Palm Beach Paradise

When An Entrepreneur And An Actress Hired A Moroccan-Inspired Designer To Create Their Oceanfront Residence, Fantasy Spread From Room to Room

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When New York-based designer Frank de Biasi was hired to create a brand new seaside home in Palm Beach, Fla., that looked like it had always been there, he studied the history of the island’s architecture. Homeowners Bob and Mia Matthews, who met de Biasi in Palm Beach, asked him to design a warm and inviting, Mizner-inspired family home. So the designer, who began his career at Christie’s New York studying the history of art and design, read up on the Mediterranean aesthetic.

“Palm Beach has a history of Mizner, Mediterranean and Moorish style houses,” says the designer who has a vacation home of his own in Morocco. “Mia, Bob and I were inspired to design an adventurous home using these styles in vibrant colors such as turquoise, green, blue and white with pops of pink.” The clients’ main directive — the new home was to look like it’s been around since the “Glory Days” of the 1920s.

This 15,000-square-foot home for the Matthews family, which includes two daughters and a pair of Yorkies, took about five years to complete. From the beginning, the designer was intrigued with the L-shaped layout that opens up to the Atlantic Ocean. He found his client Bob — an entrepreneur and general contractor for the project — to be a brilliant builder, who was energetic, positive and able to pull everything together.

With the lush swimming pool and whirlpool area located at the front of the house, this tropical paradise is designed in a peaceful and beautiful setting highlighted with columns, landscaping and social vignettes that recall the classic Palm Beach architectural style of Addison Mizner. “Bob was on site, organized and inspired early on,” de Biasi says. “He was interested in a special family house for his wife and two daughters.” Mia, an actress with a creative eye, wanted interior diversity to keep the design bright and lively. “I wanted every room to have a different theme,” she says. “It had to be new and fresh but look and feel like it has been in place for a long time.”

Just inside one of two front entrances from the pool area, the home fuels the imagination with exquisite Old World antiques and artisanship. Fish-scale terra cotta flooring inset with vintage-style Portuguese tile grounds the two-story entry, where stenciled pecky cypress ceilings, wrought-iron lanterns and hand-carved stone Corinthian columns shape a romantic setting right out of the opera “Carmen.”

“There are so many handcrafted touches in this house,” Mia says. “We used both antique and new materials that work very well together.” Elaborate coffered ceilings define the living room from above while walls of striéd Venetian plaster and a beautiful Portuguese needlepoint area rug complete the scene.

Set against a breathtaking backdrop, antiques from around the globe exude an aura of centuries past. “Searching for pieces was exciting,” Mia says. “We’d pick up things during our trips to Italy, France, Portugal and Morocco … special art, furnishings, panels and tiles that create authenticity.” Global influences flow throughout as Carrera marble with vintage-style tile insets leads the way down the grand hallway. Here, hanging metal lanterns from Cairo, Egypt direct the eye to a dominant arched Moroccan-themed mural. Shellstone coquina columns hand-carved in Mexico line the dining room where the international vibe continues.

“I really wanted Italian, French and Moroccan for the dining room,” de Biasi says. The ceiling is done in pecky cypress stencil and the terra cotta tile flooring is covered in a Sisal area rug with a hand-stenciled Turkish design. A pair of stamped-leather screens from Paris and crystal chandeliers made in Italy immediately attract attention.

True to form, Mia was eager for a design change in the colorful guest room, which de Biasi playfully calls “The African Room.” Local painters did the ceiling stenciling with a flirty design selected from a book of Arab painters. The Anglo-American bed with a canopy treatment styled from a document panel from Turkey conveys a youthful and artsy verve.

“Our bedroom is tranquil with soft colors reflecting the ocean,” says Mia of the harmonious master suite styled in soft blue and green hues. A sanctuary of sea, sun and sky, the sitting and slumber areas have magnificent views of the ocean. Tinted glass doors open to a cozy balcony ideal for dreamy gazing.

Colorful, lavish and filled with fun, Bob and Mia got their dream home that will grow with their family. “This home will stay fresh for a long time and age gracefully,” the designer says. “It is most definitely a Palm Beach paradise.”

Frank de Biasi, Frank de Biasi Interiors, New York, NY

Ken Hayden, Miami Beach, FL

Smith and Moore Architects, West Palm Beach, FL

Landscape Architecture
Lang Design Group, West Palm Beach, FL

Text by
Linda Marx