Delray Beach artist Junior Sandler splashes canvases with vibrant color and captures the energy of South Florida’s tropical lifestyle. Along with showcasing her work at galleries in Palm Beach and beyond, Sandler recently collaborated on her first design project with interior designer Lauren Haskell. Luxe catches up with Sandler. shoplohome.com
How did you get your start? I was exposed to art early on and experimented with many mediums, such as charcoal, ceramics and oil. Formal training is wonderful for technique, but the opportunity to explore with an easel, still life or live models allowed me to trust my vision and expression. I started donating works to my favorite charities some years ago. The feedback was so positive that it pushed me to take a professional view of my production.
What do you want your works to evoke? My designs are based in natural patterns, and that feeling of lightness and tranquility is what I hope shines through. I aim for a contemporary take on traditional, so there is a simplicity in the images yet they’re still provocative. Color is a must.
Take us behind the scenes of your latest collaboration with Lauren Haskell. We followed one another on Instagram, and she reached out saying she saw something special in my work. Lauren hand-selected the paintings, which became beautiful fabrics, wallpapers, pillows and pottery, including ginger jars. I thought of myself as a painter, but she has encouraged me to see myself as a designer as well.
Over the next decades, the estate was divvied up into smaller parcels and sold, but the main residence remained, almost just as it was built, until its current owners set foot on the property. “It was on and off the market multiple times, and for about four years, we made offers on it,” the wife recalls. “My biggest concern was that someone would buy it and just tear it down.” But the couple prevailed and undertook the work of restoring the house to its former aesthetic glory while updating it for life in the 21st century.
Interior designer Renée Gaddis led the effort—and she had a lot of beautiful elements to work with: original windows and heart-of-pine floors, detailed molding and millwork, Shaker-style doors with brass hardware, and push-button electrical switches with pearl inlays. From the beginning, Gaddis knew how her plans would play out. “I think a lot of people couldn’t see through the home’s age and wear; it might have looked daunting and overwhelming,” she says. “But the house itself inspired me. It led me to the design very easily, and I saw clearly what we had to do, which was take the house back to its original grandeur.”
Gaddis began by preserving the structure’s layout, with help from general contractor Joe Gatewood. “The home was an absolute time capsule when we first saw it,” he recalls. They removed a living area fireplace that blocked views of the water from the main entrance; its second- story counterpart came out, too, leaving additional space for the main bathroom (and even with these changes, the house still retains six original fireplaces). Gaddis had the floors refinished and integrated the century-old molding into new baseboards. Rusted-out door hardware was replaced with replicas—“The mechanisms were so bad, we kept getting locked in rooms,” the designer says. And the old windows and exterior doors— which, Gatewood points out, endured a century of storms—had to go too in favor of hurricane- code-compliant versions.
In this updated shell, Gaddis layered in luxurious fixtures and finishes, sumptuously upholstered furnishings and beautifully crafted art pieces. In the living area, she staged “a perfect combination of modern interiors in a historic home,” the wife says. There, glam chandeliers pair with a sleek white marble coffee table and clean-lined sofas. The family room, too, sets a rich tone with detailed wall paneling and built- ins painted gray and two plush velvet sectionals. Striking contemporary fixtures make statements throughout the residence, overseeing more classical furnishings in a fabulous presentation of old meets new.
As the design came together, the house had some secrets to reveal. The team found an old potbelly stove Gaddis transformed into a wood-burning pizza oven, a decision that led her to reimagine the kitchen as a 1920s French bistro with open glass shelves and brass fixtures. More demo uncovered a safe hidden in a wall in the owners’ bedroom. Sadly, it didn’t contain any Carnegie cash.
But the home does contain more than a modicum of priceless history, which is now preserved for a long time to come. “We all felt like this was the project of a lifetime,” Gatewood says. The new owners agree. “This isn’t just a home for our family,” the wife says. “It’s a piece of Fort Myers history that will outlast us all.”
The property is nestled in a golf course community, so it didn’t seem right to pursue a typical coastal look, Davis explains. “We didn’t want it to feel like a beach house, but we did want it to feel like a Florida home,” she says. The abode also needed to reflect the Tatums’ new stage of life, a departure from their larger, more traditional permanent residence in New Hampshire. “Courtney and I set out to create a comfortable space that is both classic and beautiful,” Nancy says. They envisioned an Old Florida-style garden house that feels fresh and welcoming, with wow factors throughout.
They began with the structure’s bones. General contractor John Prendergast took the home down to the studs and, while keeping the layout roughly the same, added a bathroom, reworked doorways and openings, leveled floors and removed and lined walls. “We took it all the way down and then had to put it back together again so we could add the layers of design we wanted,” Davis says. “We were giving the house a soul where there really hadn’t been one before.”
Moldings and trim now infuse each space with character, as do ceiling treatments, including cypress over the living area. “We added intention to the architectural design through these somewhat small but very important changes,” Davis says. New built-ins also add personality: Where a wall once stood, double-sided cabinets face the kitchen on one side and, on the other, serve as bookcases backed with a blue grass-cloth wallcovering for the living area. Another set of cabinetry defines the entry and conceals a bar lined with a patterned antique tile. “It’s this little special jewel box of a spot, and it’s one of the first things you see when you walk in the door,” Davis says. “It sets the tone for the house.”
The showpiece is in the back of the residence: the dining room, lined on its walls and ceiling with an unexpected powder blue lattice. This enchanting space is also the home’s greatest surprise transformation, as it was formerly a step- down, screened porch. “It was an important part of the house that we had to reclaim,” Davis notes. Blurring the line between inside and outside, the room features end chairs and a console table with botanical fabrics to enhance the garden feel. Oversize sheer Roman shades decorate the two sets of sliding doors that open completely to the exterior, highlighting the backyard pond, the greenery and the swan that visits often. “You can’t decide: Are you in an inside space or an outside space?” Davis muses. “Either way, it’s beautiful— and you’d like to sit down.”
The designer created multiple seating areas throughout the residence, including a morning room next to the kitchen furnished with a beaded chandelier, a green sofa and a pair of caned chairs. To capture a subtle sense of place, she incorporated nods to Florida in unexpected ways, like the living area’s blue rattan console table, lampshades with hand-painted palm fronds and Talavera pottery that lines the bookcases.
The color scheme was kept within a narrow scope of blues and greens, creating a smooth flow. “Because of the simple color palette, we had to be intentional with making little statements throughout each space so the house didn’t fall flat,” Davis explains, “so we used different patterns and played with scale.” She outfitted bedrooms with airy wallpapers, accented the living area’s traditional blue floral-printed chairs with pillows in modern punches of yellow and bright teal and played with surfaces, including painting the ceiling of the main bathroom a high- gloss opal lacquer.
As the project’s finishing touch, Nancy selected the artwork for the residence. “I have a new passion of art collecting since this experience,” she says. It’s this kind of inspiring mentality Davis hoped to cultivate for the Tatums in their inviting vacation home. “They wanted it to be a place that people could drop by—and, quite honestly, people do,” she says.
But take a boat trip along the edges of Lake Mendota and you’ll spot just that. The pared-back residence, distinguished by its mostly limestone-and-glass façade, evokes the essence of California cool—thanks to its architects, Ron Radziner and Leo Marmol, as well as the rest of their team—Stephanie Hobbs, Matt Jackson and Troy Newell.
The homeowners’ previous dwelling, located just down the road, leaned much more traditional. But for their new lakeside abode, on a unique site that sloped gently down to the water, they wanted something special. “We were interested in very simple forms, sort of hovering above this amazing setting,” says Radziner, who worked with landscape architect Lindsay Buck to ensure the environment was cohesive with the structure. “Something where you would come into the home and move through these sculptural forms and then take in beautiful vistas to the lake. We saw the landscape as an opportunity to really create this sort of native prairie with wildflowers and grasses, then slowly work our way down to the house where it would become more open and architectural.”
The streamlined rectilinear design of the residence—built by general contractor Joe Sagona and project manager Aaron Combs—creates a minimalist vibe, as does the restrained palette of limestone and stained-gray oak. But a two-story white circular staircase set against a glass backdrop provides a dramatic visual counter to the straight lines. It’s an unexpected but welcome architectural touch that sets the tone for the interiors created by designers Aimee Wertepny and Jennifer Kranitz. The task, the pair explains, was to create spaces that merge the home’s minimalism with the wife’s taste for polish and sophistication. “There’s a tension between glamorous and organic,” Wertepny says. “The wife really resonates with things that are a bit shiny, reflective and pretty.”
Working with the natural tones of the dwelling’s contextual shell, the designers opted for furnishings in black and white and higher-contrast decor, including a polished hood and full-height hardware on the refrigerators in the kitchen. “There are a lot of moments of reflective elements that felt a bit more glamorous for the wife,” Kranitz says. “We wanted both of these points of view to be really married and feel super seamless and intentional.” Since the soaring windows brought hues of nature into the home, the designers chose not to introduce more color. “We have a lot of green and blue, so there’s a really colorful backdrop,” Kranitz notes. “It made sense to let it be a little easier on the eyes so that we could let some of those other elements shine.”
Mixing finishes—antique brass, polished nickel, and matte black and bronze—throughout the space helped add textural intrigue, as did using materials in unique ways. In the dining room, the custom 17-foot table features Lucite-and-steel legs and the surrounding sculptural dining chairs are embellished with zippers. Upstairs in the main bedroom, an alpaca rug adorns the wall behind the bed, serving as a headboard of sorts. “We’re known for that element of surprise—and we’re always looking for opportunities to put a rug on a wall!” Wertepny laughs. “Could we have had an upholstered king-sized headboard there? Sure, but this is so much more dramatic and customized and really spoke to what the client was looking for—very soft, feminine and glamorous without having a specific sparkle to it.”
To add further coziness to the home, the designers introduced custom millwork and built-ins throughout. Most notable is the display behind the bar for the owners’ extensive tequila collection that also incorporates a series of protruding beams with crystalline pendant lights. “We inherited beautiful bones and a gorgeous set of floor plans,” says Wertepny. “But that was our moment to interject with detailing—something that was very simple and quiet and adds a little nod to the bling.”
The chance to turn tradition on its head made the project all the more fun for the designers. “When people think of a lake house it’s typically not this really sharp, tasteful modern glass box,” Kranitz says. “I’m just always struck by how cool it was that we were able to do this modern spin on a lake home—it feels so good.”
Although their plan is to eventually live in South Florida full time, the couple wanted to enjoy the property now, with their large extended family. The house, however—mostly beige inside—required some personalized attention. “We really wanted to amp it up a little bit and make it bright, lively and more of what people imagine when they go to Florida,” says interior designer Kristen Rivoli. “You want it to feel relaxing.”
This would be Rivoli’s first project in the region and the third she would complete for these clients, including their main residence. “Their home in Boston is definitely traditional and filled with antiques and oil paintings,” she says. Whereas the couple’s primary house is quiet and neutral, here the interior designer aimed to push them out of their typical style with a little flair for a fresher and more transitional look. Her approach: View their aesthetic through the lens of an Old Florida residence for a design that is classic and timeless.
The owners agreed. They desired a relaxed, informal vibe for the vacation property, with more patterns than they normally favor. This, Rivoli says, “gave us a great opportunity here to really be playful with the colors.” To balance the clients’ traditional leanings with a Florida bent, she introduced classical furnishings in bright tones, such as a thin yellow-and-white stripe on the living area sofa, which rests on a patterned yellow rug. In a similar move, the interior designer paired vintage pieces with more modern ones, like the living area’s Parsons-style coffee table countering rattan armchairs holding blue- and-white cushions. The formerly dark pantry, too, was given a playful runner and lighter cabinets. “We painted them what we call our ‘Palm Beach Pink’ color,” Rivoli says. “Now it’s a very bright and cheery hallway.”
The bedrooms in particular are amped with pattern and color. In a guest space, a red-orange wallcovering is a balanced backdrop for unexpected doses of vibrant green, seen on a pair of beds with patterned upholstered frames and in the abstract botanical scene of an oversize graphic painting occupying a wall. “We pushed the wife out of her comfort zone a little bit with the art,” Rivoli says. “It really makes that a memorable space.” The wife loves coral, which the interior designer infused in the main bedroom on the draperies and wrapping the four-poster bed. She hung an Old Floridian-style lamp from the double-height ceiling for a dash of quirkiness, while ceramic lamps add an old-world aura atop vintage wood bedside tables that have a bamboo detail. “They’re so well made,” Rivoli says of vintage pieces. “Many of them are so solid, and that’s why they’ve lasted so long.”
Many of the home’s furnishings and fabrics, like the family room’s sofa and tasseled ottomans, are indoor-outdoor, giving the residence a casual elegance amid its framed artwork and gold sconces. “We wanted it to feel like if the clients had a dressed-up occasion, the house supported that,” Rivoli says. “But if they had bathing suits on and sandy feet, they’re not going to worry about sitting there.”
That strategy comes in handy for guests coming from the property’s outdoor space, where the owners refinished the pool and installed a hot tub. Landscape designer Nelson Logal conceived a minimalist look for the previously overcrowded grounds, removing more than 20 trees, including Alexandra palms and overgrown magnolias. This made room for plantings such as flowering yellow thryallis, red Jatropha and climbing hibiscus next to the outdoor fireplace to add touches of color amid the greenery. “It’s a retreat for the owners just to relax,” Logal says. “It’s a hideaway.” In the front, fragrant gardenias and a new path of palm trees lead to the door—where, Rivoli expects, her busy clients leave their stress behind before entering. “What I really hope is that when you walk in, you’re going to take this deep breath and feel instant relaxation and melting away,” she says.
PHOTO BY LPG, COURTESY MONAD TERRACE/JDS DEVELOPMENT GROUP
Light, water, glass and steel beautifully intermingle at the recently opened Monad Terrace, aptly called “the reflection machine” by architect Jean Nouvel, who collaborated with architect Kobi Karp on the 59-unit Miami Beach project hovering above Biscayne Bay. “The cutting-edge crystalline tower and custom honeycomb glass façade brilliantly reflect the sun and surrounding water to create a glittering effect,” Karp says of the tropical-modern design. Expansive terraces sheltered by climbing gardens and retractable floor-to-ceiling windows blend the indoor-outdoor experience.
PHOTO COURTESY SEAGLASS, JUPITER ISLAND.
SEAGLASS, JUPITER ISLAND
Another stunner, SeaGlass, Jupiter Island (above), stands out as the first new construction in the area in decades. Slated for fall 2022, the beachfront condominium by Fontainebleau Development presents finishes such as wood paneling, coral and limestone-clad walls and floors. “Our inspiration was the contemporary beach houses of Miami and Malibu,” says Courtney Brannan of Champalimaud Design. A showpiece is the lobby chandelier, fashioned with hand-blown glass reminiscent of the waves striking the shoreline of nearby Blowing Rocks Preserve.
Situated on Miami’s bustling Biscayne Boulevard, newcomer Circa Lightingcatches the eye with its sparkling showroom, especially when brilliantly aglow at night.
The company, which has 22 locations, sought out the site because of its proximity to the Miami Design District. “Our space was built to create a wonderful experience for our customers—we want to inspire,” says Pilar Campos, the showroom manager. “It looks like no other lighting store in South Florida.”
Part of the Visual Comfort & Co. family of brands, the space shines with architectural and decorative lighting by coveted designers such as Kelly Wearstler, Aerin, Thomas O’Brien, Sean Lavin and Ralph Lauren. Circa also partners with brands that produce gas lamps and lanterns, custom light fixtures and other lighting products.
The coastal enclave of Pompano Beach is experiencing a rebirth, with a new pier, on-trend restaurants and developments such as the area’s only on-the-sand luxury condominium Solemar.
Designed to mirror the ocean with a crystalline, wave-inspired façade, the 20-story tower’s resort-style amenities include spa treatment rooms, a wine salon and a media room. Homes showcase open layouts designed to maximize ocean views and are decked out in Italian cabinetry and Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, with interiors touched by revered design firm Meyer Davis.
All 105 homes are wired with Darwin, a technology that monitors and regulates air, water and light quality—meant to help residents sleep and feel better.
As a central element, water endows the modern dwelling with the quality of an oasis. It’s introduced at the front door with a cubist fountain and a rock-lined pool that ripples from the front to the back underneath a long, glass-sided hallway. In the backyard, the lap pool is mere steps away from the living area and is a frequent gathering spot for the family. “They wanted this home to feel like a retreat, and celebrating the concept of water helps make that happen,” says Walton. “Wherever you are in the house, you can glimpse water.”
It’s fitting, then, that the glass passageway seems to float between the black metal-clad portions of the dwelling, which contain the living and dining areas and the main bedroom suite. According to Walton, the hall provides a transition that’s both practical and soulful. “Walking down it to the bedroom, you have a feeling of lightness,” says the architect. “There’s the sense of going to a space that’s quiet and removed, a place where you can relax.”
The concepts sound lofty, and that was the intent. “This project took a few years to construct,” says general contractor Eben Schreiber. “The clients have a great understanding of design and architecture, and they were meticulous—and that’s a good thing. Their appreciation of quality shows in the details of this house.” Walton calls out the stairway composed of floating treads and a rail that resembles a wide, unbroken ribbon of metal as one of those defining features. “The treads and the articulation of the rail, they speak to the whole dark-light, floating-grounded contrast found throughout the house,” she notes.
Working closely with Walton on the interior architecture, designer Alexandra Loew staged a balancing act herself. The designer, who completed the couple’s primary residence in the southern part of the state, kicked off this project by asking them how they wanted to feel in this home. Their answer was distilled to a single word: harmonious. To engender that feeling here, the designer started by studying the architecture of places of peace around the world, looking at everything from temples to meditation spaces for inspiration. Her goal was to create a sense of tranquility while embracing the husband’s appreciation of minimalism and the wife’s enjoyment of cozy spaces. “They gravitate to black and white tones, so we have a lot of those,” says Loew. “But we’ve added in many textures and finishes that give the spaces a tactile quality. The linen-and-silk carpets, the weathered wood of some rustic antiques and the embossed leathers in this home give it a warm, earthy and inviting nature.”
Operating on the idea that peace is hard to achieve with the presence of visual clutter, Loew worked with Henrybuilt to create the kitchen cabinetry, the bedroom closet systems, the bathroom vanities and the mudroom and ski lockers. “There is a sense in this house of everything being in its place,” she explains. “This is a family for whom physical decluttering leads to mental decluttering, so well-considered storage was necessary for moments of creativity and repose.” With the elements of everyday life behind a door or in a drawer and a soothing color palette in place, the designer was able to highlight what she calls the home’s finest art. “The most important artwork here is the view,” Loew notes. “The landscape is an ever-changing, always beautiful canvas.”
This family plans to enjoy the retreat and its landscape for many years to come. “There were two things that were really important to these clients: the feeling of harmony and refinement they wanted to create here and the fact that this is a forever home they want to leave their children,” says Loew. “All of us understood this is a legacy project.” And, like all good legacies, it is meant to be as enduring and timeless as the mountains that surround it.
But upon closer inspection, this 21st-century dwelling could be considered the architectural equivalent of an undercover agent, an operative of contemporary design infiltrating an esteemed neighbor- hood of historically preserved abodes: The embellished exterior that blends harmoniously into its surroundings also serves as a guise for its minimalist agenda. “Since the original home was historically significant, the city required that the new construction represent the same architectural style,” explains architect Kiko Franco. “The challenge was to incorporate the homeowner’s modern tastes.”
Arguably, the new dwelling’s simple street presence is a contemporary take on the traditional Mediterranean form. The rear exterior strikes a more classical tone with curved openings and a clear visual of the multiple gabled roofs laid with terra-cotta tiles imported from Bogota´, Colombia. However, the vast windows and glass railings that supply generous water views are elements of the indoor-outdoor rubric that defines modern design. “The house really captures and respects the South Florida landscape,” says Franco’s associate and project architect Jon Bonita, who is also referring to the region’s proclivity for tempestuous weather.
That said, part of the home’s modernity is owed to its innovative armor made of tough load-bearing masonry, muscular engineered-wood trusses and substantial hurricane-grade glass. The latter is especially paramount considering the home’s architectural apex, a decidedly un-Mediterranean 15-foot glass pyramid that crowns the living room. “At the time, it was the largest allowable skylight that met the hurricane-impact standards for South Florida,” explains Bonita. “It’s a unique piece that makes a spectacular statement.”
This sparkling zenith appropriately sheds light on the focal point of the interiors, a double-height living room that exhibits another aspect of modernism: symmetry. Identical suede-upholstered Christian Liaigre Brannan sofas flank the room’s main event—a soaring fireplace faced with textured limestone and rich sapele wood panels. The simple arrangement is an elegant iteration of the homeowner’s desire to keep the interiors minimal. By design, furnishings with sleek profiles don’t detract from the home’s true conversation pieces.
“The homeowner didn’t mind the Mediterranean style outside but insisted on a more contemporary South Beach look inside,” says interior designer Louis Shuster, who worked with designer Eric Dyer to realize the project. “We focused on creating subtle details and clean, linear surfaces,” adds Dyer.
The dining room intentionally functions less for feasting than for exhibiting wine. A translucent cellar-like fixture showcases rare vintages, while a lead-crystal dining table seems to dissolve into the sophisticated vignette. This disappearing act simultaneously accentu- ates the clear wine enclosure as it exalts the sepia-tone work from the homeowner’s collection framed within the buffet.
Here, creating a niche to display art is the exception, not the rule. Throughout the house, the collection is mostly exhibited gallery-style on plain walls. The pieces dominate their surroundings, underscoring the value of minimalist accoutrements. However, in the master suite and family room—where furnishings were kept simple, neutral and streamlined—large bare windows expose their own hidden agenda by quietly diverting focus from the attention-getting, water-themed wall hangings to the real aquatic spectacles: an infinity pool and ocean-fed bay glistening in the distance.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2012 Florida issue of Luxe Interiors + Design.