A designer for every room

The Palm Beach Post Sunday, January 15, 2006

Written by Barbara Marshall

Photographed by Gary Coronado

Press Photo Press Photo Press Photo

Show-house formula: Put together 16 talented professionals, and see what happens.

THE HOUSE: 1925 Mediterranean Revival

It seems fitting that a historical milestone should take place in a historical landmark.

The Red Cross Show House is celebrating its 30th year in a house that’s seen a lot of local history. Perched on a rise above the Intracoastal Waterway, the 5,400-square-foot, 1925 Mediterranean Revival house was built for Spencer Lainhart, a member of one of the area’s oldest pioneer families, in a West Palm Beach neighborhood once known for its bootlegging activity.

The home’s architects were Henry Stephen Harvey and Louis Phillips Clarke, who also designed the train station, Holy Trinity Church and the Comeau Building, all in downtown West Palm Beach, as well as Palm Beach Town Hall. In the 1920s, bootleggers took advantage of the neighborhood’s proximity to the water, smuggling in liquor and burying it in trenches in neighbors’ back yards.

Many of the home’s original features are intact, offering a look at the way prosperous local residents once lived. From the loggia’s arched doors, there are views of the Intracoastal, across palm-studded Providencia Park. The living room’s beamed ceiling and cast-stone fireplace, and wrought iron chandeliers and sconces throughout the house reflect the Spanish-style decoration that was popular in that period.

Present owners, local attorneys Steven Mayans and wife, Terry Resk, and their 10-year-old son, Kyle, moved themselves, their clothes and furniture, and their Great Dane dog out of the five-bedroom house and into their guest house for nearly four months, while the home underwent a transformation at the hands of 16 designers. They did so knowing full well what the experience would be like, since they had also done so 14 years ago for the Red Cross’s 1992 Show House.

The family knew, for example, that they would have absolutely no input in anything the designers did.

“The deal is, your stuff comes out, they decorate the room any way they want, then they take everything away that’s not nailed down,” Mayans says, laughing.

But “it’s fun because you have all these talented professionals looking at your house, completely unrestrained by your taste.”

Show house officials estimate the value of the furnishings in the house at $5 million. Nearly everything is for sale—to the homeowners and the public, although Mayans said most are too pricey for him. Mayans and Resk can keep the wall coverings, but the biggest consolation prize for giving up their house for nearly four months is their new—and greatly discounted—kitchen. With donated Jenn-Air appliances, hand-cut white wall tile, and limestone floors and countertops, the kitchen renovation would have cost more than $100,000. Mayans said he and his wife paid only a portion of the cost of the renovation (but declined to say how much).

Designers, who work for free on the show house, borrow much of the furniture and artwork they use, or bring items from their shops. They are required to foot the often sizable bills for drapery and upholstery, as well as tile, decorative painting and other wallcoverings. Most designers are willing to sell their furnishings when the show house closes.

All proceeds go to the Palm Beach County chapter of the American Red Cross. This year’s goal is to raise $125,000.


Comfortably formal: The long living room was broken up into three “rooms-within-a-room” to make the large space feel more intimate. Then, designers William Eubanks and Mitch Brown of William R. Eubanks Design unified the three with a palace-sized antique Hereke rug from Turkey. At one end, twin sofas create a quiet area near the fireplace. In the center, the designers created the room’s focal point beneath a dramatic French tapestry, circa 1690, that celebrates Caesar’s return to Rome in an elephant-drawn chariot. French fauteuil chairs, upholstered in a zebra print velvet, are wildly comfortable.

A desk and upholstered bench create a third “room” under a bank of windows overlooking the pool. In a nod to South Florida, the designers used formal fabrics in tropical colors, such as the acid green damask upholstering two slipper chairs, which provide a contrast to the tapestry’s deep teal blue.

“This room has punch and whimsy but doesn’t take itself too seriously,” notes Brown.

Trade secrets:

Carve up a large room into smaller seating areas but keep one element the same throughout, such as wall treatments, draperies or a rug.

Juxtapose the old and the new. The 17th-century tapestry is paired with modern paintings, and a contemporary bronze sculpture of a standing man. If you love it, use it. “There are always ways to work in the things you love,” Eubanks says.

Make sure furniture has varied heights. “You need some skyscrapers in the room,” says Brown, who suggests adding a tall chair or lamp.