Island Inspired

When An Imaginative Design Team Works With Clients Who Set Few Rules, The Result Is A Comfortable Tropical Home Full Of Whimsy And Fun With Just The Right Touch Of Palm Beach Sophistication

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After one of the first meetings with her new clients, interior designer Mimi McMakin remembers walking away with a smile on her face. She turned to her design team member Ashley Sharpe and said, "This is going to be fun."

The owner's wife had just chosen the first bit of fabric for the project. It was a tropical motif of hibiscus, royal poinciana, pineapples and magnolia blooms done in pinks, corals and blues. That swatch of fabric ended up providing not only the island theme for the home's decor but also its vivacious color scheme. And to make things even better, the clients were willing to try just about anything. "Although they may have been apprehensive about certain suggestions, they didn't set any rules," McMakin says. "We were allowed to let our imaginations run free."

Architect Peter Papadopoulos joined the team early on and it was his job to blend the casual comfort and fun the clients wanted with the home's venerable Palm Beach surroundings. The finished house easily boasts 6,400 square-feet of air-conditioned space. It's the perfect place for the clients and their standard poodle to retreat when the weather chases them out of their Boston and Cape Cod homes. It also gives them a spot to spend time with their grown children and young grandchildren.

From the street, you can't help but appreciate the classic proportions that Papadopoulos used to address the Bermuda-style architecture. A symmetrical facade features bay windows and a Flemish gable so popular on the island. In the back of this lot that measures over 21,000 square feet, he helped create a Chippendale-inspired gazebo. "The owner said he wanted a place where he could sit and look back at his 'pretty house.' So we worked as a team to create this gazebo," McMakin says.

Step inside, where the living room's juicy Carribbean palette immediately warms the soul. Walls wrapped in a ripe papaya hue and a hand-stenciled ceiling draw the eyes up and around the space. A shell mirror dots the wall over the Dominican coral stone fireplace, while custom, white metal palm tree lamps add another playful touch of the tropics. "The glazed walls have a reflective sheen that changes color depending upon the angle of the sun," Sharpe says.

But as the sun sets and it's time for dinner, it's also time to enjoy the dining room — literally a work of art itself. Beneath the 14-foot-high pitched ceiling, a hand-painted, 360-degree panoramic mural mimics the view from a mountaintop in Antiqua. Local artist Zenon Toczek worked for months painting this scene from a 3½-by-5 inch photograph the owners had taken while visiting their favorite spot. Sharpe got involved when the owners wanted to use an antique area rug and the dining room is where it fit. The designer matched the muted tones of the rug, one by one, to paint chips for the artist to use in the "sunset" mural.

Like the dining room, the master bedroom features a pitched custom-crafted tongue-and-groove ceiling. "In fact, just about everything in this room is custom made," McMakin says. That includes the sofa covered with the linen fabric the clients originally chose that set the tone for the entire project. Press a button and a hydraulic lift raises a television out of the back of this piece. The vanity in "her" bathroom also is a custom piece made from painted wood with a honed limestone top.

The comfortable loggia is where the designers honor famed architect Addison Mizner whose distinctive Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial architecture has influenced much of what you see in Palm Beach.

Stepping into the backyard, Papadopoulos is pleased with the results of the teamwork that created this cherished home. "When I stand by the pool and look at the house, I get a feeling of comfort. I love the detail and the juxtaposition of elements that work so well together," the architect says. "It's not just a big block of a house."

And what's better, McMakin's premonition came true. "I've been in the design business for many years, but this project stands out as one of the happiest," she says.

Interior Design
Mimi McMakin and Ashley Sharpe, Kemble Interiors, Inc., Palm Beach, FL

Carmel and Robert Brantley, Delray Beach, FL

Peter Papadopoulos, Smith and Moore Architects, West Palm Beach, FL

Tom Keller, Worth Builders of Palm Beach, Inc., West Palm Beach, FL

Landscape Architecture
Keith Williams, Nievera Williams Design, Palm Beach, FL

Text by
Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley