A Relaxing Retreat

“A Relaxing Retreat” written by Peter Lioubin, reprinted from Florida Architecture Magazine.

Worth Avenue, Palm Beach’s legendary shopping street, is an idyllic location for a second home.  Not only does it provide access to some the world’s best shopping and dining in a pedestrian setting, it also is flanked by water on its eastern and western ends, ensuring a constant flow of cross breezes and sweeping views.

One couple’s apartment on the western end of Worth Avenue, overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, is a nod to both the relaxed tropical lifestyle of South Florida and the sophistication of Palm Beach.  To create that peaceful mood and casual elegance, they looked to designer Dianne Davant.

“We had designed an apartment for friends of the owners in the same building, ” Davant explains, “but they wanted something completely different.  Everything from the layout to the ceiling details to the color palette turned out to be very distinct.”

Because this is one of many homes owned by the couple, they wanted to be sure it was easy maintenance-wise.  “This was to be a rather simple place for their lifestyle in Florida,” Davant says.

The clients had specific requests.  One was the color palette.  They wanted peaceful colors like soft aquas and blues and pale silver tones, or what Davant calls ” a watercolor palette.” They also wanted his and her baths and closets.

“It took a lot of design effort to figure out how to make that happen in a small space,” Davant notes.  By reconfiguring the layout and the spatial dynamics, “we did end up with generous baths and closets for each of them.”

Working within the color palette the owners identified, Davant located beautiful fabrics such as gauzy window treatments and embroidered linens that gave the space an open, airy effect.  She also used numerous mirrors throughout to reflect the outdoors and give the illusion of more space.  “It was important to make the space feel as open as possible, because it is small,” she says.

One of the factoids Davant learned while interviewing the owners was that they had a passion for horses, and that the wife also loved carousel horses.  The designer was able to find a beautiful antique Dentzel Arabian stallion carousel horse, which she had restored and painted in the custom colors.  The horse takes center stage in the living room.

Another nod to their love for horses is a painting by Peruvian horse portrait artist Gladys Morante.  “I was looking for one great painting that would make the space pop,” Davant muses.  “This painting was stunning, very dramatic.  The horses added a lot of dimension to that space.”

The sofa and love seat in the living room are covered in a soft sea-mist chenille and accented with throw pillows in a variety of patterns, including animal prints and a bright aqua fabric with coral and shell motifs.

A woven cocktail table with contrasting leather detail adds texture to the room and contributes to the relaxed tropical vibe.

“In creating this whole palette, I wanted to really flow with the outside and feel a part of the surroundings,” Davant explains.  “That expands the feeling of the space.”

On the other side of the room is a game area, used for playing cards or casual dining for two.  The large table overlooks the Intracoastal and other parts of Palm Beach, so it has become one of the owners’ favorite spaces.  Framing the view are light linen draperies embroidered with palm trees, which the designer used to reinforce the theme of tropical living.

In the dining room, Davant began with an oval wood table from Emerson et Cie’s Palermo line of European antique reproductions and complemented it with round-back dining chairs painted in soft silver hues and covered in blue and gray striped linen.  A custom painted buffet provides a contrast to the rich woods.  “I like introducing different woods and different textures,” Davant says.  “I like eclectic interiors.”

One the opposite side of the buffet is a wrought iron console with a marble top, a reproduction of a French antique.  An oversized, framed mirror above the console helps to enlarge the space as it reflects the water views.

The kitchen cabinets were custom finished to reflect the color of “a pool of water.”  The watery blue-gray color works beautifully with the unusual gray and lilac tones of the granite counters.  The scene is completed by a custom painted palm tree tile backsplash and a top-lit display cabinet showcasing a collection of Majolica plates.

On one end of the long galley kitchen sits an office area frequently used by the husband.  It is perhaps an unorthodox combination, but because the space was small, it was important to maximize efficiency and make all areas function optimally.

The master bedroom is dominated by a four bed and a color palette of silver and pale aqua.  Here, again, Davant used a combination of natural and painted woods to give the room an eclectic, not overly decorated, look.  On the far end of the room is a writing desk for the lady of the house.  The space, Davant says, is “elegant without being overly formal.”

In the guest room, a woven sea grass sleigh bed is another example of the use of texture and natural materials that speak to the tropical setting.  A polka dot sheer drapery adds a touch of whimsy.

“I think we provided the clients with a very comfortable, cozy, tranquil getaway,” Davant says.  “It is a place they can escape to and experience all the pleasure this location affords them.”