Why Palm Beach Is the Perfect Destination for Design Lovers

·10 min read

During the pandemic, the city of Palm Beach saw an uptick in interest—and not from its usual set of octogenarian residents: the tony town once best known for its elegant retirees has become one of the preeminent hot spots for young families seeking space, and sun.

It’s safe to say that the land of Addison Mizner architecture, Kennedy mythology and Pulitzer prints is shedding its stuffy persona. And now that travel restrictions have eased, you don’t even need to be planning a move to enjoy the area. A long weekend will make it clear that the town has much to offer, with a new set of shops, restaurants and hotels at the top of the list.

Below, a travel guide to Palm Beach, spanning the best of what’s up and coming while paying homage to the town’s rich and unique history.

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Photo: Courtesy of Ariel Okin / @arielokin

Where to Stay in Palm Beach

The Breakers is an iconic and historic resort located on the ocean in the middle of town, walking distance from both famed shopping on Worth Avenue and the recently revitalized Royal Poinciana Plaza (more on that below). Dripping with quintessential Palm Beach charm, the rooms are outfitted in chic, happy design schemes: think bamboo beds and bountiful botanical prints. Incredibly family friendly, the resort offers beach service, tennis, golf, a kid’s club, and more. Young families will appreciate the attention to detail: during a recent stay pre-COVID with my then-four-month-old daughter, the hotel concierge thoughtfully arranged for a bottle warmer and extra crib sheets to be brought up to the room—without us asking (!)—not to mention a diaper pail, adjustable crib, and an adorable Breakers teddy bear.

The building has a long history: after fires ravaged the original property in both 1903 and 1925, Breakers founder Henry M. Flagler, of Standard Oil fame—whose labor practices have since been re-examined—reopened the property in 1926 with help from New York architects Schultze and Weaver—the same creative minds who brought to life iconic hotels such as the Pierre, and Park Avenue’s Waldorf Astoria. Recently renovated, the hotel maintains much of its original integrity (the ceilings in the lobby entrance are not to be missed—nor are the legendary Christmas decorations).

A view from The Breakers
A view from The Breakers
Photo: Courtesy of Ariel Okin / @arielokin

Elegant Spanish Colonial architecture and a lush tropical courtyard mingle with warm ocean breezes at the clubby and boutiquey Brazilian Court Hotel. A historic landmark infused with Art Deco 1920’s glamour, the private, 80-room enclave is a classic Palm Beach getaway—bringing together stunning, high-style accommodations and impeccable service for an unforgettable experience. With a tucked away feel reminiscent of the Hotel Bel-Air, The Brazilian Court is a perfect spot for the under-the-radar type. A property highlight? Café Boulud—the on-site Daniel Boulud restaurant with a sleek, contemporary vibe and five-star French cuisine (we’re partial to the gorgeous brunch spread).

For an immersive escape, visit The Eau Palm Beach. A ten-minute drive from Worth Avenue, it’s complete with one of the best and most awarded spas in the country, with accommodations designed by Jonathan Adler. One of only two Forbes Five Star resorts in Palm Beach (the other is The Breakers!) and eight in Florida, as well as a AAA Five Diamond Resort, the Eau is all about customer service. Much of the staff has been there for 20-plus years, giving the hotel a familiar feel from the second you step into the entryway’s roundabout portico. With a kid’s club, fitness classes on the beach, rooms with their own personal concierge, and a dog-friendly policy (a personal barometer on a hotel’s character), the Eau is an unbeatable respite from the chaos of the day to day, and will expertly welcome both haggard parents looking for some P&Q and twentysomethings seeking a warm escape.

Then there’s White Elephant Palm Beach. The original White Elephant hotel in Nantucket is a legendary locale, so it’s no surprise that their recently opened Palm Beach outpost is the talk of the town. The hotel’s contemporary interpretation of Mediterranean-revival architecture reflects the pulse and excitement of Palm Beach, while capturing the spirit of a stately home—allowing for a cozy, boutique feel. The building, established in 1924, was renovated by Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects to include 13 deluxe rooms and 19 suites, including The Park Suite, which was recently awarded "Best Suite" in by the Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design. An added bonus? The hotel is walking distance from every shop and restaurant in town.

Where to Shop in Palm Beach

The shopping in Palm Beach rivals the best avenues in the most famous towns in the world: you can’t categorize Madison Avenue and Rodeo Drive without including Worth Avenue. (And even Manhattan luxury retailers are taking note: many are pulling the plug on their city shops in favor of warmer climes.) Yet arguably the best part about Palm Beach shopping is its vintage stores. The Church Mouse, located just north of Worth, is 4,500 square feet of heaven—from vintage Hermes bags and Chanel blazers to one of a kind china, quirky lamps, and everything in between, this “thrift store” (if it can even be called that) is the arguably the top resale store in the country. Head here to peruse one of a kind pieces, then walk into town for some ice cream at Sprinkles and meander over to the beach across the street to savor your treat; the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

On South Dixie Highway just over the bridge in West Palm Beach, you’ll find Antique Row—two city blocks worth of antique furniture stores with roots that date back to the 1960s and beyond. Ranging in style from rattan and wicker island finds to opulent Louis XIV, there is something for everyone in this true treasure trove—particularly perfect for anyone who appreciates a bit of patina. First up on the must-see list is Casa Gusto, a space filled with antiques, objets and art curated with—you guessed it—gusto. Helmed by proprietor Cris Briger and her two sons, Augie and Charlie, Casa Gusto opened its doors on Georgia Avenue in 2018. The beloved space is filled with goods both old and new, gathered and invented, from around the globe. For absolutely perfect vintage rattan at any price (and tons of rare pieces by Mario Lopez Torres, in which they specialize), pop into Circa Who. Head to James & Jeffrey for beautifully crafted pieces from the 18th and 19th Century, Faustina Pace Antiques & Interiors for well-curated mid-century and French and Swedish country style items (think: worn antique clay decanters) and Authentic Provence for just that: touted as “the leading source of fine European garden antiques, reclaimed building materials and period furniture,” they do not disappoint. On the theme of Provence, head into Blue Provence once back on the island, a favorite for sandwiches on hearty baguette and delicious éclairs.

Painted frames at Casa Gusto
Painted frames at Casa Gusto
Photo: Courtesy of Charles Peed

For beautiful hostess gifts, interior designer Amanda Lindroth’s easy breezy island store on South County Road has all the essentials with none of the fuss. In the same vein with a global, layered bent, internationally renowned AD100 interior designer Alessandra Branca recently opened her shop, Casa Branca, on Worth Avenue, showcasing her beautiful array of fabrics, wallpapers, antiques, porcelain and more, with her signature elegance and warm panache. And what began as a small D. Porthault linen boutique in 1985 emerged into one of the preeminent table top retailers today: Mary Mahoney. An institution on Worth Avenue in existence for three decades, it’s a must do for anyone who covets exotic dinnerware or sparkling flatware (brides, take note of their exceptional registry offering). Il Papiro, the famed Florentine stationer, has its last remaining U.S. outpost on Worth Avenue—head here for notebooks and unique handmade stationery. And for those who want to take part in the Palm Beach tradition of monogramming everything (truly, everything), Lori Jayne is your girl.

Outside Casa Branca
Outside Casa Branca
Photo: Courtesy of Casa Branca

Not to miss: the recently opened Royal Poinciana Plaza, which has quickly become a central artery of the island, with luxury boutiques ranging from Assouline to Zadig & Voltaire, major blue chip art galleries like Aquavella, must-eat restaurants Palm Beach Grill and Honor Bar, and outposts of New York favorites like Lingua Franca, Zimmermann and more. You can even take an outdoor Soul Cycle class in the Royal’s courtyard, then treat yourself to an afternoon gelato at Sant Ambroeus.

Holidays at The Breakers
Holidays at The Breakers
Photo: Courtesy of Ariel Okin / @arielokin

Where to Eat

Between new spots opening and beloved New York locales branching out with Palm Beach outposts, this is arguably one of the most exciting times in the island’s dining history. Le Bilboquet, a New York City favorite known for its raucous parties and excellent Cajun chicken, just opened its Worth Avenue iteration, while La Goulue, a treasured Manhattan institution, opened up in 2020, offering up its signature French cuisine with a side of gorgeous scenery. A few stalwarts that stand out as time tested favorites: Buccan (pro tip: order the gourmet hot dog), Bice, Renato’s and Pizza Al Fresco all offer charming patios to imbibe and people watch. (And don’t forget the aforementioned Palm Beach Grill and Honor Bar for a buzzy scene.) In the works? A private club for the thirtysomething-set, called Carriage House, to be outfitted by international interior designer Luis Bustamante and modeled after 5 Hertford Street, the famed Mayfair supper club. And if you want to dine like a true Palm Beacher, head to Green’s Pharmacy or Surfside Diner for some early morning eggs and pancakes—JFK used to take his coffee at the Green’s luncheonette counter.

What to Do in Palm Beach

Cultural and physical activities abound in Palm Beach, where the ocean and Lake Worth Inlet border countless museums and art galleries. The Manhattan based Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse, one of the most lauded interior design show houses in the country, is an annual attraction, hosting a list of A-List and up and coming designers each year.

The Society of the Four Arts is a non-profit founded in 1936 that provides truly rich cultural programming—not to mention it’s housed in an utterly magnificent historic Addison Mizner building. Check the roster for an impressive array of guest speakers, films, concerts, and art exhibitions, and don’t miss the gorgeous sculpture and botanical gardens. Also worth a visit is The Norton Museum of Art; with more than 7,600 works of art in five curatorial departments, important and lesser known works shine side by side. And The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is now offering outdoor jazz performances.

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Photo: Courtesy of Ariel Okin / @arielokin

A walk or bike ride along Lake Trail is truly one of the best ways to start or end a day, but if you’re itching to get out on the water, rent one for the day with Barton & Gray, which docks at the Palm Beach Yacht Club. A beach walk fulfills the most voracious architecture lover’s dreams, with historic estates designed by Marion Sims Wyeth, Maurice Fatio and Joseph Urban in plain view—keep an eye out for famous homes such as Estée Lauder’s big white estate, still in use with the family today, and the former Kennedy compound, recently restored as a private residence.

And for those looking for a little festivity, Cucina Dell’arte is by far the local watering hole: a restaurant that turns into a makeshift “club” of sorts at night, the bar is beloved by patrons both old and young—it even recently underwent a renovation, but the owners were quick to keep its signature identifying factor: a shiny disco ball that twirls until morning.

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Originally Appeared on Vogue