Peek Inside a Designer’s Eclectic Palm Beach Oasis

·3-min read
Photo credit: Carmel Brantley
Photo credit: Carmel Brantley

When interior designer Caroline Rafferty and her husband spotted a midcentury modern home for sale in Palm Beach, they were quick to snatch it up. Rafferty, who runs her own local design studio, was particularly sold on the 1950s architecture, an anomaly amid the British Colonial and Mediterranean Revival properties that typify the posh island.

The house was, in Rafferty’s telling, “simple enough that it didn’t demand one distinct style of decorations.” Better still? There was ample room to house her sizable assemblage of blue-chip art and vintage furnishings. “Finally, a place big enough to take all of our collections!” Rafferty notes.

Photo credit: Carmel Brantley
Photo credit: Carmel Brantley

Before the storage units (chockablock with auction finds and treasures from Paris’s marché aux puces) could be uncrated, however, the house needed an update, one that turned into a two-year renovation. For starters, twisting hallways made for cramped bedrooms and blocked access to the back courtyard and pool. But during one evening walkthrough, iPad in hand for sketching, “I realized that changing the main hallway [by pushing it to the courtyard side] would unlock the orientation of the house,” says Rafferty.

Now, one wing of the home hosts public spaces like the living room, kitchen, and family room, while private spaces including the bedrooms, bathrooms, and offices are located in the opposite wing. The key hallway shift really “cracked the house open,” says Rafferty and helped ascertain the breezy, oasislike persona she was seeking.

Photo credit: Carmel Brantley
Photo credit: Carmel Brantley

Once the demolition began, construction workers chipped away to discover that the original floor had been terrazzo. “While we couldn’t save it, I repoured the entire house with terrazzo everywhere—in the showers and everything,” says the designer, who also raised the ceilings from eight feet to a loftier 12 feet. By keeping the palette light and the spaces airy, “I could really play with color everywhere,” she says.

Canvas freshly readied, Rafferty got to work. She envisioned the home as “a rotating gallery” and sought to display as many of her pieces as possible. Nowhere is this approach showcased better than in her impressive 2,000-square-foot living room (a space that is “more than double the size of my first New York apartment,” she observes). The sofa wall features two works by Andy Warhol, two paintings by Rene Gagnon flank a Damien Hirst piece, and a Diego Giacometti bird sculpture preens on a side table nearby.

Photo credit: Carmel Brantley
Photo credit: Carmel Brantley

A monumental 20-foot-long white sofa from CB2 juxtaposes the area’s rarefied art and antiques (including a Pierre Jeanneret cocktail table). “That’s my vibe. I buy what’s valuable that I love, but a white sofa is a white sofa,” she says of the affordable find. A Poul Cadovius Cado teak wall unit, found at auction, brings in midcentury swagger while also anchoring another seating area. Across the way in the big living room, Rafferty composed a cool yet sentimental arrangement around her grandmother’s original Karl Springer dining table—“bought directly from Karl,” she adds. Rafferty surrounded it with an eclectic arrangement of Moroccan chandeliers and a chair, shaped like a cupped hand, designed by Pedro Friedeberg.

Photo credit: Carmel Brantley
Photo credit: Carmel Brantley

Throughout the rest of the home, Rafferty leaned into walnut and cherry cabinetry to nod to the house’s midcentury roots, as well as clean marble finishes and crisp colors— particularly hints of green, as featured in the kitchen, family room, and primary bedroom. “This house has so many windows and so much green outside, so I brought that grass color indoors, which is unusual for coastal homes,” she says.

But don’t expect the home to stay this way for too long: “That’s the good thing about a designer’s own home,” Rafferty muses. “It’s totally organic and ever-changing.”

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