Showing Up at the Show House

Gandeur February 17, 2006

Photographed by Lucien Capehart Photography

Press Photo Press Photo Press Photo

An exotic-themed party kicks off the 30th annual fund-raiser for the Greater Palm Beach Chapter of the American Red Cross

Rocker Rod Stewart was among the design-lovers who attended January’s exotic-themed preview party for the 30th edition of the American Red Cross Designers’ Show House, sponsored by the charity’s Greater Palm Beach Chapter.

Stewart joined other VIPs - many from Palm Beach - on tours of the 1925 Mediterranean-style house owned by Steve Mayans and wife Terry Resk on Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. They visited with the 16 designers and admired their rooms, which were open for public tours Jan 13 - Feb. 4.

The show house project was chaired by Desmond Keogh, assisted by Design Chairman Bill Kopp and Design Co-Chairman Stephen Mooney.

by Christine Davis
Photographs by Frank Moore of Moore Photography
Draped by Design

Anything can happen when you give carte blanche - and a key - to 16 interior designers and let them have at it with the rooms in your home. A neon-key-lime-and-hot-pink Art Deco dining room might very well turn up right next to a formal Louis XVI salon.

But that wasn’t the case with the 2006 American Red Cross Designers’ Show House, in which Mid-Eastern and exotic undertones ran through many of the rooms, which also, somehow, seemed remarkably traditional.

You might wonder just how the designers pulled that off, considering the short time they were given to transform Steve Mayans and Terry Resk’s home, a 1920s Mediterranean-style villa, Casa del Asilo, designed by Harvey & Clark for Spencer T. Lainhart for a waterfront site facing Lake Worth in West Palm Beach.

Did the designers have meetings, confer and coordinate? No. It was just serendipity - or that old design magic, it seems.

Among the design elements that helped add to the sense of wonder were the window treatments in each room of the home, a residence that had previously served as a Red Cross fund-raising show house more than a decade ago.

But unlike many featured in Red Cross show houses over the past 30 years, these draperies weren’t necessarily over the top, design-wise - although they sported fine tailoring and luxurious materials, including yards of fine fabrics and the occasional fringed border.

More often than not, instead of taking center stage, the window treatments performed like traditional theatrical curtains, providing a suitable background for the action while lending a subtle style of their own.

“We were going to do a tent,” says Jennifer Garrigues of Jennifer Garrigues Interior Designs in Palm Beach. But rather than draping the ceiling of the enclosed loggia, she instead designed simple cream-colored swags to frame arched-topped French doors that open onto the lawn and offer a view of the lake.

“I’ve never done swags and these are a JGI invention,” says the designer.

Rather than using a tent, she had the walls painted with a subtle tone-on-tone pattern that recalls Moroccan designs. The gauzy swags, held back with brackets, suggested the openings of a tent. But that’s where the suggestion to the exotic had to end, she insists. She describes her room as “colorful, gracious and pretty.”

However way you look at it, exotic or pretty, the loggia made the transition into the adjacent living room very nicely. Quite dramatic but still “beachy” was the impression Mitch Brown of William R. Eubanks Inc. says he and Eubanks intended for their living room. The Memphis, Tenn.-based designers mixed terry cloth with silk, ocean colors with apple green. The draperies were sewn from an overscale damask in ocean and apple with a blanket-edge detail rather than fringe. They were hung from an upholstered rod with ecru sheers underneath.

The dining room had a different feeling. “It’s set against a background of casual elegance, bringing fashion and romance to this room,” says Lee Bierly of Bierly-Drake Associates of Boston, who worked with partner Christopher Drake on the room.

The ambience of an evening dinner party was achieved with sparkling crystal, gleaming silver and fine china. Those items were paired with neutral-colored flooring and walls, mirrored sideboards and unusual fretwork dining chairs in what Bierly calls an “ancient chipped white” finish, the carved designs on their backs lending a slightly Oriental feel.

Presiding over the room were three pairs of dramatic red drapery panels - the color chosen to honor the Red Cross - in a taffeta from Clarence House. “They are very simple and unadorned, with dressmaker details,” Bierly notes. “At the top are ‘butterfly’ pleats and gilded gold-leaf rings. The sheers are just organdy - petticoat fabric.”

The upstairs landing and sitting area was given an opulent treatment in red and gold by Fort Lauderdale designer Ray Stapleton in conjunction with Smith Design Group. A red-patterned, damask-covered cornice topped gold smocked sheers on a large window overlooking the deck. The same pattern appeared on a tied-back fringed drapery that graced the entrance to a hallway leading to the bedrooms.

The latter drapery echoed the lines of the gold-damask curtain, lending unexpected prominence to an otherwise ordinary single window down the hall in the “Gentleman’s Reading Room.” Designed by John Hall Nelson and Michael Leondas Kirkland of Halleon of Fort Lauderdale, Manhattan and Paris, that curtain hung on gilded rings from a short polished-wood rod capped with gold finials.

The master bedroom and bathroom were designed by Worth Interiors in Palm Beach and furnished with a mix of exotic pieces - including an elaborately carved four-poster bed. Window treatments in this room were quite simple - a lightweight fabric hung from brass rods - that did not compete with either furnishings or finishes in a mixture of textures. A gold grass-cloth ceiling, for example, balanced a natural carpet. The gold was repeated on the rear walls of the bookcases. Design motifs repeated as well. There were mirror bits sewn into the pillows on the bed, furniture was mirrored and, of course, there was a mirror on the wall.

“It’s all about layering,” says Melissa Ziober, who assisted Lisa Kanning in the design.

“It’s exotic, but Grecian,” adds Kanning. “It’s about texture, but it’s not overpowering.”

At the opposite end of the second floor, a sitting room in blue, yellow and cream was the work of designer Clara Hayes Barrett of Boston and Nantucket, who chose a silk striped taffeta for her floor-to-ceiling window draperies. Overall, they offered a very tailored look, except for the unexpected touch of romance added by the cotton sheers tied onto the rod with ribbons.

Elsewhere in the house, Allison Paladino of Allison Paladino Interiors in Palm Beach designed two-toned silk taffeta draperies strung on a rod through large grommets to enhance an Art Deco-inspired guest bedroom.

For Roman shades in the kitchen and a flounced drapery in the adjacent French Country-style breakfast room, Stephen Mooney of Palm Beach’s Richard Plumer Design chose a linen Manuel Canovas design featuring blue urns and lemons and trimmed the edges in plaid.

And for her white-on-white library, Toby Zack of Toby Zack Designs of Fort Lauderdale specified tailored drapery panels in white taffeta with white sunshades beneath.

Other design professionals participating in the show house included Lake Worth-based Scott Robertson, Pauline Elias of October Design in West Palm Beach, Brandon and Carol Knapp of Knapp Kitchens and More in West Palm Beach, Leslie Schlesinger of West Palm Beach, Keith Williams and landscape designer Mario Nievera of West Palm Beach.

Whether they were framing a view, filtering light, calling attention to themselves or retreating into the background, the window treatments of the show house stylishly offered a glimpse into their designers’ creativity.