Monday, January 31, 2011

We Thank You Addison Mizner for Worth Avenue!

Addison Mizner, architect and his patron, Paris Singer, the 23rd child of sewing machine magnate, Isaac Singer, invented Palm Beach style. Mediterranean revival architecture came naturally to Mizner, a Californian, who spent two years in Guatemala, studying and sketching Spanish colonial structures, during his father's tenure as the U.S. minister. Mizner apprenticed with the venerable Willis Polk in San Francisco, built estates on Long Island, eventually moving to Florida for his health. Paris Singer wanted to build a convalescent hospital for World War I officers, in sleepy Palm Beach.  Mizner, romantically translated  this commission within in the vernacular of an ancient nunnery with colonnades, towers and balconies sprouting.

"My ambition has been to make a building look traditional and as though it had fought its way from a small unimportant structure to a great, rambling house that took centuries of different needs and ups and downs of wealth to accomplish."
Addison Mizner

The West Facade along the inland waterway.
Photo courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County

Armistice made the enterprise redundant, and Paris quickly converted his dream, forming the famous Everglades club with Mizner as a founding member. The life of a bon-vivant is excellent for business and commissions piled up. The Ecole des Beaux Arts crowd cried fowl, and understandably so. The architecture, to my eye is delightfully whimsical, yet the facade uses 22 different window treatments and is anchored by a California-style mission tower. Mizner's work, despite his popularity, was controversial. When he commenced construction of the splendid vias along Worth Avenue, to blend in with the Everglades Club and recreate the medieval ramblings of the Mediterranean towns he carefully documented throughout his life, a petition was circulated to stop him from building "ugly foreign looking buildings!!"

Here we are entering the delightful Via Mizner to have a delicious lunch at Renato's. It is expensive and worth the price of each delicious bite. Here is a glimpse at the menu. 

Primi Piatti
Cocktail di GranchioJumbo Lump Crabmeat Cocktail, With Avocado and Citrus Vinaigrette
Vongole alla PosillipoLittle Neck Clams Steamed in Spicy Tomato, White Wine & Fresh Herb Broth
Salmone AffumicatoSmoked Norwegian Salmon With traditional Garnish & Toast Points
Torta di GranchioLump Crab Cake With Tomato Bruschetta, Lemon Aioli
Salsiccia & RappiniSweet Italian Sausage and Rappini Broccoli Served Over Soft Polenta
Timbalo Di MelanzanaEggplant Timbale filled with Smoked Mozzarella, topped with fresh Tomato Basil Sauce
Carpaccio di ManzoSeasoned Thin Sliced Filet Mignon, Arugula Salad & Shaved Parmigiano

The Mizner colonnade along Worth Avenue on the West side of the via.

Worth Avenue shopping is the antithesis of my trek through West Palm and the Dixie Hwy with Jane Schott of Empress of the Eye, however we remember my Father's adage: "Train your eye dear." Worth avenue is a perfect training ground. While Palm Beach has changed a great deal from its gilded era glamour, remnants still exist. 

The elegant Terry Van Lear Yates of Van Lear on Mizner's Via Parigi, creates classic bespoke clothing for women.

Many of Addison Mizner's gilded age houses have succumbed to the wrecking ball. However, his influence remains, is preserved, and is widely imitated in Palm Beach.

Mizner's Casa Nana was listed for over $70,000.000.00 with no takers to date. The Rivera never felt so close to American soil. 

Aerial view of Casa Nana

Casa Nana

El Mirasol, Mizner's first Palm Beach residence was built for Eva Stotesbury, wife of financier Edward (Ned) Townsend Stotesbury. It had 40 rooms, a 40 car garage, a zoo, aviary, a full time staff of 8 servants, which was supplemented during the season with their Whitemarsh Hall staff of 32.  The estate stretched the width of the Island from lake to ocean. Palm Beach architect, Jeffrey Smith said: 
"Mizner created buildings that simulated age and gave the young town a sense of history, interrupted the Florida flat landscape with roof lines of varying heights, softened the sun's glare with pastel-colored walls, and relieved the heat with fountains and cross-ventilation." 

El Mirasol

Street front views of Mizner homes were not obscured by the traditional Spanish gates and courtyards. They were the mullets of their time: Business (show) in the front, party in the back.


The scope of these vast houses required Mizner to create his eponymous Mizner industries, employing hundreds of woodcarvers, potters, iron workers and stone casters to create the finishings and furnishings that were increasingly prohibitive to purchase in Europe.  Many other of the Palm Beach gilded age architects supplied their commissions with the old world aura Mizner's work shops produced with great authenticity. 

Photos courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County  

Inspirations for Mizner's eclectic styles came from his meticulously documented trips through the Mediterranean, Central and South Americas. Scott Eyman of the Palm Beach Post wrote: "Mizner would take a cornice from the Doge's palace, an archway from the Alhambra and a wall from Seville and filter it through his decorative sensibility until it magically became a coherent whole incongruously located on a barrier island in Florida. "

The Mizner archives were acquired through the generosity of Mrs. Frederick Guest (nee Amy Phipps), and are suitably preserved at the Society of the Four Arts, a Mizner masterpiece. 

Embassy Club (now Society of the Four Arts), built in 1929, southern exposure. Photo courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

The Phipps famed Casa Bendita, built in 1921 and demolished in 1961 is sadly missing from the roster of the 44 remaining Addison Mizner projects left in Palm Beach.  Many tiles, ironwork, carvings and lighting still remain from the industries workshop. Here are some of my photos from Addison Mizner's fantastic Worth Avenue, where his artisanal crafts are preserved for the public. 

 Mizner tiles from the industries potteries

 Signature wrought iron

Sadly, Addison Mizner was ruined financially in his efforts to develop Boca Raton as an American Venice. The Hurricane of 1928 wreaked legendary damage to the East coast of South Florida. Coupled with the 1929 crash, Mizner's new leveraged gambit went down in flames. After his death in 1933, at the age of 60, his body was shipped to Cypress Lawn Memorial Park near San Mateo California, where it lies in an unmarked grave. 

Thank you Addison for providing the most beautiful setting in America, where we can watch celebutantes, felonthrapists, the old guard, and the new guard play out their fascinating lives. 

Special thanks to the well researched articles by Augustus Mayhew III

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Glorious Palm Beach and Shopping the Dixie Highway

I have been following fellow blogger, Jane Schott of Empress of the Eye, since she had her Fortuny pillow giveaway. I'm still sulking, since I was not the winner, but I've gained a bird's eye view into, literally, some of the best shopping in America. Jane is The Dixie Highway Chick, no question. Like High Point, it is a great jumble of shops and junk with some serious steals, but... you need to know where you are going. Jane knows.

Great Stuff,  at 901-B George Bush Blvd. in Delray Beach was, without a doubt, the highlight of our tour. It is a well curated and beautifully merchandised  collection of haute Palm Beach decor. I found a fantastic Jane Wendel chest for a friend here. Jane Wendel was my inspiration for life. She was the Kennedy era queen of interior design of Palm Beach. As a great lady, who began her brilliant career in her late forties, Jane gave me hope. She has inspired generations, as her daughter Brooke Huttig, partner Mimi McMakin, along with Mimi's daughter Celerie Kemble have created stunning, whimsical rooms that grace the pages of literally every shelter magazine.

I immediately recognized the provenance of this Italian painted chest. Jane brought containers of  painted chests, bars, chairs and headboards, long before they became the rage, not to mention poorly imitated. Imagine my smug expression, when browsing the Kemble Interiors website,  I found its expensive twin.

The carved turtle feet, perfect scale and excellently executed painting makes this chest a shopping coup. Thank you Jane!!

Honestly, you would think Lucite was gold when you see the prices at High Point (wholesale) for the few examples throughout market. Palm Beach is brimming with this chic look, specifically, this exact table. It is all over town and can be found for triple the price (Mecox Gardens) and half the price elsewhere. You've got to shop!!

Painted furniture is a Palm Beach signature, that works well in any climate. It breaks up the monotony of brown and gray scale finishes dominating the furniture scene. Like all trends, poor imitations abound, yet palm beach has excellent vintage pieces predating the China explosion.  Color is back, and the soaring 60's is resurrecting.  The Dixie Highway, and a personal tour from Jane, is worth the plane ticket. This secretary cabinet is $2,600.00, which I consider a bit steep, however it could make a room.

 This luminous pair of Murano glass eggs have an opening on the bottom for lighting. For the asking price of $450.00, they make an artistic and colorful addition to any room. 

Jane posted this fantastic limited edition Picasso textile several months ago. I called the shop to find out how much it cost--$650.00. I decided not to buy it, but I still think it is a wonderfully decorative, nicely framed piece.  It has been around for awhile, so hopefully....

This vintage rattan recliner was at A. Abbott antiques at 6501 So. Dixie Highway. The $750.00 asking price seems a bit steep, but it is in excellent condition and would work in a multitude of settings.  Jane says some of these treasures can be plucked from the uber junky  Faith Farms ministries.  

 My foodie daughter recommended this antipasto platter at Tramonti Ristorant in Delray Beach. It was a delicious break.  

More Later!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for 2010

Sometimes the verticality of our posts sinking, sinking into the archives makes me wistful. Wonderful friends and family have been so generous to share their amazing homes and photos, I wanted to resurrect some of our most fun and unique posts from 2010.

My wonderful daughter took these photographs while working on Lindsay Coral Harper's  "Let the Wild Rumpus Begin" table. These designer tables from the Lennox Hill Neighborhood House Gala at Sotheby's make me want to throw a party. O.K. I know, everything makes me want to throw a party!

The Best Farm Ever has me fantasizing about building a barn house. Did I say party? Party heaven is right here, with outdoor fireplaces blazing, monopoly money changing hands among frenzied children in the circle grouping, and pizza piling up on the kitchen counter. Football injuries aside, this gathering took the party prize of the year. 

Mrs. P's dedication to her mountain house renovation created a perfect year round getaway for family and friends. This image is a perfect example of using a large scale fabric with matching drapes to make a small room seem intimate and inviting. Don't miss the before pictures in this post, you won't believe the transformation. 

I hope Maria from Colour Me Happy is reading this post. Take Fun Seriously shows a playful mix of bright colors and eclectic furniture in this delightful party fortress. Run downstairs and see my favorite girl cave!

Phoebe Howard's eponymous design palace, Mrs. Howard's, in Charlotte is worth a plane ticket. The nail head trim reiterating the sunburst motif mirror in this dining room is a handsome foil to the soft chintz on the chairs. Every room in this design mecca is literally breath taking. 

Bobby McAlpine alum, Ruard Veltman, of Charlotte collaborated with Mrs. G. to create this Lutyens inspired mountain retreat that I call Nieu Neo Georgian.  The research laid the groundwork for a previously unpublished McAlpine house. The shared DNA is really interesting, start with Sir Christopher Wrenn who perfected Georgian, and embrace the transmutations of the Arts and Crafts crowd. I have more to say about that down the road, I'm smitten with Lutyens. 

Sir Bobby, who I have officially knighted in honor of Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, interpreted Mrs. D.'s vision of a Pennsylvania stone farm house. I still owe you part II. I was waiting until the winter got really bleak to cheer you up. 

My ODF (oldest and dearest friend) is married to Edmund Hollander whose unerring taste and contribution to landscape architecture is as grand as Gertrude Jekyl's at the opposite end of the century. I recommend he collaborate with Sir Bobby, for the complete reincarnation of the Lutyens /Jekyl country house revival. If you are the type of person who watches movies over and over, just to study the interiors, Ed did the landscape for the Hamptons House in everybody's favorite, Somethings Gotta Give. It was listed for a mere 10 million. You can see more of Ed's exteriors for this house on Linda Merrill's post here.  

Speaking of movies, this James O'Connor playhouse was featured in the disappointing remake of Sabrina. This rare glimpse into the old country estate boom on Long Island was embraced by the preservationists in our crowd. This beautiful Sister Parish living room survives intact, from when Bunny Williams was her assistant! We have some more pictures of the old estate for the old Long Island crowd posting soon.  

Sending buckets of sunshine to all in gray January. This is my Edmund Hollander inspired window box. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011


And The Winner of the lovely box
compliments of our partner
 Wind Rose Antiques

Red Door Home!!


Congratulations to our fantastic blogging cohort--the diminutive Brooke Giannetti of Velvet and Linen, who is an amazon in the interior design scene. Brooke and architect husband Steve,  collaborate from their Santa Monica base, creating and renovating sensational California homes. Kate Murphy of the New York Times featured Brooke's renovated bathroom in her latest home article regaling the return of pink.

I can imagine Brooke shaking her head, wondering how on earth, of all the images she's posted over the years, her bathroom made The New York Times! Of course the new bathroom is a beautiful room that just happens to have plumbing--glorious plumbing.  Note the clever photoplay with her Velvet pouf and Linen drapes. There has been quite a buzz in the blogosphere lately regarding Pantone's decree of Honeysuckle Pink as "the it color" of 2011.

Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone color guru's descriptions on the power of color, read like captivating horoscopes: 

"Honeysuckle emboldens us to face everyday troubles with verve and vigor. A dynamic reddish pink, Honeysuckle is encouraging and uplifting. It elevates our psyche beyond escape, instilling the confidence, courage and spirit to meet the exhaustive challenges that have become part of everyday life.

In times of stress, we need something to lift our spirits. Honeysuckle is a captivating, stimulating color that gets the adrenaline going – perfect to ward off the blues.... Honeysuckle derives its positive qualities from a powerful bond to its mother color red, the most physical, viscerally alive hue in the spectrum.”
Wow!! I wish that was a cocktail!

Oh it is!
Although, I agree with Brooke that the Farrow and Ball Pink Ground she selected for her bathroom is far more soothing. 

We have followed Brooke around the Santa Monica flea as she collects her art and treasures. The paintings kick the bathroom up a notch, and the lovely detail of the framed mirror on hinges covering the original medicine chest completes the transformation. 
Brooke and Steve's synergistic combination extends beyond architecture and interiors. I have to mention that Steve is a very talented artist, and I have been incubating a terrible case of the "I wants." His art has progressed from his energetic architectural renderings into something entirely new. 
Steve's sketches for a new villa
Evocative and serene water views are a natural direction for a Southern Californian. Resisting the temptation to do the tired seascapes saturating the galleries of coastal towns, Steve has captured the ephemeral moment and transient light of water and sky. 

It is almost unfair to have this amount of talent!

The eclectic and unique Giannetti Home store on 1st Dibs carries this grouping below.

I cannot resist adding this risque vintage 1920's wool swim suit, on their 1st Dibs site for the benefit of my friends with beach houses

Brooke and Steve create magical and beautifully curated environments that are welcoming and livable. If you live in California, visit the store on 
Giannetti Home
11980 San Vicente Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049

Phone: 310.826.2407
Fax: 310.207.0691
Follow the 1st dibs link above
or build the house of your dreams!