Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Tropical Churchyard


If England had a tropical village, in the deep South of the land, say, and if there were a church in such a place, and if it were a 20th century building created out of the requisite respect for its cultural origins, then it might well be this very church, in Palm Beach, the church of Bethesda by the Sea.

And as all English churchyards are in effect gardens then this one, that might have existed in subtropical England, would surely have had a garden as well. But what kind of a garden would it have been?

Would it have been the right choice, or completely wrong, to have planted, if you could, a Canary Island palm tree in the center of its courtyard?

And could Bougainvillea, fuschia colored ones in fact, have climbed the hallowed outer walls of the cloister, as if it were in Guatemala, say, and not at all in southern England, albeit subtropical southern England.

But this is a masterful garden in any event. Built in the Gothic Revival style in 1927, this graceful structure of cast stone was designed by Hiss and Weeks of New York. It features a prominent bell tower and notable ornamentations, including sculptures of the four Evangelists standing in niches in the main entrance archway. A cloister to the left of the entrance leads to a courtyard and then to the Cluett Memorial Gardens, a small formal garden with fountains, a gazebo and cruciform parterres.

Every stroke, every consideration, in its conception, was studied.

 Wandering through, I asked myself, But we're so far from the mother culture here...

 And yet they pulled it off.

 The vision that saw this project through was simply inspired.

 The koi...

 The pepper pot houses...

 The basins, the rills...

 The result is a little gem.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A House with a Tropical Garden



Maurice Fatio’s designs were influenced by everything from Mediterranean palaces to British colonial mansions, but even by the modernist styles of his own era. He made extensive use of quarry key stone mined in Florida, and his plans typically included a central courtyard that provided wind-sheltered outdoor entertainment space. He had a vision for this planned community that followed in the footsteps of his Palm Beach predecessors, most notably Addison Mizner. This is one of his great Palm Beach houses, rarely seen before in photographs.

Its central feature is this tower, an architectural element that famously characterizes the Palm Beach feeling—the tower, in most Mediterranean cities, was always a symbol of wealth.

This house sits upon a beach (though the road passes between). It's a dramatic setting, though most enjoyed when the winds are calm.

This Fatio interior courtyard contains a swimming pool. It's hard to say if it was built in 1929 as was the house; perhaps it was developed later. But in any case, it's one of the most beautiful pool gardens I've ever seen, anywhere.

The context is pure vintage Palm Beach as all rooftops in view are from the same early twentieth century period and done in the prevailing Spanish Colonial style.

This second floor terrace is covered with a tent and looks out upon the pool garden.

On ground level this sumptuous pergola provides a delightful lunch venue.

This was not a sunny afternoon but temperatures on this November day were warm and tropical.

The current owner has gone for a bright, almost Asian palette in choosing her garden accesories; it's as if a Japanese-inspired operetta were about to be staged.

The koi swimming in the garden fountain beyond the swimming pool are worthy of a Zen garden in Kyoto.

A bronze alligator reminds us where we are as sculpted frogs and turtles frolic in the fountain spray.

I wonder if the garden layout owes something to Villa Gamberaia, one of Florence's great water parterres.

But this gothic revival backdrop is clearly part of the Palm Beach mix of styles favored by the town's founding fathers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Tropical Terrace


No color out here. Only the blue of the sky. No vegetation, no potted plants.

The floor is my paint job. The "Adirondac" chairs, or a contemporary, simplified version of one, are from Target, found on-line by Gil.

 The cushions are from Pottery Barn.

The early morning view of the island of Palm Beach.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Beginning


It was our last day on the beach where we'd been staying with a kind and generous friend who'd helped us through these difficult days of setting up a new life at our winter retreat here in Palm Beach.

And then the moving day came and everything arrived and fit flawlessly into place as if it had all been planned—it HAD all been planned.

These two above views are from the living/ guest area looking into the main living room. The pictures that go under the lights are still with the framer.

We found the Chinese coffee table here in West Palm Beach, just off the famous Dixie Highway.

And the drinks cart is from C. Bell. The photograph, which I bought thirty-five years ago is by Imogen Cunningham—we'd had it in Lucca where it was perhaps under appreciated.

 The kitchen worked out perfectly, if not completely as planned.

But the only big problem is here. In that additional room the sleeper sofa, from Restoration Hardware, was too big to fit into the elevator to bring it up here to the 19th floor. What to do? They're talking about bringing in a crane to hoist it up to our balcony. Will it happen? I'll post.