There may not be anyone who better understands the particular allure of Palm Beach than Mimi McMakin. The founder of Kemble Interiors is a Palm Beach native, and she and her design team have a well-documented history of reinventing the charm of the seaside town in fresh ways that celebrate its past while welcoming a new generation of visitors and residents. (For proof, look no further than the firm's redesign of the iconic Colony hotel.)
So, when a young family relocating from London was in search of a designer to create a cheerful-yet-functional, family-friendly home there, it's little surprise they landed on Kemble Interiors. Together, McMakin and Kemble's Cece Bowman took a traditional Palm Beach house and revitalized it, channeling the best of old Palm Beach juxtaposed with fun, fresh riffs on coastal style for a family that wants a beautiful home—with none of the stuffy formality. “It’s the way we live, so it’s not really hard for us to channel that: colorful, children-friendly, doggie-friendly," muses McMakin.
They also had a good backdrop in the house itself, a Monterey colonial in need of some TLC—which the Kemble team deftly revived with the help of Daniel Kahan of Smith & Moore Architects. "It’s a classic Palm Beach house with good bones," McMakin says. "It’s pretty, not pretentious."
That credo—pretty, not pretentious—is carried throughout the entire home, where pretty details and jubilant patterns don't get in the way of functional arrangements and family-friendliness. After all, McMakin says of her hometown and its appeal, "people come here for an easier life, not a formal one."
Tour the home with Bowman and McMakin below.
"I think it's a really nice way to sort of say 'Welcome to Palm Beach,'" Bowman says of the lattice walls. "It makes the room feel almost like a garden." It's also a surefire way to add textural interest in homes without many architectural details: "The room didn't have many architectural accoutrements," says McMakin. "We couldn't rely on very high ceilings or unique molding, so we gave the wall this flavor. It's a very good trick in the design business." An assortment of comfortable furniture—much of it upholstered in performance fabric—welcomes guests of all ages with a soft green palette that nods to the greenery outside.
Off the living room, a rosy-hued sunroom presents the best of indoors and out. “Her dream was to leave the doors open and have a seamless entry between the exterior and the interior,” says McMakin of the homeowner, who uses this space as her office. The sliding French doors provide that seamless flow. “She can take her calls and be surrounded by the exterior even when she has to be indoors.”
"The most fun thing about a dining room is to make it a little jewel box,” says Bowman. To achieve this, they enlisted a coral, textural wallpaper trimmed in tortoise bamboo wainscoting, hand-painted and applied by the local team at Bruce Thomas Wallpaper. “We had a flat ceiling and the room didn’t have a lot of architectural detail, so we created it with the bamboo,” she says.
It’s the perfect complement to a tropical-feeling painting by Palm Beach artist Orville Bulman, who drew inspiration from the work of Rousseau. Kemble Interiors custom made the table’s ornate twin bases and topped them with glass (all the better to see the bases).
“She really wanted the original English water closet,” Bowman says of the homeowner. “She wanted to have that bit of England brought to Palm Beach.” They paired the old-world fixtures with Venetian marbleized paper, which the firm frequently uses on lampshades. “It works with the English fixtures,” McMakin says.
When the family purchased the home, the built-in millwork was stained brown. “It’s funny—so many people think your library has to be dark brown,” muses McMakin. Not in the world of Kemble: The team refinished them in a “fabulous, sage green glaze.”
The room’s Cyprus ceiling lends instant warmth—and, paired with a leafy Cole & Sons wallpaper, gives the feeling of being immersed in a rainforest canopy. “ When you go up to this guest room you're in your own little almost tree house,” says Bowman.
The centerpiece of the primary bath is the sculptural marble tub: “It took while to choose the right one, and it had to be brought in by crane,” McMakin reveals.
Not only is the playroom’s miniature version of the house any child’s delight, it also cleverly blocks a staircase, making the room kid-safe. “It was really fun to make,” Bowman says of the structure. “You can see the little copper details—we really did a miniature replica of the real house.”
The Kemble team worked closely with Jorge A. Sanchez and Brian Vertesch of SMI Landscape Architecture to ensure that the home's exterior areas are just as inviting as its interiors. “Their house creates a really beautiful, embracing backyard area that’s really special, and so we wanted to make sure that space felt like an outdoor room,” Bowman says of the patio, which the team outfitted with several different types of furniture for different occasions: a dining setup for al fresco meals, secluded swings, and a living area with patinated copper furniture from the Dominican Republic—all surrounded by lush greenery carefully shaped to gently enforce the various outdoor areas.
Grass pavers make a path through the lush landscape around the pool, which is covered in a turquoise glazed tile the homeowner brought back from Morocco. "It gives the pool this fabulous glow," says McMakin. In a secluded patio separate from the main outdoor area (more on that below), lounge chairs by McMakin's daughter, Celerie Kemble, invite relaxation.
"It's hard to create landscapes that don't compete with, but enhance the home," says McMakin. "But they were hugely successful in that."
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