In A Stunning Palm Beach Home, Author James Patterson, His Family And His Muses Reside In Spectacularly Reimagined Style
James Patterson, one of the best-selling authors of all times, whose hardcover books account for 1 in every 17 books sold in the U.S. and who has sold over 285 million books worldwide, could live anywhere. In fact, his creative offspring — the characters in his novels — do move around, and oftentimes to places about as far from the sunny luxury of Palm Beach, Fla., as you could find.
Yet, while Patterson says he can write anywhere, anytime, seven days a week and that inspiration for new stories is in a continual mental flood, the place he most likes to put that work down on paper is in the totally rebuilt 21,500-square-foot estate on Palm Beach's glistening shore. Though now the restored grandeur is on full display, when Patterson and his wife, Sue, bought the property in 2009, it was in the words of architect Mark Marsh, a "war zone."
While the property sat on two prime acres of beach front, was connected by a shared wall to the former Vanderbilt and John Lennon estate, and held a prestigious Historic Landmark designation, it had fallen into a state of disrepair. "There were no interior walls, no windows, no plumbing, no electricity and the entry level floor was sand," Sue says.
But the couple, who at the time already had a Palm Beach house, saw the superb views that the abandoned property perched 20 feet above sea level possessed. And with the team of Bridges and Marsh, Hedrick Construction and decorator Cynthia Thomas, they committed. "Due to its Landmark status, it was necessary to keep the somewhat boxy exterior unchanged," Thomas says. "But we were at least able to change out 1920s mullioned windows for those with expansive full panes that really opened up the view and brought in the natural light."
"We planned this house for ourselves, this place is about family and friends," Patterson says. "We simply wanted it to feel comfortable, bringing plenty of the outdoors in — and again, create a sense of home."
Eschewing the formal grand entrance, the Pattersons most often enter through a lower foyer that leads to the Escher-like stairwell. With delicately turned wrought iron balustrades, the stairway leads to the second floor that holds the living room, dining room, kitchen, parlor and media room, while the floor above is for Jim's office, bedrooms and sitting rooms. A 10,000-square-foot guesthouse adjoins the main home.
"Sue and I are both visual thinkers. For instance, right now, I'm working on 40 manuscripts — novels, screenplays — they're all alive in my head. I can go from one to another, sort of seeing the whole thing mapped out the way it's going to be. And that's how we were with this house," the author says. "We discussed every piece of furniture, the fabric, the art, the layout of the rooms … we told the contractors that we would not make any changes … wouldn't change our minds. They didn't believe us, but we didn't make even one change."
In the living room, the Pattersons left the original Cuban tile flooring. And above, thick coffers were added. Parts of the original living room ceiling, with its painted Moorish stars, were repurposed as the ceiling of an outdoor loggia.
With another nod to the 1920s, plush lounge chairs from Edward Ferrell flank a high-backed sofa covered in blue velvet. Family photos surround the seating group that is united by an antique Persian area rug and balanced by a Steinway concert grand piano at the far end of the living room.
Up four steps from a foyer, the dining room appears ready for a grand banquet. Caramel-colored leather chairs from Formations pull up to a monolithic table in distressed maple that was handcrafted for the room by Mike Bell Antiques. One of the home's original stone fireplaces and original Cuban tile flooring looks regal beneath an example of the vast collection of art photographs by Andrew Moore. From beneath a custom diamond-coffered ceiling, exquisite French antique chandeliers from Jeffrey Marie Antiques suspend like filigreed stars. And yet, for quiet dinners alone, the couple settles at the tiny table by the window, taking in the ocean and the coming twilight.
But like many families, the Pattersons gather in the kitchen. The color blue accents the heart of the home, where white cabinetry serves as a backdrop to the rich maples of a piano-legged island with its tiny drawers and an eye-popping 3-inch slab of marbled lapis lazuli for its top. Overhead, one from Sue's collection of antique chandeliers gives a dainty sniff of formality to the sunny breakfast space.
With an innate design sensibility, Sue chose two Eames lounge chairs and a Platner occasional table from Design Within Reach for her upstairs sitting room. Dramatic draperies from Rose Cumming and an Orley Shabahang Persian rug make the spot a perfect place for reading her husband's work in progress. And in Patterson's study nearby, that magic is happening. Writing out each of his books by hand on yellow legal pads, tidy stacks of manuscripts grow on shelving that surrounds the room. With simple roman shades to guard against the glare, Patterson says he "… writes all the time … seven days a week, from 5 a.m. to 8 at night." For a former ad man who received 31 rejections for his first novel and believes he was fortunate when an editor at Little, Brown gave him a chance, the author says he "works hard at being lucky."
The master bedroom is another haven that this couple treasures. A plush George Smith rolled-arm sofa in luminous midnight blue seems to invite putting feet up and grabbing a good book.
And if there's a light burning late in an upstairs study at the Patterson house most nights, it's likely Alex Cross or another of the author's hundreds of characters are busy somewhere preparing to get into trouble. But it's certain that the author, himself, has no such plans. Right here, in a home he and his wife built with thought and love … James Patterson's restless muse happily comes to rest.
Cynthia Thomas, Cynthia Thomas, Inc., Palm Beach, FL
Kim Sargent, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Mark Marsh and Guillermo Vazquez, Bridges, Marsh & Assoc., Palm Beach, FL
Gene Parker, Hedrick Brothers Construction Co., Inc., West Palm Beach, FL
Sanchez & Maddux, Inc., Palm Beach, FL