The 1953 post-and-beam-style structure is one of architect Byron Simonson's last remaining residences. The preservation and restoration of the home was executed by Delray Beach architect Jeffrey Silberstein, shown.
TextPhotos Robin Hill
Sure, the dusty, mid-century home was rough around the edges, but the provenance and location just felt right. Chicagoans Kurt Baldassari and Virginia Devlin were set on Florida's sun-bleached Gold Coast as the setting of their second home, and when they saw the derelict Hypoluxo Island structure with its modernist lines, harmonious proportions and terrazzo floors, they knew they had discovered something special. "It just felt like a gem," Devlin says. "We knew that with some TLC, it could be pretty amazing."
The 1,700-square-foot house, it turned out, had been built in 1953 by Byron Simonson, a well-regarded modernist architect who studied under Addison Mizner. Simonson's designs also include the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach and the former La Coquille Club in Manalapan, and the Hypoluxo home is one of his last remaining residences in the area. The post-and-beam structure had its share of challenges: The floor-to-ceiling jalousie windows would need to be replaced; the asphalt roof had to be stripped and some of the floors were below flood elevation. "But you could feel the bones of the place," Devlin says. "You could tell it was a really cool space with tall ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows."
The couple, who share an affinity for mid-century architecture, enlisted the aid of both an architect and interior designer for the architecturally sensitive renovation. Jeffrey Silberstein, a Delray Beach architect who specializes in modern designs, took one look at the home and decided to flip the floor plan. "It was very closed off to the outside," Silberstein says. "The bedrooms all faced in. You had no idea what the garden was like if you were standing in the kitchen or living room."
And so, the dining room became the master bathroom, the guest bedroom was converted into the kitchen, the living room was transformed into the master bedroom, the master turned into the living area and the old kitchen became a bedroom for their nine-year-old daughter, Ava. The new layout was "much more livable and an extension of the garden area," Silberstein says. They reinforced the structure with hurricane-impact windows and doors and a new roof that reflects the sun and cools the home. They preserved the exposed tongue-and-groove ceiling and rafters as well as the terrazzo floors, where possible. The floors in the kitchen were below flood elevation, so Silberstein raised it and left the concrete finish as a sharp contrast to the existing terrazzo.
The original beams were dark wood, so they painted the beams and all the walls white, which immediately brightened up the once-dark space. The spartan palette also provided a blank slate for the interior design, which fell into the uniquely capable hands of West Palm designer Jacki Mallick.
Mallick, who also lives in a mid-century home, met Devlin almost by chance. Devlin visited Mallick's interior design boutique to see if she could reupholster a few items, and "it snowballed from there," Devlin says. The previous owners had left behind some fabulous 1950s furnishings, so Mallick let those pieces dictate the design. The original items include: a pair of signed John Stuart chairs refinished and recovered with Baker Lifestyle fabric by Lee Jofa in the living room; a wing-back chair reupholstered in a dazzling turquoise textile by Romo in the master; a pair of white, Lucite-topped nightstands in the master that were once end tables in the living room; and three wicker nesting tables and two wicker chairs in Ava's bedroom.
Baldassari also inherited some unique pieces from his family, including vibrant yellow chairs in the dining area and a rattan furniture set for the Florida room. For the rest, Devlin "wanted to infuse the house with color," so Mallick sourced beautiful Trina Turk-inspired fabrics from Schumacher, Kravet and Romo to further brighten the space. "Her favorite colors are blue, green and yellow," Mallick says of the reasoning behind the Florida-friendly scheme. She also sprinkled in some pieces she discovered at estate sales and auctions — such as a Karl Springer dining table, blue Murano dolphin vases and an iconic Arthur Court coffee table in the living room. The added items coexist comfortably in the home — sleek accessories, furnishings and fabrics that are cheerful, contemporary and always evocative of mid-century style.
A black-and-white wall mural — a vintage aerial view of Hypoluxo Island — makes a statement in the entryway, further tying the home to its architectural heritage and tropical location. "We wanted to let the Florida sunshine in," says Devlin. "To a couple of urban condo dwellers, this place is truly special."
Rain or shine, this little dwelling on Hypoluxo island — with radiant colors and an open, airy layout — is always sunny.