I always say I didn’t choose Palm Beach—Palm Beach chose me,” Sarah Wetenhall says. This was true the minute she and her husband, Andrew Wetenhall, locked eyes as undergraduates at Vanderbilt University. Andrew’s family had deep ties to the Florida island, and frequent trips throughout their courtship eventually blossomed into recurring sojourns with their three young children in tow. When Andrew’s father, a longtime co-owner of The Colony Hotel, was offered the opportunity to buy the property outright, he had another idea: “He said, ‘Thanks, but I’m 84,’ ” Sarah laughs. “‘But maybe ask my son and daughter-in-law, because they have a real passion for Palm Beach.’ Fast-forward a ton of steps, and here we are.”
Operating the iconic 1940s establishment would require the couple to split time between Palm Beach and their main residence in New York. A home base in Florida was needed, and Casa Manana—the lavish 1920s estate across the street from the hotel—proved the idyllic choice. Formerly the home of the hotel’s founders, the manse has since been divided into seven two-bedroom, extended-stay villas owned by The Colony Hotel, one of which the Wetenhalls envisioned making their own.
The other clear decision was who should oversee the interior design of the residence. With Kemble Interiors already renovating the hotel, Sarah confidently turned to firm designers Lori Deeds and Kerol DeCristo to reimagine the family’s villa by honoring its old-world style in a modern way.
Of paramount importance was preserving the unit’s old-growth pecky cypress beams and arched doors, which had been buried under decades of staining and varnish. “My idea was to lighten things up with a lime wash,” Deeds says of the treatment that would brighten the space while celebrating the wood’s character. For extra crispness, each room was painted the same creamy white. “The goal was to pull everything back to what it was intended to be,” Sarah explains.
Wall-to-wall carpeting was added to cozy up the bedrooms, yet the residence’s original terra-cotta flooring throughout the central living area was carefully retained. “The tiles keep things cool,” Sarah says. “Plus, they lend an indoor-outdoor ambience. I love leaving the French doors open so you feel the breeze and hear the fountain in the courtyard and the golfers teeing off at the Everglades Club.”
In the kitchen and bathrooms, hands-on Sarah partnered with Lora McKinnon of Lora McKinnon Designs to spearhead renovations, executed by architect Peter Papadopoulos and general contractor Josh Pertnoy. Notably, the team repositioned the kitchen to allow for an eat-in breakfast bar and raised the ceiling for much-needed storage. A pecky cypress door, once connecting the bedrooms, was relocated to the kitchen to enclose a new pantry, and laundry units were cleverly stashed beneath the new built-in bar.
Architectural gems preserved, Deeds and DeCristo dove into finishes and furnishings. “We kept things luxuriously simple—sisal rugs, linen fabrics, bamboo poles,” Deeds says. Spurred by a textile with a leaf-like print, the duo dreamed up a palette of pale apricot, aqua and chocolate to lace together the great room’s disparate functions. The dining area hosts a vintage teak table that cozily seats six, and the living area is defined by a cream-and-black sofa, rattan petal chairs Deeds created with a local craftsman and slipper armchairs donning the fabric that inspired the overall look. Adding signature flourish, a dead space was turned into a hangout area for the children, replete with a pale blue banquette with tasseled fringe.
Embroidered curtains, meanwhile, inspired the airy feel of the master bedroom. “We layered it with wonderful organic textures, like shagreen night tables, an inlaid bone bench and a carved peacock mirror above the original fireplace mantel,” Deeds says. The second bedroom, shared by all three children, required special planning to accommodate each occupant. “Twin beds felt small for growing kids, and doubles were too big for the room,” Sarah explains. The solution: A vintage rattan daybed notches perfectly into an alcove, while two matching beds whimsically canopied in a light green and blue fabric boast 4-foot mattresses crafted by a local bedmaker.
With such a singular place to call home, it’s no wonder the Wetenhalls’ youngest generation has inherited a passion for Palm Beach. “My littlest calls the island her happy place,” Sarah shares. “Before she goes to bed each night, she counts down, ‘How many sleeps until we’re back?’ ” With this family legacy, it likely won’t be long.