Ocean views and outdoor living spaces are natural necessities in Palm Beach, Florida, residences. But for an English entrepreneur constructing an estate on the island, so were classical design elements—notably 700 tons of Mexican limestone that would be hand-cut into an impressive array of arches, columns, cornices and balusters.
“We wanted it to be ambassadorial,” the homeowner says of the vision he and his partner shared for their winter home. “Elegant, with high ceilings and beautiful hallways, but also a bit beach house.” Designers Mark Tremblay, Melissa Adair and Rachel Ortiz, who had collaborated with the client before, understood that concept—and knew the interiors would need to accommodate cocktail parties, dinner gatherings and business conferences with style. “The homeowner wanted to convey this is a resort home, but it also had to fit the bill of being a formal space in some areas,” Tremblay says.
When architects Harold Smith and Taylor Smith along with residential designer Angela Janesheski Lehman set about interpreting those ideas, the first thing that came to mind was a formal Palladian villa. “That’s what we used as a theme for the exterior of the house and the basic layout,” Harold Smith says, “and then we allowed the exterior living spaces to feel more like a tropical beach home.”
To that end, the structure welcomes in the outdoors whenever possible. On the east side of the home’s central gallery, the club and dining rooms open to uncovered terraces, and the formal living room faces a covered morning loggia. On the western side, an interior courtyard and a portico connect the family room to the grand afternoon pool, the outdoor entertaining pavilion and, beyond, the tennis pavilion and court. “The client wanted a light and airy feeling in this house, which is why we centered the floor plan on an interior courtyard—and used light-colored materials,” Harold Smith explains. “When we weren’t using tumbled limestone flooring, we used a bleached walnut that has a beachy feel. It’s not a gilded interior; it’s just very pleasing and serene.”
Landscape designer Keith Williams emphasized that effect by strategically placing courtyards and gardens around the house. “The views are not obvious but more filtered, giving you a hint that more is to come when walking through the gardens,” he says. Large gardenia mounds and citrus trees planted along the pool terraces scent the air.
Tremblay, Adair and Ortiz carried the resplendent atmosphere inside by incorporating design details that celebrate Palm Beach tradition—with a twist. In the central gallery, they painted the Doric pilasters and classically trimmed beams and soffits pure white, then hung polished nickel lanterns at each doorway, “taking the antiqueness of all the moldings and bringing it to a fresher, brighter place,” Tremblay says. In the morning room, they accented the walls with a lattice wall paneling—a direct nod to Palm Beach—but chose a creamy neutral background color, rather than the expected tropical green. The modern touches reflect the mindset behind the construction of the home, led by general contractor Rick Burns. “We pretended this was a place that has been here for 100 years and has just been updated over time,” he says.
Similarly, Tremblay, Adair and Ortiz encouraged the homeowner to combine the traditional furnishings he favors with more contemporary pieces. Living room tables and chests that resemble antiques mingle with current designs, from a sculptural brass and blown-glass chandelier to a glass cocktail table that appears to float over a sleek ottoman. The blended look is especially present in the pine-paneled club room. “The owner wanted the space to feel like an English pub,” Adair says. To update the classic style, she painted the surrounding walls a deep blue-green—“an unexpected alternative to hunter green,” she notes—and introduced a contemporary mirrored coffee table, draperies in an ikat pattern and a blush sofa. “Melissa switched what would be expected in that room and gave it a newer approach,” Tremblay says.
No matter the furniture, the designers made sure to maximize the beach vista in every area. “The key is the placement of the furnishings, because you want to create opportunities for view orientation,” Tremblay says. The outdoors are particularly embraced in an oceanfront lounge the duo outfitted like an indoor cabana, specifying crisp white walls, a deep ocean-blue ceiling and a simple wainscoting inset with grass-cloth wallpaper. A palm frond- inspired chandelier drapes above a slipcovered sofa, a fossilized clamshell-topped coffee table and braided abaca rope chairs that swivel to face the ocean views.
Yet the best vantage of all isn’t from a room but rather the rooftop. There, a glass hatch door opens onto a deck with a 360-degree panorama of glittering coastline. “I’m very keen on nice views,” the homeowner says, “and I finally have one in Palm Beach.”