This Historic Palm Beach Villa Was Restored to Feel Just Like Venice
Designer Thomas Jayne taps into classicism for the renovation of a landmark Palm Beach villa.
It's no wonder Thomas Jayne is among the world's most respected interior designers. He trained with prestigious firms including Parish-Hadley and Kevin McNamara, he's a Winterthur Fellow, and he has an extensive knowledge of architectural history and the decorative arts. His pedigree speaks for itself.
A classicist with a knack for creating historically based, preservation-minded interiors with a contemporized perspective, Jayne (with project manager Marissa Stokes) seemed an obvious choice for the restoration of a landmark Palm Beach, Florida, villa.
Known as Vita Serena, the 1920s Mediterranean Revival home, originally designed by architect Marion Sims Wyeth, poses tidily below prodigious palms on Florida's Intracoastal Waterway.
"It feels like Venice," Jayne says. "The changing light is very dynamic. It's beguiling and has a magic to it."
Refined Decorating Style
Belying its tropical location, however, the home's interiors, as brought to life by Jayne, feel patinated and refined, never shabby chic or slipcovered. Rich bronze hues with dollops of blue and green form a palette that is the antithesis of beachy, yet never truly formal. The designer banished linens from the main floor, replacing them with tailored upholstery and measured moments of velvet and silk.
"The architecture of this home is so rich," Jayne says. "What we did with decoration simply supports the architecture and the art. We furnished and decorated it with an eye to quality and sculpture. It's arranged for comfort, but there's a chastity to it."
Restraint is apparent throughout the home. Custom-made scalloped sconces based on vintage fixtures, a photograph by Robert Polidori, and an ornamented iron railing (original to the house) are all the embellishment needed in the refined entry and stairway. Limestone floors and cypress woodwork allow the home's primary virtue, its view, to steal the show.
Eye-Catching Dining Room
In the dining room, the details of the original fireplace draw the eye, its patterns marrying with the metalwork of a 1920s iron chandelier, a serendipitous find in an antiques shop, where it hadn't yet been put on display.
Jayne juxtaposed a streamlined steel-base table with a sakhua wood top against moody, textured walls in the dining room.
Perfect Color Palette
A pair of 18th-century English eglomise mirrors highlight pale blue textured walls that mimic the hues of twilight and play beautifully with the waterway's naturally diluted palette.
Well-Appointed Living Room
Like the formal dining space, the spacious living room, arranged with multiple cozy seating areas, is well-appointed for welcoming friends. "This is unabashedly a room the homeowners use for parties," Jayne says. "It's a space in which to entertain people, a gesture of hospitality. We allowed this to simply be a handsome room to receive guests."
Polished limestone floors reflect light, accentuating a painted timber ceiling that Jayne conserved. A scrolled 20th-century Italian console and vintage forged-iron-and-leather chairs inject sculptural allure. Glimmers of sapphire blue and bronze offer subtle radiance to a seemingly neutral palette. Consider it chromatic subterfuge for clients who shun much color.
Scrollwork acts as a curvaceous foil to clean-lined Jean-Michel Frank-style sofas.
Jayne's clandestine color combination continues in the study, where bronze-hue walls act as counterpoint to splashes of blue, both indoors and out. Textural variation (silk against hemp) adds visual interest. "It's counterintuitive," Jayne says, "but I love the blue against the bronze. It balances all the tropical-ness. There are no vivid colors, but the texture makes it interesting. Restraint doesn't have to be boring."
Furnishings remain elegantly nuanced. A Chinese lamp sits atop a Georgian writing desk, both mingling easily with a modernist sofa. A photograph by Candida Höfer holds its own against the dappled vistas just outside the windows, offering an equally enticing view. Decorative architecture was streamlined to let the textures and furnishings speak for themselves, creating a cocoonlike, discreet room that harks to days when intimate spaces were championed by decorators such as Edith Wharton, a Jayne muse. (In fact, he wrote 2018's Classical Principles for Modern Design as a revisitation, through today's lens, of Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr.'s 1897 The Decoration of Houses.)
A hemp wallcovering from Donghia, Cowtan & Tout fabric on the sofa, and pillows from Jim Thompson play to a surreptitious color scheme.
Weighty elements, including a sculpture by Richard Serra and a brass-and-shagreen coffee table, punctuate the airy space. Banana-leaf chairs are vintage Ralph Lauren.
More Time Outdoors
This being Palm Beach, Jayne worked with architect Gene Pandula to address the home's one shortcoming for modern living: a lack of outdoor spaces. Designed to relate to the tenor of the main house but not match perfectly, a new loggia boasts rounded arches and a ceiling with updated nods to traditional Iberian references. Screened skylights, shapely lanterns, outdoor mirrors, and streamlined furnishings join traditional architecture to shape the perfect mix of then and now. The ceiling was designed by Pandula Architects.
An arched doorway frames the serene guest bedroom.
Designer Thomas Jayne
"There's a balance here, a rhythm," Jayne, pictured here, says. "We stripped things back and then decorated. This house has nuance and is not so precious that you can't use it."