyl laminate floors and dated millwork, were less so. A cosmetic renovation, she says, to “clean and open things up” and to brighten the spotlight on the unit’s best feature—magnificent views of the golf course—was the first order of business.
Molster’s “when in Rome” approach proved a many-layered thing. “Part of me wanted to go full-on Palm Beach Regency, but there’s another side of me that loves modern design, so I had to find a way to marry the two ideas,” she explains. Ultimately, finding that rub while honoring the building’s roots would guide the process.
What the designer didn’t anticipate, however, was how naturally those worlds would come together, spurred by her passions for contemporary art and Chinese porcelain. She began collecting both “willy-nilly” immediately after purchasing the condo, amassing her treasures in the guest room of her primary residence in Richmond, Virginia. “My husband would come in, look around and say, ‘Janie, have you even ordered a sofa yet?’” Molster laughs. But there was a method to the madness: “Piles of porcelain sitting next to contemporary art summed up the inspiration,” she shares. The room became her design lab, and she’d reference the shapes and colors within when selecting every detail that followed.
Take the living room, where a pair of Stephanie Henderson bull’s-eye paintings inspired the rounded backs of both sets of lounge chairs as well as their placement atop the sphere jute underfoot. “Ironically, the 1970s saw the birth of the circular rug,” the designer observes. In a move she describes as “landscaping the room,” she carried the theme through to the finishing touches, deploying curvaceous ginger jars across tables, floors and other surfaces.
In the primary bedroom, it was a textile that led the way. Breaking her own rule of avoiding bold prints as a primary focus, Molster selected a fabric depicting yellow flowers for the canopy of her gilded bed and the drapes. “That floral is so different for me, and it’s just fabulous,” she says. “That was my inner Florida demon coming out.” One could argue the designer’s alter ego also had a say in the guest bedroom, with its bamboo beds and monochromatic palm tree wallpaper. But, as with the rest of the residence, anything verging on pastiche is tempered. “The colorway is crisp and not too saccharine,” she muses. “Black and white is a great palette cleanser.” A low-ceilinged hallway designed as a “psychedelic tunnel” with a swirling yellow pattern on the walls and a sunny gold print on the ceiling provides another edgy counterpoint. “I thought, ‘If I can’t fix this architecturally, I’m going to make it something you’re enticed to wander down,’ ” Molster adds.
The designer went all-in on her yellow-and-green palette for its “appropriateness for the era of the building and for Florida’s sunshine and lushness,” she notes. Still, no Janie Molster project would be complete without her favorite hue—pink—and accordingly, the breakfast nook was given a rosy botanical mural. To her surprise, it’s the space she spends the least amount of time in. “I imagined working from that adorable room surrounded by pink and flowering vines, but my husband has commandeered it,” she laughs.
In turn, Molster has claimed a spot of her own: a skirted settee in the sun room she reassigned as a dining area and lounge. “I expected it to function as an overflow entertaining space, but I have my coffee there every morning,” she says. “Places can unfold and surprise you.” Not unlike a certain Florida town that struck a chord and lodged in her heart many years ago.