When New Jersey-based interior designer Suzy Moran’s family grew to include grandchildren, so did her desire to create a Palm Beach getaway that would not only accommodate them but also provide a beautiful, peaceful year-round retreat. She had a vision for creating a welcoming home, one where she could weave old and new into delightful combinations from room to room—where family treasures would touch a new generation and perhaps inspire a story to be told. It would also be a place where lush gardens would provide each room with a unique and dreamy view of continuous blooms and greenery. “My favorite part of being here is to have family with me—it is a gathering place,” she says. “The interior is meant to be comfortable, elegantly sophisticated, not trendy and, most importantly, a home where family and friends can truly relax, which is why all of the family room’s furniture is indoor-outdoor, worry-free and meant to be lived in.”
The team that worked side by side with Moran included Connecticut architect Mark Finlay, builder Jim Woolems and landscape architect John E. Lang. Honoring aspects of the British Colonial or Regency architectural style was the goal—and one that dovetailed perfectly with Moran’s desire to fit her home around her family treasures, such as antiques, collectibles, art and new additions. In fact, drawings were modified over time to accommodate the designer’s furnishing additions.
It was important, too, to both Moran and Finlay that the house fit quietly into the neighborhood’s existing architectural stew. “This house is in a tight neighborhood, typical old Palm Beach. So this style is contextual,” says Finlay, who designed the home with the help of Jay Valade, one of his partners at the firm. “And I wanted to create something simple and elegant that would leave a singular statement.”
The final structure, completed in 15 months, looks as though it has been here among the old estates for years— an elegant white stucco home, capped with a striking dark tile roof, a nod to the English country home. Inside, the symmetrical layout aligns with the Regency style of the 1800s, as well. “The intimate foyer opens to the living room and has a distant view to the pool area. It’s a transparent layout,” Finlay notes. “To the left is the kitchen and family and dining room wing that opens to the pergola and pool. The wing to the right has a guest suite, laundry room and a library that again opens to the pool.”
Ceilings are more than 10 feet high on the first level and over 9 feet high on the second level, which gives a pleasing scale to the rooms, each of which is detailed with moldings, paneling and built-ins. Where there is wood flooring, the choice was random-width hickory that was hand-scraped. It’s the way it would have been done in the early years and creates texture, according to Finlay. The kitchen, breakfast room and family room are the exceptions—cool, fuss-free and velvety limestone was the choice here.
Acquiring the proper approvals for the 7,000-square- foot home took some creative problem-solving. A narrow lot, setbacks, neighbors on three sides, proximity to the road, and the requirement to build to hurricane code were all contributing factors. Adding a guesthouse to the garage also created more building challenges on the site.
“Suzy wanted the garage to be in the back of the house, and the lot is very narrow,” Woolems says. “So we had to figure out how to make the entryway visually appealing. When we got past that hurdle, then we had to modify the plans for adding a second floor for guest quarters. But nothing helps more in these situations than experience. We just sat down and creatively solved the issue.”
Lang’s firm just celebrated its 30th year in business here, and so his garden portfolio is diverse, to say the least. “Suzy is very astute,” he says. “She had a definite feeling in mind for what she wanted and had a lot of input into what we did.” The overall concept was to plant a classic American Colonial garden with some twists. “Bilateral symmetry, clean, crisp lines, a simple palette, everything in its place and complementing the architecture,” Lang adds, “all came into play.” The surprise twist was that it would be executed with a tropical palette. “That led to an organized garden with a comfortable island feel to it,” he says. “There’s no extra fluff in this garden. We paid a lot of attention to the exterior and what views are formed from the rooms.”
The other consideration in the plant layout, Lang says, was to have the garden blooming all 12 months of the year. “Suzy has a busy lifestyle,” he says. “Where some Palm Beach clients might only spend winters here, that was not the case this time.” Aside from getting plenty of use out of the house for entertaining family and friends, Moran also uses it for charitable events. Lush plantings include ficus hedges, Italian cypress, royal palms, mandevilla for the trellis, and lots of white jasmine.
Elegant simplicity is the best way to describe Moran’s personal design ethos. “And I am inspired by my travels, books, architecture and fashion,” she says. “I never know when a design idea will jump up and hit me.” Perhaps this creation makes the point perfectly.