When the owners of an impressive Jupiter residence, one of multiple projects with interior designer H. Allen Holmes, stay in their part-time home, they bring essentially nothing but their toothbrushes. Along with a beloved raven sculpture, those are the only things they’ll pack whenever or wherever they decide to relocate. The mysterious black bird has undoubtedly seen many design styles as it’s traveled from home to home with the owners, now witnessing a sprawling 7,200-square-foot tour de force, featuring five bedrooms and seven baths, set along the Loxahatchee River.
“Their other homes were either entirely modern or completely classic,” Holmes says of the owners’ previous residences and ever-changing taste. “But for this one, we were going for something in-between.” The hard part was finding the “sweet spot” between past and present. Holmes acknowledges the dramatic trend shift from Mediterranean revival to modern. “I think it’s a challenge for designers,” he says. “How do you adapt a classically finished home into something more contemporary?”
Always on the hunt for inspiration, Holmes took the clients to see the renovated Boca Raton Resort and Club. “I had mixed feelings about it losing its Mizner-esque quality,” Holmes recalls. “But when I saw it, I was amazed by how tastefully it was done.” He admired how the hotel’s design team had performed an amazing stunt: blending antique and modern elements within the same space. The homeowners agreed, and a plan of attack was hatched.
Never one to shy away from risk, Holmes embraced the challenge. “I didn’t have any qualms about whitewashing the house,” he reflects. Immediately, he started painting the walls and existing neoclassical columns and moldings “decorators’ white.” Holmes broke free from the norms, allowing furnishings from various time periods to share a single space. His methodology was to “keep the bones” of the classical, and “sprinkle in” the contemporary. Using his refined eye while fearlessly throwing caution to the wind, he let 18th century-inspired pieces coexist with midcentury modern ones and allowed traditional columns and arches to harmonize with contemporary LED lighting and ceiling fans. Leaving few epochs and regions unturned, he created an eclectic style, which he calls “international modern.”
The tone of grandeur is set with the impressive entryway, which leads to the motor court beyond. Understated classic archways supporting a Spanish-tiled rooftop are adorned by an abundance of lush greenery and flanked by manicured hedges and verdant lawns. Tall palm trees stand proudly to welcome visitors as they pass through. Little do newcomers know what eclectic surprises are in store.
From the moment the front façade comes into view, a subtle transformation begins. A series of simple columns and arched windows and doors, plus corbel detailing beneath the roofline, speak a neoclassical vernacular, but in lieu of the carriage lanterns, unconventional LED sconces made of matte steel and frosted glass light the way, suggesting change is on the horizon.
Once inside the elegant foyer, little doubt remains—this is going to be different. A loveseat that references the Baroque period is unexpectedly upholstered in sleek black leather. A four-legged center table boasts a high-lacquer sheen, and a massive light fixture, comprised of pale wood strips rolled into the shape of a “gift bow,” hangs down from a two-tiered, hexagonal niched ceiling.
To perpetuate the “whitewash” theme, Holmes decided to take the thick wood handrail, previously stained dark, and slender balusters that once were black iron, and paint them white. To complement the foliage motif, he treated the treads with a black and white needlepoint runner in a leaf pattern. A tall chandelier dripping with polished ebony metal tubes injects a dose of modernity.
Working in a mostly neutral palette of white and cream, Holmes invigorates the room with throw pillows in a primary colored pattern, an ode to Mondrian. They are strategically placed on the pair of gently sloped, low-profile contemporary sofas that sit on either side of the neoclassical fireplace painted white. Cocktail tables shine like wet stones, and to complement their silvery finish, the designer set a sizeable geometric stainless-steel sculpture upon the mantel. “I felt there should be something tall and 3D to create a ‘relief,’” says Holmes of his audacious design choice.
MEETING FOR MEALS
Midcentury modern is in full swing in the family room and breakfast room, as well as the adjoining dining room, where distinguishing artwork is displayed throughout. Bent glass tables, minimal sofas, low-slung lounge chairs and a saarinen breakfast table complete the family room. A separate room includes a dining table made of glass and metal for more formal get-togethers.
The eclectic momentum continues into the master bedroom, where a geometric console sits below a mounted flat screen T.V. and a round banquette, like one might see in a historic European hotel lobby, adorns the sitting area. The streamlined, fully upholstered bed features a tall, button-tufted headboard, while glass and gloss nightstands end the design statement with modern punctuation.
Taking the beige Saturnia marble tile into consideration, Holmes continued that shade on the walls of the oversized shower, and then treated the tops of the protruding tub and his-and-her vanities with quartzite material, thus achieving a flawless “greige” color scheme in the master bath. The custom LED-lit mirrors are cutting-edge.
Since the homeowners cherish the outdoors so much, Holmes knew the backyard had to be spectacular. With an amazing pool and spa already working in his favor, he updated the space by replacing the terracotta tiles with a continuous slab of granite and added an array of minimalist, stark white patio furniture.
Fortunately, Holmes’ clients were receptive to his theory that when done right, a Hepplewhite-style oval-back chair can coexist in perfect harmony with a modern abstract painting. “I felt it worked, and so did they,” he says. Indeed, the design risks he took were many—but in the end, the reward significantly outweighed them.