Historic Palm Beach home: whimsical and fun

This mid-1920s Mediterranean-style home at 322 Clarke Avenue has a colorful history. Named Villa Filipponi, it was built for Count Carlo Filipponi and Countess Laurietta Ford von Stresenreuter Filipponi, the grandmother of Palm Beacher, Frank Butler (who died August 22, 2014).

Click on the photo above to see flickr photo album.

While the Landmarks Preservation Commission states that the architect of the Mediterranean style home is unknown, it certainly is lovely, featuring handsome architectural details that include a clay-barrel-tile roof, stucco finishes, applied ornamentation, asymmetrical fenestration, wrought-iron balconies, decorative tiles and Corinthian columns. The home received landmark status in 2001.

And the color continues. Marilyn and Emmet Tracy bought the home in 1997 from artist Thomas McKnight and his wife, Renate.

“They lived here for a number of years before they moved to Litchfield, Conn. because he wanted a studio that would give him the room to paint large works,” Emmet Tracy says.

“They made changes to the house as did Patricia Morris and George Gillett when they lived here.”

According to the designation report, extensive work was completed in 1990 by Jeffrey Smith of the Smith Architectural Group: “Smith added a loggia and pool pavilion and a 1,200-square-foot addition to the southwest corner of the building.”

“Renate was so resistant to selling, that the only way he got her to agree was to promise her a plane. She flies down here occasionally, and comes over to see the gardens,” Emmet says, adding she established the gardens, which were designed by Victoria Barton.

“The McKnights knocked down the house next door, which gave them the space for the garden,” Emmet says.

Then the Tracys bought the home, and worked their magic on it. In 2004, they expanded a sitting room, built a pergola, expanded the guest apartment and garage and commissioned Mario Nievera to install brick curved walkways throughout the garden.  Marilyn, with New York designer, Charlie Moon, decorated the interiors, and she made design changes and additions to the garden “to the point where it was named to the Smithsonian honor roll of gardens in Spring 2013,” Emmet says.

“It’s a real attraction and it’s been a very satisfying effort for my wife, to bring the transition from what it was when Renate had it.”

“I really love the potting shed and the orchid house,” Marilyn says. “I enjoy orchids, and the way that Mario designed the wind-y paths, there are five places that open up to the center of the garden. I think it’s a wonderful garden.”

Now though, they plan to downsize, and their seven-bedroom, seven-bath, and two-half-bath home with 7,682 square feet inside and out, is offered through Thor Brown, a realtor with Fite Shavell & Associates for $10.895 million.

The covered entry, an addition designed by Smith, leads to the stately foyer and stair hall. To the east is the sitting room and pergola that the Tracys expanded. Features in the sitting room include windows and French doors with fans above that offer views of the garden and a pecky-cypress ceiling with applied molding.

To the west is a two-storied living room with the first-floor hallway and second-floor arcade running along the south side. The first-floor arcade has French doors that opened to a covered loggia, and offer views of the patio and pool.

Features in the living room include a fireplace with stone mantel and slanted cypress ceiling with stenciling.  West of the hallway are the dining room, butler’s pantry and island kitchen, with stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, tile backsplash and breakfast area with banquette seating.

The dining room has an art niche, small fireplace, walls painted terra cotta, yellow ceiling, antiqued gold woodwork around the casement windows and French doors that lead to a dining patio.

The main foyer opens to a stair hall, with a stone stairway, wrought-iron balustrades and arched glass windows.

Floors throughout most of the downstairs area are Cuban tile.

Upstairs and north of the landing is a guest-bedroom suite, with French doors that lead to balconies. Two charming rooms to the south, which the Tracys use as offices, were McKnight’s office and studio. Features include high-gloss white floors, built-in stucco shelving, skylight, Juliet balcony, stairway to the rooftop, a window seat and touches of pecky cypress.

The second-floor arcade, with one wall lined in bookshelves beneath the windows, leads to the master suite, with a sitting room, bedroom, large bathroom, balconies and arbor. The bathroom has a soaking tub, walk-in shower, marble and coral key stone floor.

Off of the pool courtyard is a dining pavilion as well as garage with second-floor guest apartment.

To the east of the house are Marilyn’s spectacular gardens with specimen trees, the out-buildings she loves, as well as a little hut with a thatched roof for the grandchildren. “Some Washingtonians have grown many feet since we’ve lived here,” Marilyn says.

Note: I don’t know why, but I love this house. Some say Marion Sims Wyeth was the architect, but he is not named in the story because Landmark report states that paperwork cannot be found on this house… If Dr. Curl was still alive, he’d probably know...

I had the pleasure of writing about the gardens a few years ago. Click here to see it.



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