Volk-designed Jupiter Island home

I’m putting up this old story of mine because this house just sold… for real estate stats Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter,  you can go to North County Current…Click here.

One winds through a landscape of mature trees and plants before reaching the gracious motor court of a two-story Georgian-style home on Jupiter Island, built in 1965 by noted Palm Beach architect John Volk for John B. Ford Jr. and his wife, Mary Holland Ford.


And while the house at 293 S. Beach Road still retains its original elegance and charm, it has been brought into the 21st century, thoughtfully renovated and updated by homeowner and designer Lynn Sabella and her husband, Richard.

“My husband and I love old houses,” Lynn explains. “We were looking for something special to renovate as opposed to doing a new construction project.”

On a relatively high elevation and presiding over nearly three acres of property on the coast of Martin County, the house is listed for sale at $25 million by Corcoran Group Real Estate.

Like many old homes, Sabella says, this one gave up some secrets about its owners during the renovation.

“For example, in Mrs. Ford’s closet, she left a handwritten list, spanning many years, of which outfits were worn to which parities and other engagements, so as not to repeat the same outfit at the same home or subsequent occasion.”

In addition, when the Sabellas acquired the house, some of the Fords’ furniture remained, as did an old intercom system to call the butler and maids along with a telephone room under the stairs. The kitchen, too, had been designed primarily for use by staff. All of those details gave hints of the house’s history, but because the home offered a timeless layout, it had the potential for a reconfiguration, Sabella notes.

Sabella eliminated staff rooms to create a 45-foot family room with panoramic views of the ocean. The foyer has been enlarged, ceiling heights raised and rooms extended. An upstairs terrace has been enclosed to add space in the master suite. The original kitchen is now a chef’s delight. Closets, the stairwell and bathrooms – along with the basement space – have all been reconfigured.

“All of the changes were made in a manner intended to complement the existing architecture and floor plan,” Sabella says.

The oceanfront estate comprises a main house with five bedrooms, six bathrooms and three powder rooms plus a staff/guest apartment over a garage set amid sea grape trees north of the main house.

One can still see some Volk architectural features, including the stepped-pyramid roofs on the golf-cart garage and on the cabana and summer kitchen by the pool.

The entry off the motor court maintains much of its original appeal, too. It is stately and retains original features that include a covered and columned front loggia.

One walks through front doors made of glass, wrought iron and mahogany into a formal reception room featuring wainscoting, picture molding and a cherry-framed limestone floor. The high-pitched cypress ceiling is stunning. French doors to the south open onto the formal courtyard terrace, walkways and pool area to the south.

In the west wing and to the north is a library with a tray ceiling, oak floors, a marble fireplace with a carved wood mantel and three-quarter-height mahogany wainscoting. Two guest bedroom suites are also in the west wing – the southernmost bedroom opens to a courtyard. Both bedrooms are painted cream with white trim.

East and north of the entry hall are the butler pantry, the large kitchen and the massive family room directly facing the ocean.

The kitchen has two center islands, Australian knotty-cypress floors, a pitched ceiling, white marble counters and dark-wood cabinets. Stainless-steel appliances include a Wolf gas stove with grill and griddle, a Thermador microwave oven, two Sub-Zero refrigerators with freezer drawers, two Asko dishwashers and a Scotsman icemaker. The breakfast area has French doors facing patios on the east and south.

The breakfast area also opens to the family room, with its dark-wood pitched ceiling, cypress floors and windows and doors on three sides offering views of the ocean and lush landscaping.

Farther south in the east wing is the original dining room. It features an ocean-side alcove, parquet floor, a chair rail and a tray ceiling with a center medallion and decorative crown molding. Nearby is a dramatic stairwell with glass framed in dark wood.

Walking south along the gallery, one comes to the living room, where a coffered ceiling sets a formal tone and French doors on the east open to a limestone patio with views of the sea. The floor is covered in oak planks set in a herringbone pattern and framed in mahogany. The fireplace’s white-wood carved mantel features the original Coquina-stone hearth.

Farther south in the gallery are two archways leading to a pair of bedroom suites – one views the ocean and has original architectural details. The second opens to the pool area.

Upstairs is the master suite with French doors and an oceanside terrace. The bedroom features mahogany floors, a pitched ceiling, his-and-her baths and dressing areas, a breakfast kitchen and a living room viewing the sea. The woman’s bath and the suite’s living room boast original hickory floors.

The house has been pre-wired for cable and a sound system. The latter would likely have appealed to the home’s original owner: The late John B. Ford Jr. was a music lover who, in the early 1950s, spearheaded the revival of the foundering Detroit Symphony Orchestra, eventually serving as its director for 30 years.

Other features of the Beach Road property include impact-resistant windows and doors, an elevator, a Lutron lighting-control system, a central vacuum system, a security system and eight-zone air-conditioning in the main house.

With the renovation completed, Lynn Sabella continues to marvel at how Volk positioned the residence to take full advantage of its seaside location in Jupiter Island, a town consistently ranked by Forbes Magazine and other sources as the wealthiest in the United States.

“The manner in which this house and its major rooms were oriented to the ocean seemed to us to be perfect,” says Sabella.

For information about 293 S. Beach Road, call Realtor Rosalind Clarke in Palm Beach at (561) 818-6351.

And oregon photos

After Mill Valley, I went to Portland to visit my daughter and her family. We visited the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, Multnomah Falls, a farmer’s market and we went on a walking tour of of one of the older neighborhoods in the Portland area. I’ve already put up the photos from the Portland Art Museum (go here to visit that post).

For more photos where I was just having fun, here’s another link. I’d give my little camera to the kids and they took some of these, by the way.


I’m crazy about the flowers! I love Florida’s semi-tropical gorgeous flowers, too, but gardens in other places overwhelm with “exotic” (to me) colors and shapes!

Mill Valley Holiday

I got to go away, and visit beautiful parts of this world. So, for fun, here are some shots taken in Mill Valley…

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I did a lot of walking. Don’t trust myself on those roads anymore, although while I lived there, I didn’t think twice. Saw my old house — ghost, I’m told, still lives there, although I am long gone.

Those redwoods are magnificent; the brooks make me feel so tranquil, and the homes, nestled in the canyons or perched on the side of the hills are stunning. There’s no other word for it.

To get here and there, as a walker, in Mill Valley, there are all kinds of right-a-way steps up and down the hills. On a house off one, there were chickens pecking about the yard — and a bee keeper was taking care of a hive. About half way up  this little stairway was an altar to Buddha, and, at the top, a swing hanging from a limb that the kids adore…

Oh, and going down is a lot more fun than climbing up!

Architects create elliptical staircase

While I was in San Francisco I went with Ted Bonneau and Chad Stith to see how their elliptacal staircase was progressing. Here are the photos of that as well as other parts of the house…

You can visit their site to see more of their work.

The house is going to be wonderful when it’s done. I love the skylight above the staircase — so much fun to photograph. The scaffolding in the center of the staircase makes it a little difficult to envision the whole thing, but you can still get an idea of it.


Discover Local Artists: Out of This World

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at the Norton

The Norton Museum’s current special exhibit of “Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television,” on display through September 4, presents a delightful collection of outfits worn during the original productions of Sci-Fi films and TV episodes.

The “Star Wars” films and the “Star Trek” series – in all its versions – take up much of the exhibition, but there are plenty of other colorful outfits to see: the Riddler’s snazzy green suit and swirly jacket dazzle the eyes; Eldon Tyrell’s robe from “Blade Runner” is royally impressive; Batman’s sidekick Robin’s red, green, and yellow felt clothes look very much like a Halloween costume.

The wall captions inform about costume designers choosing shapes, colors, and fabrics to create impressions appropriate to the characters’ outstanding qualities, Batman being an interesting, somewhat ambiguous example. While audiences usually put him on the positive side, his costume, so the caption reads, represents “vigilante lawlessness” and an “uneasy truce between good and evil.”   The costume designers’ real art is nicely illustrated by the display of such favorite characters as Darth Vader, whose attire was creatively assembled from many departments, ranging from the military / WW II section through the motorcycle and the ecclesiastical divisions.

This exhibition appears to draw a wide range of audiences.  Four-and-a-half-year-old Kieran, who plays Star Wars Lego games, said he liked Obi-Wan Kenobi best; his parents are both avid Star Wars fans who saw the original trilogy when it first came out, and they enjoyed their visit to the exhibit very much.

Finally, it seems more could have been made of the use of medieval and other pre-modern materials in these Sci-Fi classics (for example, the plot of the 1956 film “The Forbidden Planet” has been read as based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”).

And some questions kept coming up throughout the walk through the displays: why do the guys’ costumes look relatively comfortable (to totally cool) and most of the women’s outfits seem un-wearable?  Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine of Star Trek “Voyager”) said her extremely tight metallic catsuit was “brutal to wear.”  But those questions probably go beyond the realm of this exhibit.  If you want to get out of the house, this is a real option!

The Norton Museum of Art is at 1415 S. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach. Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Hours Friday are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Beate Rodewald is Associate Professor of English at PBA; her research includes utopian studies and science fiction and fantasy