By CHRISTINE DAVIS /Special to the Daily News
Perched on a pedestal in the foyer, a stuffed white peacock adorned with crystals and other ornaments greets visitors. Photography by Robert Stevens Courtesy of Fite Shavell & Associates.
Glam Zen? Zen Glam? Could it be that decorator Mary Lee Harper has created a new design style for clients Charles and Tamera Pompea in their 1960s-era house at 126 Casa Bendita in Palm Beach?
“The house is Zen-like, even though it has glamour,” Harper says. “And it’s peaceful although colorful.”
It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but it works here — and with unexpected ease.
Her clients bought the house in 2009, because they were attracted by the location, the land and the home’s idiosyncratic architectural details, explains Harper, who owns Harper & Associates in West Palm Beach.
“Most Regency-style homes have mansard or flat roof lines, but I was drawn to this one because of the roof’s (unusually steep) pitch,” Harper explains.
Five streets north of Wells Road on the North End, the house stands on land once part of the long-demolished Casa Bendita, the ocean-to-lake estate designed by society architect Addison Mizner and built in 1921 for John S. “Jay” Phipps and his family. The Pompeas’ lot, on the south side of the street named for the estate, features one of Palm Beach’s most idiosyncratic historical landmarks: a wall designed by Mizner for Casa Bendita, which runs along one side of the property.
“It’s on a magnificent lot,” says Harper, explaining that among her design priorities was to create an easy transition between the interiors and the extensive poolside areas. Those include a covered loggia attached to the main house and, opposite it beyond the pool, a freestanding cabana pavilion with an outdoor fireplace.
Photographed at dusk with its pocket doors retracted, the living room is open to the loggia at this home at 126 Casa Bendita, listed for sale furnished at $7.995 million by Fite Shavell & Associates. Photography by Robert Stevens Courtesy of Fite Shavell & Associates.
“And the ‘frosting’ on the house is all original,” she says.
By frosting, she’s referring to ornamentation on elements including the front door’s pediment, which, when she first visited the house, was obscured by the landscaping.
Those elements — the pitched roof and the ornamentation — inspired her to head in the direction of the Hollywood Regency style, which, she explains was made popular by California architect John Elgin Woolf, a close friend of legendary director George Cukor. In the 1950s and 1960s, Woolf designed homes for a host of Hollywood stars including Errol Flynn, Judy Garland and Katharine Hepburn.
Although her clients were willing to demolish the 1967 house and build anew, Harper says, she helped them reach the decision to renovate, in part because of the home’s gracious layout of rooms. She did, however, flip two bedrooms with a gallery and turned one of the bedrooms into a den.
While their house on Casa Bendita was being renovated, the homeowners resided at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and Spa development in Jupiter, and they have since decided not to move back to the island. As a result, someone else will get to own their four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath house with 6,300 square feet of living space, inside and out. The new owner can also enjoy the fruits of Harper’s imagination, as the home is being offered for sale with its furnishings at $7.995 million by Fite Shavell & Associates.
To gain entree, visitors pass by an item that is, to say the least, unusual: a stuffed albino peacock with a bejeweled collar perched on a pedestal in the foyer, its white tail feathers nearly sweeping the floor. And concerning the house’s style and tone, the glamorous bird is an apt symbol, Harper notes.
“She’s really quite beautiful,” Harper says. “I named her Annette, because the house does have a French feel.”
Harper came across the bird in a vintage store and suggested to Tamera Pompea its use as an accessory for the entry hall. “She said it sounded fun. Charles, though, said, ‘What?’ But they love it
Viewed from one end of the loggia, the pool separates the main house from the freestanding cabana pavilion at the left. The guest-bedroom addition is to the right of the pavilion. Photography by Robert Stevens Courtesy of Fite Shavell & Associates.
now,” Harper says, adding that peacocks are a sign of prosperity.
The foyer, along with the bird, is opulent. It features a mirrored ceiling and marble floors. The stepped-crown molding and pilasters, reinterpretations of Woolf’s designs, contribute to the grand effect.
Through a wide opening to the east, one steps down into the living room, which features a floor of large white glass tiles set on the diagonal. Farther east is a vestibule leading to the master suite. To the south of the foyer are the kitchen, dining room and family room. The two-car garage is to the west of the foyer, and, from the family room, the gallery leads to two bedrooms suites. At the end of the gallery, a new vestibule opens to the guest-bedroom addition, which is just next to the new cabana
The color scheme throughout is centered on grays, creams and taupes, although there are spikes of color. For example, in the den, the beige grass-cloth wall-covering contains a hint of red. Primary doors are lacquered black with nickel or chrome hardware, and the walnut cabinetry’s grains are book-matched.
To adorn the home’s wide doorways, Harper repeated the stylized pilasters as well as the stepped moldings, and while the living-room floor is glass, the other floors throughout are bleached oak.
The furnishings, Harper says, reflect the fact that she’s big on comfort.
“The sofas in the living room are vintage — I like the forms of vintage upholstered furniture. I had them stripped down and redone in linen bringing them back to our genre,” she explains.
Other pieces are vintage designs by Jens Risom, T.H. Robsjohn Gibbings and Milo Baughman, mixed in with custom pieces by architect Kirk Stetson.
The cartouche decoration above the front door was original to the house, which was built in 1967. The lot was once part of Casa Bendita, the 1920s-era estate of the John S. 'Jay’ Phipps family. Photography by Robert Stevens Courtesy of Fite Shavell & Associates.
“The living room, dining room and den feature pocket doors that retract into the walls, so the whole house flows,” Harper notes.
She kept the landscaping simple, so as to show off the architecture. And the look of the patio, pool, covered loggia and cabana pavilion are other nods to Woolf, who, she explains, designed with outdoor entertaining in mind.
The bathrooms have been done over, too. The powder room has a multi-stepped ceiling, and the master bathroom features a Baccarat crystal chandelier.
“Another thing I did that’s a little new for Palm Beach, I made the kitchen minimal, although it has plenty of storage and cabinetry. The kitchen is all in view, and it doesn’t look like a kitchen. It
can serve a dinner party for 12 without a problem and works great for caterers, which is how we are living today,” she says.
Just another Zen Glam touch.