Palm Beach architect Jacqueline Albarran won the 2014 Schuler Award for her design of Karen Egger’s Art Deco-style home. The front door is adjacent to the stair tower, which is crowned by a skylight. Photo by Jeff Langlois.
Karen Egger says she was as surprised as anyone to learn that her Art Deco-style house in the North End was to be honored for excellence in new architecture by the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.
“It’s beyond my wildest expectations,” she said. “I wanted a home that thrilled me — and I got it. The fact that it thrills other people just makes it that much more exponential for me.”
On Thursday, the foundation awarded Palm Beach architect Jacqueline Albarran of SKA Architect & Planner its Elizabeth L. and John H. Schuler Award for her design of Egger’s three-bedroom house at 216 Colonial Lane.
Albarran, who serves on the Architectural Commission, last won a Schuler Award in 2009 for a much larger estate of nearly 8,500 square feet at 180 Canterbury Lane. Egger’s house, by contrast, has 2,842 square feet of living space, inside and out, making it the smallest home ever to win the award.
But the house more than justifies the honor, said Alexander C. Ives, executive director of the foundation.
Among its distinctions, the house earned “platinum” certification as an environmentally sustainable property under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, created and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is said to be the first such property on the island to earn a platinum designation — the program’s most rigorous.
The stairway is graced by a custom-designed banister with acrylic spindles. A glass-block window, common in Art Deco buildings, provides privacy while allowing light to enter.
The fact that Egger did not request any zoning variances to build it also won favor with the foundation, Ives said. Variance requests are frequently submitted by owners “claiming they can’t build anything attractive without them,” Ives said. Albarran and Egger, in contrast, “worked within the rules.”
But the key item responsible for earning the Schuler Award was the crisp Art Deco-style architecture Albarran designed, Ives said.
He noted that the home’s architectural style “has its tradition in our town, but perhaps is not as prolific” as Mediterranean Revival or British Colonial. Among the best examples of the Art Deco style in Palm Beach is The Reef — noted society architect Maurice Fatio’s masterpiece — which took the gold medal at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition as “the most modern house in America.”
An attorney, Egger said she had long appreciated the charms of Art Deco architecture. She was raised in New York but also lived for the last 30 years in Europe, most recently in Switzerland.
“It’s simple, it’s clean and it’s whimsical — and yet it’s very stylish,” she said.
The Art Deco style emerged in France after World War I and soon found popularity in the United States, with its emphasis on geometric shapes and stylized, repeated decorative motifs. In South Florida, the style seemed particularly suited to resort life in the 1930s and ’40s: Miami Beach has one of the most extensive collections of Art Deco buildings in the country.
A variety of curved elements, including the master bedroom’s balcony, add visual interest to the façade above the pergola.
Egger’s house employs many of the elements that defined the U.S. version of the style, Albarran said.
“In the United States, we see more of the glass bricks, the rounded corners, the ‘eyebrow’ (shelves) above windows,” Albarran said.
Before she embarked on the house, Egger asked three architects to present ideas for it. Albarran’s submission impressed her “far and above” the others, even though the architect had never before designed a building in the style.
Albarran carried out extensive research, on her own, to interpret Egger’s wishes — and to keep the house proportional to its diminutive lot, which measures less than a fifth of an acre.
“She wanted a little jewel-box,” Albarran said. “The house has a lot of presence in such a little space.”
Egger also wanted a floor plan in which rooms flowed easily from one to the next with a minimum of interior walls — and plenty of windows.
“I tried not to have any hallways, to keep the space as open as possible,” Albarran said. “There’s so much transparency. The inside is not only open, but it’s almost see-through to the outside.”
She used geometrically detailed ceilings to help define the different spaces in the dining and living areas.
Egger also wanted an environmentally friendly home, an expectation related to her experiences in Europe, where such building practices are common. She turned to her real estate agent and longtime friend, Victoria Brewer of Fite Shavell & Associates, who had earned the National Association of Realtors’ “Green Designation.”
Brewer then brought in Kyle Abney, a Palm City-based LEED consultant. The project team also included contractor Tim Givens and interior decorator Kari Roundy.
Victoria Brewer of Fite Shavell & Associates
Locally available and recycled materials were used wherever possible, including the terrazzo for the floors and low-emission paint for the walls. The kitchen features green-certified countertops made of special concrete and glass, as well as formaldehyde-free cabinets from Schrapper’s Fine Cabinetry and Design of Jupiter.
Specially prefabricated concrete walls provide maximum insulation. And to boost the reverse air-conditioning system’s efficiency, windows and doors had to be air-tight. The flat roof got solar panels, and a 3,000-gallon cistern beneath the house stores rainwater for irrigation. Landscape designer Fernando Wong even specified water-efficient plants.
Crews also worked to recycle construction waste, a process that helped earn points toward the platinum certification, Albarran said.
She said the environmental focus — plus the out-of-the-box architectural style — energized those involved in building the house, which was finished last fall.
“I had never had an experience where so many people were dedicated to a project,” Albarran said.
Egger echoed that sentiment: “I had a fabulous team. They were all motivated and excited.”
Ives said the results of that collaboration speak for themselves. “In the end, both the carbon footprint and lot-size footprint of the house gave respect to natural and architectural environments.”
ABOUT THE SCHULER AWARD
The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach’s Elizabeth L. and John H. Schuler Award, established in 2005 by the Schulers, recognizes new architecture that is designed and built “in keeping with the traditional styles of Palm Beach architecture,” according to the foundation’s website.
The award complements the foundation’s Robert I. Ballinger Award, which honors historically sensitive renovations of large estates; the Polly Earl Award, which honors similar renovations of small-scale properties; and the Lesly S. Smith Landscape Award, which honors notable landscape projects.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
216 Colonial Lane
Homeowner: Karen Egger
Architect and project manager: Jacqueline Albarran, SKA Architect & Planner
General contractor: Tim Givens, Tim Givens Building & Remodeling
Structural engineer: Robert D. Botkin, P.E.
Civil engineer: Tom McCarthy, Clark and McCarthy Engineers
Landscape architect: Fernando Wong, Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design
Interior design: Kari Roundy, Atmospheres
LEED consultant: Kyle M. Abney, Abney & Abney Green Solutions
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