Project to combine two penthouse condos produces masterwork
BY MARY ANN KOENIG
If the glory of the Roman empire had a vernacular for home design, the recent transfiguration of a South Hutchinson Island condo would be expressed as E duobus unum: Out of two, one.
Great art successes often spring from great collaborations. Like Rogers and Hammerstein, Scorsese and DeNiro, Lennon and McCartney. In this work of art, Patty Downing and Katie Astras, of Patty Downing Interiors, achieved their opus working with two homeowners who had acquired two penthouse condominiums, and a single masterwork was the result.
The clients asked Downing and Astras to help reinvent the two spaces and fuse them into one unit, creating a 4,200-square-foot oceanfront home with both a casual, and more formal side. The duality challenge was underway.
Downing’s decades long career, working with high-end clientele in the Stuart and Jensen Beach area, as well as such distant and distinct environments as Big Sky, Montana, gives her the gravitas to command a big challenge with cool composure. Astras, with a background in textiles and yacht interior design, brought a nuanced eye for elegance and sophistication to the project. Working as a team brought out the best in each designer.
Upon entering the condominium, it is immediately clear that this is a special collaboration. The grandeur extends through the wide scale living room and dining area, the colors and textures of the space exquisitely capturing the eternal turquoise ocean that dominates through the walls of glass facing east. The rooms seem to float in the air.
The builder, Nathan Cooke of Cooke Construction in Jensen Beach, had referred the homeowners to Downing and Astras, and everything fell into place from there. When they first met the clients, Astras and Downing were able to draw on the substantial resource library of materials they maintain at their office on Ocean Boulevard in Stuart.
The homeowners brought ideas and a color pallet.
“They knew what they wanted,” Downing says. “Soft colors of ocean and sky, serene and lovely, that gave us great direction when we started.”
The design team knew immediately it would be a good fit.
“So much of this business is being comfortable, we had an interview with them, and we just seemed to click.”
It takes imagination and a good dose of courage to completely kit out a double penthouse. It would also require some lateral thinking.
“It’s trickier than just a single-family home,” Astras says. “It’s fun, figuring out how to do this, working with the contractor and engineers. We got started before anything, and were in there first, even before the contractor.”
With a start date, Astras and Downing, along with architect Mark Corson, Cooke, and the homeowners, made assessments of how to modify and unify the spaces. The two independent condos, outdated and boxy, had popcorn ceilings, worn carpets and numerous badly functioning louvered bi-fold doors.
The first order of business was to gut both units and take everything down to the studs.
The floors were built up and leveled off to correct slightly uneven sections, such that the entire space could flow seamlessly on 36-by-36 inch porcelain. It would be laid in different directional patterns depending on the orientation of each unit within the building.
Walls were moved; new electrical, plumbing and sound systems were fitted.
“We dropped the ceiling two inches so that we could get the recessed lighting in,” Downing says.
An opening was created to connect the two units and each side was evaluated to address certain needs.
“We ended up making one side more formal and the other side more casual. That was how they [the homeowners] saw it. A play side and then a more formal entertaining side,” Astras says.
The more formal space has a living room, dining room, office, the large master suite, main kitchen and a butler’s pantry.
The guest side is a fully self-contained space with a kitchen/bar, a game room, a family room with screening area and three guest bedrooms.
WHOLE HOME WIRED
After the units were united and stripped down, electronics techs were able to run cable to wire the entire home. The entertainment equipment is housed in a single tack built by Terry Wolf of Innovative Atmospheres, which includes DVR cable systems and Apple TV, so that every television within the home has access to these entertainment options. A Sonos sound system was wired in throughout, and for lifting and lowering the window shades, an electronic Lutron system was built in. All the electronics can be operated via cell phone.
And, of course, a fireplace was added.
What makes this home so special is the exceptional way the homeowners and design team chose to integrate the natural feature of expansive ocean views from nearly every room by correlating texturized walls, ceilings, and even cabinet handles.
Each detail, whether formal or casual, speaks the vivid language of the sea as if it were an element of cohesive stagecraft. And the drama that results is born from the perfect pairing of color, light, composition and unity, just like a compelling story arc in any good film or screenplay.
The flow between the spaces is effortless, yet the two sides of this home are distinguished by several critical and subtle fundamentals. In the formal side the designers used a faux-built coffered ceiling detail giving it a more classic feel. On the guest side there’s a tongue and nickel-groove ceiling for a more casual touch.
On the homeowner’s side, the state-of-the-art kitchen has qualities of grandeur as well as utility. Accurate Marble and Granite of Stuart supplied and installed all the countertops throughout the home. In the kitchen, an entire slab of Taj Mahal quartzite became the island and then dictated the size of the custom cabinets.
Thermador appliances were used, and the cooktop has downdraft ventilation, using an 18-inch telescopic panel that rises and then retracts out of sight into the stone with the touch of a button.
The cabinetry, bathrooms and kitchens, was designed by Sandy Haynes and Jason Oetinger of Chad Acres Kitchen and Bath. Refined sleek handles and hardware adorn the custom-built cabinets.
“We talked about them like jewelry,” Downing says.
Textured yet translucent glass fronts on the cabinets were carried through to the adjacent butler’s pantry. Haynes and Oetinger creatively engineered the space to contain a full-sized fridge, dishwasher, sink and storage cabinets.
Then there’s the fireplace. Even though the units are on the top floor, there is no chimney or ventilation. Amantii, an Iowa-based company, created a bespoke, electric fireplace surrounded by a cream-colored stone façade in a modern, geometric design. A ribbon of faux flame stretches across the bottom, and on top a large flat screen TV floats within a recessed space, creating a grand illusion.
There is cove lighting throughout, with particular attention in the master bedroom where the coving is backed by crown molding in the asymmetrical room, enhancing the dramatic lighting.
The large master suite is a world unto itself. With broad floor-to-ceiling ocean views, it becomes a secluded resort with a spa bath. Soft honey-beige counters and cabinets backed with the lightest textured blue/gray papered walls have rectangular glass custom cabinet pulls encased in nickel-finished mounts. A shell framed mirror is a beautiful accent piece, one of the specialty mirrors custom designed and framed by The Gilt Complex in Stuart.
On the guest side, the homeowners and designers paid close attention to visitor comfort. An oblong bar is equipped with a complete kitchen, including a freezer full of ice cream and provisions of scoops, bowls and toppings. There’s also a fully stocked liquor cabinet and a sideboard with a three-section wine cooler. The adjacent eating area has a round table, which flips over to become a poker table, alongside a built-in microwave designed for late-night pizza and popcorn gourmands.
The three guest rooms get particularly luxurious treatments, including each with its own Keurig coffee maker. The main guest suite contains a closet with a choice of pillows with distinct low or high loft to accommodate every sleeper’s preference. And there’s a separate and private internet connection with its own IP address installed to ensure guests get the best and fastest internet service while in residence.
Downing and Astras were charged with sourcing every element, down to the linens. During part of the build, the clients were at an out-of-state residence and, as work progressed, the designers would send photos and updates on the project.
In a variety of ways, the wall coverings enrich the artistic feel of the home while still maintaining enough restraint to not detract from the ocean views. Phillip Jeffries wallpapers, in foils and textures, were used throughout. The custom paint job and paper treatments were the masterwork of Bob Schel. A guest room with wide striped green and beige walls is not paper but hand rendered by Schel. Two framed panels in the foyer are wallpaper, as is a ceiling detail above the bar’s kitchen on the guest-side of the home. A shell detailed paper on the facing wall in the bar simply captures the atmosphere and dignifies the space.
Back on the owner’s side, the office, with a river and sunset view, is outfitted in comfortable cherry wood with metallic grass-cloth papered walls. The office has a wet bar and private bathroom with onyx countertops and tile backsplash that harmonize perfectly with a textured cream pearlescent wall covering. The large shower is graced with glass doors hung from industrial metal hardware, and a high-level window enabling river views.
The light fixtures were selected for their cohesion to each portion of the dual-sided residence. The foyer has a modern recessed chandelier from Fine Arts, which also supplied the dining table fixture with its torch-like elements mimicking large, theatrical wall sconces on either side of another The Gilt Complex custom mirror. The rest of the lighting is by Visual Comforts including the modern pendant over the island in the kitchen.
Sheer solar window shades operate electronically and allow light in while keeping the heat out and protecting fabrics from sun fading. It’s a perfect safeguard for the exquisite furniture by Vanguard, a high-end North Carolina furniture designer.
The homeowners and the design team worked so harmoniously together that Downing and Astras are helping them realize their vision for another residence in Texas.
From two — one. This one, forged through insightful collaboration and having taken every advantage of the natural gifts on display, has surpassed design, and become art.