Palm Beach Daily News: Campion Platt Showcases his projects in MADE TO ORDER
Furniture designer and interior decorator Campion Platt recalls an out-of-the-blue telephone call two years ago from the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach. To his surprise, he learned that he and his wife, Tatiana, had won some sort of award.
“It was kind of secretive,” he says of the process, but later found out that the honor was the foundation’s annual Polly Earl Award — carrying a $10,000 prize — in recognition of the Platts’ sensitive restoration of a 1924 Midtown home designed in the British Colonial style by society architect Gustav Maas.
The home, which took 15 months to renovate, is among those featured in Campion Platt: Made to Order (The Monacelli Press, $50), a coffee-table book that hits bookstores this week. With a forward by writer Jay McInerney, one of Platt’s clients, the book features 18 of the designer’s projects. Platt’s accompanying essays include plenty of practical design advice borne of the designer’s professional experience during the 20 years since he founded his namesake firm in Manhattan.
Most of the residences featured in the book — including the Platts’ Soho loft — are in New York City or other parts of that state. His own house marks the only project he has done in Palm Beach.
Because the Palm Beach house had been landmarked by the town, Platt couldn’t alter its exterior appearance. Instead, he re-imagined the interior space, working to preserve as much of the original layout as practical. He also filled the house with his design signatures, creating sophisticated rooms with an urban-contemporary feeling that are also remarkably comfortable to live in.
We asked Platt to tell us more about the house and the design strategies he used to create his year-round tropical retreat.
Q. You’ve taken an older home with a fairly traditional layout and infused it with a bright-and-breezy contemporary sensibility. What would you say were your top three design strategies to bring together the past to the present?
A. I’d say: respecting the inherent character and proportion of the Gustav Maas house; letting the light in, but contrasting that with dark, shiny floors; and opening up the rooms with oversized “frames,” allowing visual interaction between all the main rooms.
Q. The quality of sunlight is remarkably different in South Florida and New York, where so much of your work is concentrated. How did the warmth and brightness of the light here affect your overall interior design?
A. Since the house is for year-round use, I was careful to choose cooler tones in the colors to enhance the interiors and that would seem calm on a hot summer day.
The dark, almost-ebony floors were finished in an unlikely high gloss. The reason was to create reflections and to bounce the light around the room. While the darkness is cooling in its overall effect, the shiny finish complemented the other reflective surfaces in the furniture, the objects and even the curtains.
Q. Your rooms feature a variety of textures in furnishings and accessories. Was that a specific design strategy in this house?
A. I believe firmly that textures define the final perception and like and dislike of a room. The colors can be bad, but if the furniture is comfortable and texture sensual and sumptuous, all is forgiven.
Q. Why did you raise the height of your home’s doorways and install wider moldings around the doors?
A. The effect of higher, wider, more-defined openings is all about creating portals and framing views. The rooms are not that large unto themselves, but with the larger openings, each room can “breathe” into the next.
Q. You chose a combination of traditional-style exterior hurricane shutters for some windows and impact-resistant glass for others to help storm-proof your home. Why use both?
A. I definitely wanted to channel the British Colonial theme, and the shutters were an easy ingredient to incorporate. Where shutters didn’t work, such as in the window-filled day room, we didn’t force the issue. But on all other windows, we used the black shutters in stark contrast to the white exterior. This high contrast elevates the exterior experience.
Q. Tell us a little about the design of your “cigar room” den and what you wanted to accomplish, design-wise, there.
A. This was the hardest room but ended up being, perhaps, the most comfortable. I believe this room was originally a sleeping porch — great in the late afternoons and at sunset. And while it has windows now, it still serves the same purpose. We bleached the original pecky-cypress walls and ceilings to match our palette, and I installed my “Sleeping Hero” daybed as the centerpiece. Also featured prominently is my Lucite tower humidor.
Q. You installed mirrors on the wall behind the fireplace in the living room. How did you arrive at that design decision?
A. My wife loves mirrors to increase the perception of space. That is exactly how they function here. There was a natural bump in the room, due to the structure of the original fireplace, and we just trimmed it out in mirror to surround the white Thassos fireplace.
Q. What advice would you give to homeowners who enjoy a tropical look in their residences but don’t want it to seem overdone?
A. I like creating visual contrasts to excite the mind and spirit. Think of a relaxed beach, a place where the sandals can fit into your room and you have a path to create a cozy Caribbean experience without the clichés.
- Darrell Hofheinz