Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Palm Beach Social Diary: Mizner makeovers

Old Palm Beach at Villa dei Fiori. East courtyard, garden wall and gate. Addison Mizner, architect. 1921. Additions by Howard Major and Treanor & Fatio.
Mizner makeovers + Snowbirds at Wakohadatchee
By Augustus Mayhew


With few Addison Mizner-designed houses remaining in Palm Beach in some semblance of their original condition, this week I took advantage of the opportunity to visit Villa dei Fiori  (Addison Mizner, 1921) where its possible restoration/renovation was the subject of an imaginative presentation by interior designer Campion Platt and landscape designer Keith Williams, under the aegis of the Coudert Institute. Since its completion last month, I have taken several strolls to appreciate  the rejuvenation of Memorial Fountain and Park at Town Square, a showcase for architect Addison Mizner’s eclectic design talents. Despite the most unseasonable Florida weather, on one recent day I trekked to the wetlands to make note of this season’s bird life, minutes before the crowds converged.

“The Future of Design & Architecture: Mizner-Fatio Magic”
Coudert Institute at Villa dei Fiori

"We are not a one-philosophy institute," said Dale Coudert, founder and chairman of the Coudert Institute, a  non-partisan and non-ideological cultural organization. The institute welcomes open dialogue and diverse opinions rather than maintain any pre-conceived agenda as is the policy with many policy groups and think-tanks. This season the Coudert has presented a range of programs, including The Art of Meditation and Staying Calm with Lama Migmar and Making Sense of the Senseless Middle East with Ralph Nurnberger, PhD. On March 9, the Coudert Institute presents sculptor Edwina Sandys who will speak on her grandfather, Winston Churchill: A Passion for Painting, at The Colony Hotel.
Coudert Institute chairman and founder Dale Coudert, left, welcomes Robert and Millicent Monks, board members, who were among the fifty guests who came to hear landscape designer Keith Williams, and interior designer Campion Platt discuss their plan for Villa dei Fiori within the framework of the future of design and architecture in Palm Beach.
Keith Williams, principal at Nievera Williams Design – Landscape Architecture.
Campion Platt, interior designer.
Villa dei Fiori, façade and courtyard. The main house was originally designed by Addison Mizner for O. Frank Woodward (1884-1952) with additions by Treanor & Fatio. An entrance courtyard and loggia, later enclosed as a tea house, were added by Howard Major. Currently owned by Steve Rose and Dale Coudert, the house was acquired from the Woodwards by the family of Steve Rose's first wife, the Krausses. The house's central hall is flanked by the living room and dining room. On the left, the dining room's bay window appears to be a later modification as does the broken architrave above the front door. The villa's detached courtyard entrance is the only part of the house that was designated by the Landmarks Commission.
Entrance vestibule, Portuguese tile mural. In May 2010 at NYSD, I featured these remarkable murals in Looking for Lost Palm Beach
Villa dei Fiori, entrance.
Steve Rose is an accomplished sculptor.
Villa dei Fiori, front entrance, detail.
West courtyard fountain, detail.
Original east courtyard, looking west toward the Mizner-designed main house. The original open loggia was enclosed and is now called the Sun Room. The three modernist sculptures are by Edwina Sandys.
East courtyard, fountain sculpture.
Azulejos fragments line the fountain in the east courtyard.
East courtyard, looking east. Sculptures by Edwina Sandys. Loggia, right.
East courtyard, gate detail. Mizner Industries.
Wrought-iron grille and lantern above the east courtyard gates. Mizner Industries.
East courtyard, loggia.
Loggia, fireplace, detail.
Orator Woodward at Villa dei Fiori, 2016. Built by his father, the house Orty grew up in is miraculously much the same as he remembers it.
Orator Woodward at Villa dei Fiori. Frank Turgeon, photographer. Orty brought an album of photographs taken around the courtyard fountain.
Orty Woodward and his dog Velvet at Villa dei Fiori.
Orator Woodward, left, was introduced during the presentation.
Tables were set up in the Living Room where the presentation was held. "Many of our family's original pieces are still here," said Orator Woodward.
A slide of the suggested changes to the Living Room.
Guests in the Sun Room, the original Loggia.
In the Dining Room, Dale Coudert and a portrait of Dale Coudert from another time.
In the Dining Room, this crystal sconce is of particular note.
The Dining Room was set for the buffet brunch. The floor has retained its original Mizner tiles manufactured at the company's Bunker Road location in West Palm Beach.
The Dining Room bay window features these miniature stained-glass pieces.
The presentation included proposed changes to the Sun Room.
A slide of the proposed changes to the Sun Room.
In the Sun Room, a tiled countertop.
The central hall light fixture.
A touch of heraldry in the central hall.
Designer Campion Platt and Darrell Hofheinz, editor of Home & Loggia at the Palm Beach Daily News.
Dale Coudert, photographed at another time in the west courtyard at Villa dei Fiori.
Whatever happened to Mizner Plaza?

In January, after years of meetings, arguments, disputes, and discussions, Palm Beach celebrated the completion of a $7.9 million restoration of Memorial Fountain and a makeover of the adjacent Memorial Park at Town Hall Square. Following the recent ballyhoo at the rededication ceremony, officials announced Town Hall Square would be renamed Town Square. But this was not the first time Midtown’s most unique attraction was renamed. In February 1933 on the day of Addison Mizner’s memorial service at his Worth Avenue apartment, the newly elected Palm Beach Town Council  made as its first official act a unanimous vote to change the name of Town Hall Plaza to Mizner Plaza, “ … in memorial to the artistic debt Palm Beach owes Addison Mizner.”

The Palm Beach Post reported in a page three story, “Name of Town Plaza is changed to Mizner by action of Council.” The article stated that the council instructed the town’s attorney to incorporate the name change as a part of all the town’s resolutions. In Donald Curl’s authoritative book Mizner’s Florida, he refers to it as Memorial Fountain Plaza, not as a square or a park, keeping with Palm Beach’s penchant for Spanish-Italian references.
Palm Beach 2016? "Doesn't look like anything I've ever seen in Palm Beach," remarked a lifelong resident. "Nothing like it within 200 feet," he laughed, referencing the town's strict zoning standard that dictates all new residential construction must be similar in style to existing designs within 200 feet.
Nevertheless, what began as a European-styled plaza has been transformed with hedge rows, large potted plants, fencing, gravel, pastel tables and chairs, and, of all things, a sodded lawn. Fueled by their success, the Town Square Celebration Committee has apparently decided to continue fundraising and make another attempt to open the south side of the fountain's base to accommodate a staircase leading into what is now a park hedged with oak trees. While the endeavor has met with overwhelming public approval, as in most matters Palm Beach, there have been some caveats. Last week, a resident suggested more tables and chairs. Perhaps, less Tuileries and maybe more Florentine, was the response. Whether Parisian or Florentine, perhaps Phase Two might consider reconfiguring it back into a plaza as it was originally intended.

Before and After
Before. Memorial Fountain, 2015. Sculptor August Godio is credited with creating the original hippocampi for the nearly 90-year-old fountain.
After. Memorial Fountain, 2016. New water jets may not have been calibrated to allow for the slightest southeast breeze as the fountain's upper level terrace has been filled with puddles during my visits to the site.
Before. Memorial Park, 2015. A less-is-more ambiance.
After. Memorial Park, 2016. A more framed perspective.
Before. Memorial Park, 2015. The royal palms complemented the palms along Royal Palm Way.
After. Memorial Park, 2016.
After. Memorial Park, 2016.
A local designer has offered to replace the park's furniture with something more "Italianate."
Town Square, 2016. Along with fencing, two double rows of boxed oak trees frame the lawn.
Memorial Park, 2016. The new staircase would be attached to the fountain's south elevation, seen above. Because of a lack of seating, one resident has described this landscape as a dog park. In response, one of the town's interior designers likened the existing lightweight tables and chairs as something more apropos of the Tulieries Gardens in Paris while the Memorial Park and Fountain should have an "Italianate style ... a very Florentine feeling … "
Memorial Park, 2016. View to the south and Town Hall's north elevation.
For some, the architectural elements of Town Hall's north elevation may reflect more of a sublime aesthetic than the multi-million dollar landscape that obscures it.
The view from a Town Hall second-floor window looking north on County Road
Palm Beach's own Spanish Steps?
Memorial fountain, detail. 2016.
Snow birds at Wakohadatchee
Delray Beach
Ready for take-off.
The boardwalk before the crowd arrives.
Poise.
Ripple effect.
Nesting.
Reflection.
Profile.
Many many more birders than last season with a dozen cars waiting for a parking space.
Island life.
Nesting.
Palm Beach focus of new book

NYSD contributor Augustus Mayhew's new collection of essays Palm Beach: A Greater Grandeur (East Side Press, $24.95. 170 pages) is now available at Amazon and the Classic Bookshop, Palm Beach. Several of the articles were reformatted from when they first appeared on NYSD.
Cover. Casa Florencia, staircase. Addison Mizner, architect. 1923.
"A Greater Grandeur." Everglades Club Fancy Dress Ball - March, 15, 1925. Left to right, Richard Lounsbery, Mrs. Joseph Martin, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Cobina Wright, and William May Wright. Parisian couturiers, Hollywood costume designers and film studio wardrobe departments were engaged by club members to stitch and hem the ultimate fashion for the social event of the season. As a result, according to legend, each club member received a letter saying their regalia was "too fancy" and should be toned down for the following season. Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Cover. Casa Florencia, staircase. Addison Mizner, architect. 1923.
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Lost in Wonderland – Reflections on Palm Beach.