Beale Studio Interior Design

Hot House

ON MORE THAN one occasion, they'd eyed the same treasures. In a dance of pursuit that avid collectors know well, Beth Rudin DeWoody had noticed interior designers Randall Beale and Carl Lana circling the same stacks of furniture and collectibles that she was circling in antique shops and thrift stores along South Dixie Highway. Likewise back in New York, Beale and Lana had spotted DeWoody, a noted collector, breezing past the more obvious antiques at shows in the Armory and zeroing in on the same pieces that they fancied. Collectors and design addicts alike often recognize, if not know, each other from the field: the shops, galleries and dealer booths that they regularly sweep for new goods and potential purchases.

"It was becoming ridiculous, how we kept seeing each other," Beale says. So, finally one day in a South Dixie shop he broke the ice saying, "We should get together sometime," to which DeWoody immediately responded, "Let's go have lunch."

Dining Room | furniture
When faced with the need for multiples of a particular piece of furniture, designers need a source they can trust-where they know the worksmanship is good and the selection is well-curated. The Holly Hunt showroom was that source for Beale-Lana Interiors. "Holly Hunt offers a variety of very different and interesting furniture lines," Lana says. The Terra dining chairs by Christian Liaigre for Holly Hunt are well-made and comfortable-exactly what they needed. "We're very particular about dining room chairs because there are so many great-looking ones that are really uncomfortable:' Lana says. These chairs in patent leather upholstery with an ebonized mahogany finish lend gravitas to a fanciful room. -C.L.

"We consummated the relationship over a purchase," Lana jokes. "We just started shopping together—advising back and forth—long before there was an official project," he continues, referring to the renovation that has been the focus of their attention as DeWoody's designers for the last few years. Out of a shared, consuming passion for design and the thrill of the hunt for the next collectible, a friendship blossomed and a home for the collector took shape.

Kitchen | cabinetry & appliances
Now that kitchens are equally considered living spaces and workrooms, Beale-Lana tapped Bulthaup technology to create a sleek, modern space as beautiful and eclectic as the rest of the house. The under-counter drawers are minimalist in more ways than one. They automatically close when left partially open; a standard feature Bulthaup. No need for handles on the horizontal upper cabinets—just gently press the glass and a hydraulic system opens them like a garage door. DeWoody’s kitchen showcases an unusual combination of finishes including bamboo veneer and brushed aluminum drawers, frosted and clear glass cabinets and a stainless steel countertop “It’s visually interesting,” Lana says. “We didn’t want this kitchen to just disappear.” Like flat-screen televisions, kitchen appliances are also slimming down and shaping up to the point that designers don’t feel compelled to hide them. Jenn-Air’s built-in convection oven occupies a prominent spot; the sleek and easy-to-maintain glass cooktop is barely visible and their new Luxury Series of built-in side-by-side refrigerators can be customized inside and out. -C.L.

DeWoody, who has been wintering in Palm Beach with family for most of her life, can vividly recall the Palm Beach of the 1950s and '60s, when life centered on a quiet, more laid-back lifestyle. Seven years ago, while visiting her father's guest-filled house over the holidays, she realized it was simply time to look for her own place. "I wanted to find a great fixer-upper, and I really wanted a place on the water," she explains.

Checking in on a friend from the art world who was staying at a bed and breakfast in Northwood, DeWoody discovered a neighborhood that she hadn't known existed. Along the northern end of Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach, it was a neighborhood in the early stages of a transformation. More to the point, the waterfront properties were surprisingly undervalued. So with the same unfailing intuition that made De Woody one of the first high-profile shoppers in the vintage shops on South Dixie, she moved quickly to purchase a spec house that looked out over the Intracoastal. Soon two adjacent properties came on the market, and DeWoody had the plat for her new compound.

The third and last house added to the property was a non-descript 1950s split-level that appealed to DeWoody's interest in mid- 20th-century design and offered the perfect retreat for her on the expanded property. A plan began to take shape for the house that was envisioned as the main living and entertaining space for the compound. "I like the idea of compounds," DeWoody explains, "because I'm not into McMansions. I wanted a place where everyone could be together and still have privacy."

Library | electronics
Many renovating homeowners end up with a love-hate relationship with audio-visual technology. They love whole-house systems and flat-screen televisions but hate the complicated components that come with them. With Bang & Olufsen, Beale-Lana found equipment that is well-thought out in addition to being well-designed. "It's simple to install and very user-friendly," Beale says. The stereo system, installed throughout the public rooms and outside by the pool and in the cabana, is self-incorporated, which means that to pump up the volume listeners need merely point the remote at the nearest speaker. That's enough to make any technophobe fall in love. -CL.

Given DeWoody's passion for collecting, she also needed the guidance of Beale and Lana to fashion the rooms into livable spaces that wouldn't become mere storage rooms for her growing art and decorative arts collections—they're broad in themes and many in number. Fate, it would seem, had brought the collector and the interior designers together with a mission that fit their interests perfectly.

"In many ways our job was very curatorial," Lana reveals. "Working with a collector, the demands [for a designer] are much different. Lighting, environment for the collections...," he explains. "Certain aspects of interior decoration become much more important. For instance, as soon as we saw the [oversized] Lucite cocktail table, we told Beth she had to have it for the living room. Beth is someone who likes to table-scape with her collectibles. She's not the type to have only one vase," he says.

Guest Bedroom | window blinds & fabric
Hand-woven Conrad window blinds soften Florida’s harsh light in the guest bedroom, kitchen and library. “We chose the original products that the company launched with back in the ‘50s,” Lana says. The tropical leaf print fabric used for the drapery is by Kravet and brings the landscape inside. Beale chose the pattern after seeing the exact same fabric in a ‘50s film, but he hung it wrong-side out. “I wanted it to look like it had always been in the house. It was too bright the other way,” Beale says. In the dining room, Beale hung a double layer of full-length sheers—one white and one gray—along the curved wall of windows to protect the art and furniture. “Two layers of polyester will definitely block UV rays,” Beale says. -C.L.

"The only thing she has one of is a son and a daughter," interjects Beale with his deadpan humor. "Even decorators...she has two!"

Master Bedroom | fabric & bed linens
"We call this the naughty nurse room!" Beale says, describing the sexy but clean look create by the wild window treatments in the bedroom. The designers used a voluminous, shiny synthetic fabric by Glant for the formal draperies and valances. "At first glance people think that we've made draperies out of patent leather!" Beale says. "It's usually used for tight upholstery. Of course, everyone thought I was nuts. [But] Beth liked it immediately." In contrast, the Roman blinds are made from a very matte synthetic blend with the look and feel of rubber. "It's about shiny and matte, or wet and dry," Beale says. Best of all, the synthetics are strong enough to stand up to the Florida sun. "Silk and cottons fade, or they can rot," Beale adds. Some of the best luxuries are subtle. From afar, Sferra's l00-percent cotton sateen bed linens look like plain white sheets, but when you slip between them you can appreciate the 590 thread count. Beale-Lana use the century-old Italian company's bed linens exclusively. "Now some places are talking about 900 or 1,000 thread count, but that's a little excessive, and the sheets become very fragile," Lana says. -C.L.

Based on friendship and shared aesthetic sensibilities, the client and designers developed a rare mutual trust, and Lana and Beale immersed themselves in the project. With architect Hugh Huddleson, they introduced details and materials to the structure of the house, giving it more of the mid-century modern spirit that DeWoody desired. "We set out to revive a neglected building built in a neglected stylistic era," adds the architect, "and it was modest, not spectacular for its time. Following the lead of a client with a remarkable skills in recognizing not yet fashionable things—things with a hidden soul waiting to be uncovered and celebrated—we set out to make an environment that is strikingly, confidently fresh and unencumbered by conventional predictability."

"Beth is the collector," Lana says. "We, as the designers, ensure that the house incorporates all of the features that allow it to function well and serve as a canvas for her collections." Many details were researched from period homes of the '50s and early '60s, using a collection of vintage Architectural Digest magazines as their "holy grail."

But Beth's input was always hands-on. She wanted white, and anything that couldn't be white and simple was omitted, Huddleson says. An asphalt roof was replaced with flat white concrete tiles; corroding aluminum windows were replaced with white enameled steel windows; red brick was painted white.

Inside, the house had a very low ceiling and small spaces. The circular dining room was originally a terrace that previous owners had enclosed but not integrated with the house, according to Huddleson. They removed the ceiling in the living room to see how much height could be gained and came up with a structural collar tie solution to leave it all exposed. The rafters were then simply painted white for a casual beach-house style. Upstairs in the master bedroom, the architect came up with a creative solution to install the ceiling above the ceiling joists for an additional foot of valuable height.

The stairway was reconfigured to spill into the living space, tying the rooms together and giving "procession" and heightened experience when moving through the house. "Certain rooms have a defined character that makes them stand apart as true installations," Lana elaborates. "Beth's bedroom is inspired by her love of old movies and the drama, decadence and theatricality was conjured up by the highly stylized movie sets of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films...or the witty and character-enhancing sets for Rosalind Russell's Auntie Mame."

Bathroom | bathtub & fixtures
To outfit the custom-designed vanity in the lady's master bathroom, Beale-Lana chose nickel-silver fixtures from Kallista's Michael Smith Loft line, which is the, west coast designer's third collection for the fashion-forward bath and kitchen company. "We chose [Michael Smith's collection] for its clean lines. It's modern but also very classic,” Lana says. The extra-deep soaking tub is inviting without overwhelming the marble clad room. The man's master bathroom includes a Loft pedestal sink and retro medicine cabinet. For the guest bedroom, the designers chose a mirrored vanity from Barbara Barry's Glamour Series for Kallista. -CL.

"The difference is Auntie Mame only did one period at a time," Beale adds. "Beth can mix many periods at once." A collector of both high- and low-brow art, she has a smart, artistic eye for combining the two. The challenge for the interior designers was to enable that gift—not stifle it.

"The point was to create a very elegant background for her collections and books," Lana says. "Again, it was a very curatorial process."

While many of the furnishings were purchased as they trolled antique and vintage shops here and in the northeast, the designers were also given access to De Woody's extensive collections, most of which are in storage. "We went through everything, picking out what we thought was the best and most interesting," Beale says, "knowing that other things would come" as the renovation of the house unfolded.

Furniture was also chosen for its sculptural qualities. In the living room for instance, "We didn't want anything compete with the art, so we upholstered everything in the same fabric, which also served to emphasize their shapes," Beale explains. In combination with the many Lucite pieces they selected, the bone upholstery "blanks out," as they explain the color selection. The designers were very particular about the colors in the house. "We'll call it 'bone' if we have to...we don't use the word 'beige'," Beale says. "Beige is so broad. White is a statement—bone is, sand is—but beige is not.

"Design is about having really good style. It's nor about copying your girlfriend," Beale says. 'There's nothing worse than a living room that looks like a hotel lobby. It's about being cocky, and in the process you can free yourself from the things that might seem obligatory. Design is also supposed to be a reflection of the times 10 which we live. But, in the end it's all about your personality."

Palm Beach Cottages & Gardens, March 2005