The Secret of the River

“The Secret of the River” as featured in Stuart Magazine, March 2016, written by Wendy Dwyer

When Dianne Davant was a little girl, she rearranged her furniture so often that her mom was afraid to enter the room without turning on the lights.  It seems the only person surprised when Davant found her way through a series of college majors to a career in interior design may have been Davant herself.

The designer says one of her biggest challenges so far has been the renovation of the Palm City home she shares with her husband, H. Lee Moffitt.

“We are on a large amount of property on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River, where we have a beautiful view to the Roosevelt Bridge and a panoramic view of the river,” Davant says, whose Dianne Davant & Associates design firm has offices in North Carolina and Port St. Lucie.

The view wasn’t really the issue that precipitated the renovation for Davant.  It was the couple’s desire to enjoy that view and appreciate it with great passion and respect. “The house was a typical 1970s design, with many different levels,” she says.  “It took finding the one key element – the kitchen granite – which started my thought process and imagination.”

Davant took advantage of the natural river-like beauty of the granite with its flowing colors that always come back to blue, and began to recreate the home to suit the vision she and her husband shared.  They wanted a casual home that embraced the natural beauty of its environment and provided a comfortable setting for everyday life and spur-of-the-moment entertaining.  They eliminated a long brick wall segmenting the kitchen from the living and dining room area and opened up the space, leaving only one of the four levels reminiscent of the 1970s passion for split levels and shag carpeting.  They also raised the ceilings to vaulted heights and added more windows to allow for natural light and panoramic views of the beautiful St. Lucie River.  The open floor plan perfectly suits the power couple, who love to live casually and invite friends over at the spur of the moment.  Friends love to come and enjoy the comfortable and eclectic space.  Fun features and accessories include a bar created from a gondola, a wicker basket, which has carried passengers to lofty heights via a hot air balloon and a living room chandelier that once hug at The Breakers Palm Beach and was restored by Davant.

Throughout the house, there are elements of the eclectic personalities of the couple and their shared passion for history, nature, and of course, their beloved dapple dachshunds, Blossom, who recently died at the age of 15, and Rosebud, lovingly referred to as Buddy.  Despite having a storied career, including Moffitt serving as the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and being the driving force and namesake of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, the couple’s beloved pets were celebrities in their own right, starring in Davant’s business advertising for a couple of years.

“I think my goal in my design practice is to pull out the vision from my clients to help create the most comfortable and happy space for them,” Davant says.  “I like to take their style and personality and comfort level and help them achieve the interior of their dreams.”

One way Davant accomplishes this is by celebrating her own love of eclecticism and the joy of the search.  “During the construction on our home project, I was actually working on renovating a castle in North Carolina, and I went to a salvage yard in West Palm Beach, looking for front doors.  As it happened, they had just completed the demolition work on the Wackenhut Castle in Miami, and they had so many architectural elements.  I called my clients from North Carolina to fly down and explore with me, “she says.  The trip was not only beneficial for the client, who found stained glass from the 1500s handcrafted in France and light fixtures, but it was also beneficial for Davant’s home project as well.  She found railings, windows and stained glass entry doors for her own home.

In a world obsessed with order and consistency, one of the reasons Davant’s services are in such high demand is her fresh perspective.  “I love eclectic,” she says.  I don’t like things to look too matched, and I love when all sorts of styles and types of elements work together to create a space with real flow.”

This refreshing outlook may be why she handled the renovation of the Miami Dolphin’s stadium twice, the renovation of the original Floridian Country Club in Palm City, and the renovation to the home of University of Florida president W. Kent Fuchs and his wife, Linda, in conjunction with City Furniture and Bernhardt Furniture.

For Davant, it’s truly a team effort, and while the business bears her name, she relies heavily upon her dedicated and wildly creative staff of about a dozen imaginative individuals, including five designers.  Many of Davant’s staff have been with her for more than two decades and Davant is a credentialed, licensed professional interior designer.  Her dedication to design has helped her break new ground and explore new opportunities, including a very exciting Palm City project she’s working on now to create a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified home.

And while they enjoy their home in the North Carolina mountains too, Davant and Moffitt are delighted with the renovation and the extraordinary view of the river.  Indeed, they seem to have found the secret from the river Hermann Hesse shared in Siddhartha:  “The river is everywhere at the same time…and the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”