Here was the perfect setting for a magnificent, sprawling home in Palm Beach. With its big, open views of the water, the potential was never in question. Originally designed by Harold Smith of Smith and Moore Architects and built by Gary Greenberg of Palm Beach Construction & Management for previous owners, the stately house boasted high ceilings and a mesmerizing stew of carved geometrics, classic paneling, deep arches and coffered ceilings. Each space, completely different from the next, provided the new homeowners and their designer— Connecticut-based Linda Ruderman—with the opportunity to create a design that illustrates the very essence of Palm Beach elegance. But the previous owners, Ruderman says, had very different tastes, as the home was filled to the brim with dark furniture and lots of chintz. Her clients were looking for something for their new full-time residence that was quite the departure. “They wanted the space to be light and transitional,” notes Ruderman, “and they wanted it to showcase their Pop art collection.”
To achieve the lighter mood, fabrics, flooring and rugs are all neutral, allowing the intricate millwork, tropical views and notable art to shine, as works from Haring to Wesselmann surprise and delight at every turn. The vibrant Pop art juxtaposed against traditional furnishings infuses the otherwise tranquil space with sparks of color, and gave Ruderman the opportunity to move similar hues into the rooms via accent pieces and textiles. For example, the entry foyer, where Gimhongsok’s berry red balloon sculpture feels at home next to a petite custom-made wood table, serves as a whimsical introduction to the design story to come. (The sculpture’s title, 10 Sizes of Breaths, seems, too, the proper description of what guests may do as they take in this visual adventure.)
Wide entries from room to room invite and easily guide the homeowners and their guests to the focal point of the main level—an immense living room connected to a newly built loggia. Framed with water and sky views, it is where sunsets form brushstrokes of blazing color that fill the space. There is a natural flow here, Ruderman says, that is perfect for entertaining—something the owners relish and do frequently. One end of the living room, complete with four comfy armchairs and a sofa, provides an intimate conversation cluster, as does the opposite end, where a replace, twin sofas and two more armchairs welcome relaxation. The entire length of the room parallels the loggia, where additional seating options give guests a plethora of views and gathering places.
While most of the other rooms required only minor cosmetic work, the loggia needed rebuilding. Builder Tim Givens focused his energies here for some time, along with architect Jeffery W. Smith, explaining that in order to have the space function as an enclosed area, the second floor of the home had to be shored up and structural beams and steel columns had to be rearranged. “The original loggia ceiling was removed, the air conditioning was reworked, and then ceilings were replaced,” says Givens, “and the entire space was enclosed with a sliding glass door.”
Givens also worked with Ruderman to build the new replace mantels there and in the living room, execute lighting changes and rewiring, and rebuild kitchen countertops and a bar. On the outside, his firm facilitated the remodeling of an existing pool, which is nestled into a landscape designed by Mario Nievera. Also out on the loggia, Ruderman and Smith partnered to design a built-in seating area that tucks into a corner. A mirrored-and-latticed surround ensures that water views are never out of sight. Ruderman designed several conversation areas there, as well as a casual place to have breakfast, and when the glass sliders close, the space can function as a television room.
Back inside, the formal dining room’s design is decidedly elegant, with an antique dining table that belonged to the homeowners and traditional draperies framing the tall windows. The transitional details come in on the buttery soft leather seating, which is wrapped in custom-embroidered fabric that takes its cues from the draperies. It’s a serene space that begs for candlelight.
For the private spaces on the second floor, the designer’s choices are markedly sublime. Dreamy, soft sky blue is the lead color for the second-floor landing that leads to the master bedroom. Hand-stenciled grass cloth surrounds the wide hall and echoes the blue of the slim little puff of a window seat. It is the perfect decompression zone before the spacious, light- filled master bedroom, where cushy reading chairs and a luxurious bed embrace the concept of relaxation. “The bed was positioned to face the water view ahead, and the custom wood piece was created to house the television while keeping in mind the traditional architecture of the room,” Ruderman says. “It was built out at a height so as not to obstruct the view.” The designer kept fabrics and the carpeting quiet, as well as the walls, which are pearlized in a pale celadon tone.
What began as a space in need of freshening unfurled like a cocoon and revealed a new home with a new purpose, where color, like in a butterfly’s wing, pops and surprises and celebrates beauty.
— Anna Kasabian