A contemporary waterfront condo wows with minimalist art and sculpture.
By Linda Marx | Photographs by Daniel Newcomb
For the well Educated, Palm Beach designer Joseph Pubillones, this stunning, 6,000-square-foot oceanfront condominium with a ceremonious entry hall was a study in uncluttered design.
A New York couple and their two children, ages 12 and 8, use this spacious 3-bedroom, 3 ½-bath Palm Beach getaway as a favored spot to spend long weekends and holidays throughout the year. Since the family’s main focus is on the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean from most of the rooms, including the living room, dining room, central hall (eight feet wide by 50 feet long), bedrooms, master bath, and three sweeping terraces, the designer faced the challenge of making sure the modern space was natural and uncluttered, descriptive yet spare. “I kept it minimalist by using art and sculpture as decoration,” explains Pubillones, who studied architecture in the U.S. and Europe and creates interiors that are elegant, structural and steeped in timeless design. “The client wanted extreme light, and since the ocean was the focal point, everything else was designed to play off of the beauty and serenity of the sea.”
The Cuban-American designer used white and sand colors with limestone for public areas, and brought in the nature of the beach by designing with light woods the color of driftwood. And to carry the theme even further, he used virtually no window treatments. “I wanted to capture the essence of the outdoors, like walking barefoot on the sand,” says Pubillones.
The family purchased the condo in 2006, then hired Pubillones to work his magic, which took two seasons to complete. The overall design is slightly Art Deco, but subliminally so. The designer believed it was very important not to overdo, so he kept things subtle. Thanks to the large entryway, living and dining areas, Pubillones felt as if he had a great deal of breathing room.
For example, the quietly elegant entryway offers the wow factor when guests arrive. With wall sconces, overhead lighting, screens adorned with palm trees and zebra cowhide benches, the walk to the living room arouses the senses. Every step of the way, the connection with ocean becomes greater through floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading to the terrace. “The central hall is really impressive and sets the tone for the rest of the home,” says Pubillones. “Like everything else in this space, I designed the entry as a backdrop for the water. And once you enter the living room, the art defines the design.”
He arranged furniture in small clusters so there would be plenty of open space and placed sculpture as the main focal point. A large white leather sofa, white chairs with a frame of woven seagrass and a dominant light oak coffee table punctuate a plush wool shag rug designed to blend with the sand tone of the floor. “The custom shag rug makes people want to take off their shoes which captures the essence of walking barefoot on the sand,” explains the designer.
The dining room comes to life with the designer’s selection of art. A sculpture of a white marble nautilus atop a wood spiral, plus the dominant aqua wall painting called Float—depicting a body floating in the sea—make this room another excellent representation of the water theme. The custom crystal chandelier from Brazil sparkling over the rectangular glass and light oak table with matching white leather chairs is both sophisticated and functional. “I used less and was selective in the art and furnishings so the ocean views could again speak for themselves,” says Pubillones.
The kitchen repeats the experience, but this time uses a wall image of a blue sky with sensuous clouds shot by a Brazilian photographer. The vignette, featuring a round white breakfast table with upholstered leather chairs, looks chic and tidy. It is topped with a custom resin pendant chandelier, adding texture. The opposite side of the room shines with state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances, white marble countertops, white cabinets and a rectangular light fixture.
The terrace off of the breakfast room is also a favorite dining spot because it overlooks both the ocean and the landscaping around the living space. Pubillones used a contemporary version of wicker furniture with resin to maintain the living room furniture theme outdoors. The space is close to the water, yet just steps away from the kitchen.
The custom master bedroom and spa is a spectacular open suite utilizing the magical moments of the ocean to set the stage inside. The couple wanted something drop-dead gorgeous for this open suite and even offered the designer an interesting suggestion. “They asked me to recreate the Mandarin Oriental hotel spa in this suite,” he says. “The couple definitely wanted a sensory bathing experience.”
And they got it. The bedroom has a full ocean view and terrace and the open bathroom-solarium is basically an extension, one sprawling space that measures about 1,000 square feet. A canvas of aqua, white and light wood, the bathroom spa area virtually melts into the bedroom which is designed with low furniture and a king-sized bed, plus a custom vanity with seating and Art Deco lamps on top. The designer created the vignette in a bubble motif. A flat screen TV and wall portrait created by a Cuban artist add texture to the white walls. Everywhere the eye roams, symbolism virtually swims. “The look is subtle with water, sand and palm tree motifs,” he explains. “Alabaster lighting fixtures at the entry to the bedroom also add a visual point of interest.”
However, the most interesting visual is indeed the grand bathroom/spa solarium, which the couple can see from their bed, or the bedroom chaise, or as they walk a few feet to immerse in their version of a sophisticated Asian spa. The Kohler “Sok” is an overflowing bath for two that elevates the bathing activity from the ordinary to a romantic extravaganza. With its infinity edge, water cascading down in musical notes, and painted stripe zebra wood, the overall bathing experience is soothing, sensual and high tech. “The water has chromotherapy elements, which are both powerful and simple, changing color regularly,” says Pubillones. “With candles and lights ablaze, the openness of the space and the views of the ocean, the entire experience becomes magical.” Across the room, the wall behind the double sinks is created with 18-karat gold, yellow and white Bisazza tile from Italy. Wall light fixtures, also from Italy, allude to rain droplets landing on the water. “The whole room is about relaxing and sensation,” says the designer. “It is a beautiful retreat.”
The condo’s powder room, located closer to the public areas, is a work of white, wood and metal design, a meticulous reinforcement of light, water and bubbles, which the designer calls a “floating cube.” When a friend of Pubillones saw the finished product, he exclaimed, “This apartment looks like a Giorgio Armani beach spa!”
Precisely. A very proud Pubillones says he loved working on this project with his clients. “Using the minimalist approach, we were selective about everything, I must say, this home is one of the best projects I have ever done. I love it!”