When interior designer Carolyn Rafferty and her husband discovered a mid-century modern home for sale in Palm Beach, they were quick to grab it. Rafferty, who runs her own local design studio, is particularly sold on 1950s architecture, an anomaly amid the British and Mediterranean colonial revival characteristics that characterize the luxurious island.
The house was, Rafferty said, “simple enough not to require one distinct style of decoration.” It is still the best? There was plenty of room to house its large collection of excellent art and antique furnishings. “Finally, a place big enough to take all of our groups!” Rafferty notes.
Before the volumes (chockablock with auction finds and treasures from Paris wandering market) It could be unclassified, however, the house was in need of updating, turned into a two year renovation. For starters, the twisty hallways are designed to narrow bedrooms and block access to the backyard and pool. But while wandering one evening, an iPad in hand to draw, “I realized that changing the main entrance [by pushing it to the courtyard side] That would open up the direction of the house,” says Rafferty.
Now, one of the wings of the house hosts public spaces such as the living room, kitchen and family room, while private spaces including bedrooms, bathrooms, and offices are located in the opposite wing. Rafferty says the transformation of the main entrance really “laid the house open” and helped ensure the playful, oasis-like character she was looking for.
Once the demolition began, the construction workers moved away to discover that the original floor was made of terrazzo. “While we couldn’t save it, I repurposed the entire house with terrazzo everywhere—in the bathrooms and everything,” says the designer, who also raised the ceilings from eight feet to 12 feet high. By keeping the board light and spaces well ventilated, “I can really play with color everywhere,” she says.
The canvas was newly ready, and Rafferty got to work. She envisioned the house as a “rotating gallery” and sought to display as many of her pieces as possible. This approach is no better displayed than in this gorgeous 2,000-square-foot living room (a space “more than twice the size of my first New York apartment”). The sofa wall features two works by Andy Warhol, two paintings by Rene Gagnon on either side of a Damien Hirst piece, and a Diego Giacometti bird sculpture on a nearby side table.
A massive white 20-foot sofa by CB2 meets rare art and antiques in the area (including a Pierre Jeanneret cocktail table). “This is how I feel. I buy valuable things that I like, but the white sofa is a white sofa,” she says of the affordable find. A Poul Cadovius Cado teak wall unit, found at auction, brings in a mid-century showing off while also anchoring another seating area. Across the road in the large living room, Rafferty composed a gorgeous, sentimental arrangement around her original grandmother Karl Springer’s dining table—”purchased directly from Karl,” she adds. Rafferty surrounded it with an eclectic arrangement of Moroccan chandeliers and a chair, in the shape of an arched hand, designed by Pedro Friedeberg.
Throughout the home, Rafferty leaned on walnut and cherry cabinetry to reference the home’s mid-century roots, as well as clean marble finishes and crisp colors—particularly hints of green, as seen in the kitchen, family room, and basic bedroom. “This house has many windows and a lot of green outside, so I brought the color of the grass inside, which is unusual for coastal homes,” she says.
But don’t expect the house to stay that way very Tall: “That’s the good thing about a designer house,” Rafferty ponders. “It’s totally organic and ever-changing.”
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