Nestled inside one of Palm Beach's iconic apartment buildings on the corner of South Lake and Australian Avenue overlooking the city's new marina, Danielle Rollins's clients had found a weekend retreat in the perfect location, but it was certainly lacking in terms of layout and character. Rollins explains that there are many hoops to jump through when renovating inside a historic Palm Beach complex like this, and, on top of that, she knew that the building would only let her work from May 1 to October 1. The designer had quite a challenge on her hands, but she was more than ready to stand up to it.
One thing that the clients, a couple from Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina, liked about the original apartment was the understated, neutral color scheme, and coupled with the need to salvage as much of the existing home as possible to avoid shipping delays that would keep Rollins from her October timeline, the inspiration for the home's design shaped up quickly. As a long-time decorator of Palm Beach residences, the designer eschews the typical pink and green motifs for a more understated take on Palm Beach style and found further inspiration from just outside the living room's window. She imagined the main living space to feel like a deconstructed palm tree: The grasscloth swathing the space would be like a tree trunk and the CZ Stockwell wallcovering in the kitchen would bring in the leafy, tropical green to create context in an out-of-the-box but elegant way.
"I like to go into a place before anyone is in there and just sit and think about the space, processing its history and when it was built while thinking about how the rest of the architecture fits in," says Rollins. "That gave me a baseline of what it needed to feel like, especially with Palm Beach buildings and how strict they are with what you can and can't do. I actually like that because it keeps you focused on preserving the space for another 100 years."
Rollins took a roll of blue tape and completely reimagined the home's 800-square-foot layout to feel more functional and appropriate for entertaining, practically creating a CAD rendering in real life for the owners to see how much furniture could actually fit in the home with a little imagination and ingenuity. And instead of tearing up the small, dated kitchen that the owners detested, the designer made the most of the space by repainting the cabinetry, adding pulls from her line that make them look "like a Gucci handbag," and opening up the storage space to house the couple's beautiful collection of serveware and a sleek, new wine fridge that made the cook space feel more integrated and modern. The bar area in the living room serves as a welcome extension of the small but mighty kitchen and also helps create a nice flow for hosting. Plus, the vintage Bielecky Brothers armoire really makes a statement as the home's bar while adding height and texture to the space.
"These buildings are so old—they are literally made of poured concrete—so moving walls isn't easy, but it does make the apartments quiet and insulated," says Rollins. "However, the challenging part is that the rooms can feel really cold and will echo, so it was important that we covered the bedroom in a white lined wallpaper and brought in a rug that was almost wall-to-wall to cover the stone floors to envelope the room and add texture and coziness."
The bed serves as the primary focal point of the bedroom, but the space is full of charming details at every turn. Rollins's goal with this space was to create something akin to a glamorous hotel suite where the clients could simply arrive, drop their bags, and get out to enjoy Palm Beach. The ensuite bath was not to the clients' liking, but in order to stay within time constraints, Rollins sought ways to keep the black and white tiles while transforming the room into something they would be excited to start and end their days in. She found the perfect inspiration while at the popular Sag Harbor resort, Baron's Cove, clients in tow, where she walked into a restroom featuring Albert Hadley's immortalized "Fireworks" pattern on the walls. It was just the complement she needed to pair with the tiles, and a touch of pale blue tied the room together to create a space that felt brighter and more youthful.
While Rollins is known for her work with color (one of our favorite of her rooms was painted to match her favorite shade of lipstick!), the designer says that the longer she's lived in Palm Beach, the more she's come to appreciate a more neutral palette to balance out all the color that's right outside the front door. The designer notes that she also doesn't like to do anything twice. She adds that she doesn't want her spaces to look like Danielle Rollins designed it, but would rather they be direct reflections of her clients.
"No matter the project, I'm always focused on texture, pattern, the functionality of pieces, and the practicality of the room—how it will live," Rollins says. "That's the fun part of the design for me and [it] keeps me up at night. This project honed in on all these things, and with the short time frame it was like gearing up for a race. It was all about how I could get everything in here as quickly as possible."
Rollins has since become dear friends with the clients, and she loves hearing about how functional and beautiful the weekend home is for them. Rollins says they truly live in it and use it in a large way, whether that's hosting a bunch of friends for breakfast or setting the table with linens for a quiet date night in, and she has loved getting to experience the rewards of this transformation firsthand. The project is a reminder that we don't always have to eliminate everything we dislike in a home, but can use its quirks as a challenge to create something truly unique and beautiful.
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