Nearly 25 years ago, when the designers James Aman and John Meeks first began working together, they landed the arts philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau as an early client. True to her cultural passions—she is an honorary trustee of the Whitney Museum, to which she has gifted hundreds of paintings—Fisher Landau had a vast assemblage to display in her Park Avenue apartment. A previous designer had wanted to rip up the original Rosario Candela architecture, the better to showcase her artworks. “Emily told us, ‘I may shop in a cold gallery to buy art, but I don’t want to live there,’” Aman recalls. “And we understood that.”
In the ensuing decades, the ELLE Decor A-List design duo’s clientele has predominantly consisted of art collectors, including the owners of this Palm Beach vacation house. The Washington, D.C.–based couple, who had hired the duo to design their city house, explained that they were looking for luxurious, timeless interiors in Palm Beach that wouldn’t compete with their Ai Weiwei paintings and Jeff Koons sculpture. There was also the challenge of accommodating the spontaneity and whims of kids and other houseguests; the couple have three adult children and seven grandchildren. Looking to expand from a smaller previous home nearby to something spacious enough for both playrooms and Hockneys, they purchased this five-bedroom contemporary ranch-style house in 2014 on the north end of town. “Our old house was traditional in an old Florida sense, with lots of chintz,” says the wife, who loves throwing cocktail parties and dinners with her husband, a real estate developer. “We were ready for something different—an elegant beach house.”
Decor that was elegant, while also amenable to colorful abstract works, muddy footprints, and spilled drinks, was a tall order, but one to which the designers happily rose. “Jim always jokes that children and pets are our best friends,” Meeks says. He and Aman began by creating a better flow in the house’s public spaces. You enter into a foyer gallery facing the expansive living room, with a dining room, kitchen, and family room radiating off to the sides. Aman and Meeks employed their signature restrained, neutrals-oriented palette throughout the home. “We’ve never been big on passementerie,” Aman says.
In the foyer, limestone flooring and Venetian plaster bounce light off a faux-pearl multimedia piece by Paola Pivi, a silver work by Blair Thurman, and a Fernando Rodríguez Falcón sculpture the owners bought in Cuba. The formal living room has a similar lightness, with a ceiling covered in a reflective silver-leaf paper that offsets the Issey Miyake rice-paper lanterns.
The mostly white room, which overlooks the modern landscaped garden, is centered by a pair of custom daybeds inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona sofa. These are topped with cushions in a metallic performance fabric—one of many weather-resistant fabrics the designers employed indoors in the home. The handwoven faux–patent leather rug is equally carefree. “It’s glamorous but also low-key and low-maintenance,” Aman says.
The family room, with its gray-lacquered millwork and custom sofa in a pearl-gray Ultrasuede, is home to a large abstract work by Eddie Martinez. Nearby, a painting by Valerio Adami that has been in the wife’s family for 50 years hangs behind a brass armchair by the late designer Jay Spectre, with whom the couple were close. Works by Gene Davis, Charles Hinman, and Jeff Koons converse in a dining room where twin dining tables have tops in white lacquer and silver drum bases designed by Ringo Starr (yes, of the Beatles) that the owners had in storage. They can seat 22 when pushed together or be set apart for smaller gatherings.
Serenity reigns in the master bedroom, where a four-poster lacquer-and–silver leaf bed adds an architectural counterpoint to three David Hockney watercolors. The vinyl sisal carpet means the owners don’t have to fret about chlorine tracked in from the pool right outside their bedroom doors.
Recently, there have been no guests to test the resilience of Aman and Meeks’s family-friendly interiors. And the owners themselves don’t know how soon they’ll be able to return to their house. They eagerly await that time when it comes. “She really loves being in our home,” the husband says. “I feel calm there,” the wife concurs. “I feel at peace.”
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE
You Might Also Like