Project Spanish Colonial Restoration
Design Architect Fairfax & Sammons

When this restored Mediterranean Revival style dwelling in one of Palm Beach’s earliest neighborhoods was granted landmark status in 2017, local preservation consultant Emily Stillings observed that it was “a great example of a house being returned to its grandeur with new owners.” A year later the house, designed in 1928 by architects John Volk and Gustav Maass, received the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach’s Polly Earl Award, which recognizes renovation-and-restoration projects at smaller-scale properties of historical significance. The project was designed by architectural firm Fairfax & Sammons of Palm Beach and New York City.

Pink Spanish Colonial

Designated a landmark in 2017, the property’s original facade is enhanced by a new stucco wall along the street with piers stone caps and a reclaimed wrought iron gate.

“The owners had a personal style they wanted to express,” says firm principal Richard Sammons, “which was to keep the architecture as pure as possible and then be creative with the furnishings.” Both of the owners, who have since sold the house, are veteran retail and design executives, world travelers and enthusiastic art and objet collectors who were keenly engaged in the renovation process. “The attempt was to design freely within the language and spirit of the original house,” elaborates project architect Kimberly Clemente, “so that the complete product would be authentic and true to character.”

Spanish Colonial garden

A one-bedroom guest cottage original to the house was updated with new windows, cypress garage doors, and a cypress gate in addition to being completely renovated inside.

Compared to leading Palm Beach society architect Addison Mizner’s grand estates and even some of Volk’s own projects (mansions in the city for such clients as Vanderbilt, DuPont, Ford, Dodge, and Pulitzer), this house is modestly sized—5,000 square feet of living space, inside and out—and in a neighborhood where, says Sammons, “you’ll find bungalows mixed in with early-Spanish and Mediterranean-ish houses, but not the estates that Mizner was doing.”

interior of Spanish Colonial

Many of the house’s original features were retained, including the stone columns, tile, and metalwork in the entryway.

What the house lacks in size it makes up for with a masterful combination of original, repurposed, and new elements. Clad in mottled pink stucco on its original balloon frame, the house cuts a handsome figure with commanding wooden front doors and a heraldic shield carved into a cast-stone frontispiece, all original. Other exterior features left unchanged include a barrel clay-tile roof and simple sash windows. Stepping into the brick-floored entryway, the main staircase—from its colorful glazed tiles to wrought iron railings and stone columns—is all authentic, as is the pecky-cypress woodwork on interior doors. Elsewhere in the house, architectural components were salvaged and reused, such as ceiling brackets in the living room and a frieze and modillions in the dining room.

Cypress ceiling

Beneath a new cypress paneled ceiing and framed by a new archivolt painted on the dining room door opening, a new fireplace with tile surround complements an existing frieze and modillions that were salvaged and reused.

Knit together, these traditional elements provided a backdrop for respectful renovations, much of which were intended to augment the house’s modern-day comfort factor. “The big moves were opening up the living room completely and adding a rear second-story loggia overlooking the pool,” says Sammons. In order to more effectively marry the indoors and outdoors, the number of arched French doors on the living room’s south side was increased from three to seven. New but based on an original design with added lunette-style transom windows, they open out onto a pre-existing pool loggia where new green tile was laid in a chevron pattern. Sunlight streams in and, with the doors open, the inner courtyard becomes a natural extension of the living room. Renovations to the landscape and the pool were designed by Palm Beach-based Nievera Williams Design.

antique brick, Spanish Colonial

The all-new kitchen includes a ceiling made up of antique brick vaulting between steel beams, and cypress cabinet doors with applied mouldings in geometric patterns.

Above the loggia’s archways, an enclosed sleeping porch on the second floor was reopened to the elements, creating a shaded veranda overlooking the pool off of the master bedroom. In the second-floor loggia, new decorative chamfers and capitals were added to the existing wood posts and a new handrail with turned wood balusters contributes to the Spanish character of the original house. Beneath a new pergola on the east side of the courtyard, a new single-arch steel and glass casement door leads from the pool area to the family room, its large size allowing much more sunlight into the room than before.

leaded window sashes

In the living room, existing shutters and leaded window sashes were restored while the herringbone floor with oversized tiles is new yet in keeping with the old.

The only part of the house to undergo a total renovation was the kitchen, starting by opening it up to the dining room with a figured arch that matches existing openings in the house. An archivolt was painted on this door opening as well as on others throughout the house. Another transformational step taken in the kitchen was lowering the floor by a foot in order to maximize the height of the new ceiling made up of antique brick vaulting between steel beams. The kitchen’s cypress cabinet doors have applied mouldings in octagonal, diamond, and star shaped geometric patterns that mimic the patterns and details on some of the existing cypress doors of the house. Above the three-inch-thick, solid reclaimed stone countertop, brackets supporting the open shelves were designed to closely match the profile of exposed rafter tails at the second-floor eaves. New steel casement windows were also added to the kitchen. For outdoor entertaining, there’s a new fireplace on the north side of the pergola as well as a new pizza oven with playful Spanish details.

shell stone mantel

The shell stone mantel and canted plaster chimney breast are new and designed by Fairfax & Sammons.

In the end, Fairfax & Sammons achieved the homeowners’ goal of preservation coupled with respectful creation of new in character with the old, all done, says project architect Clemente, “in a distinct but appropriate way.”

French door series

A new second-story loggia overlooks the pre-restoration pool, onto which open seven French doors, four new ones added to the original three.

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