Lisa Erdmann at Red Cross Designers Show House

As she embarks on her third decade in business, interior designer Lisa E. Erdmann follows an every-other-year schedule to decide when she will decorate a room in the American Red Cross Designers’ Show House, an annual fundraiser that benefits the charity’s Palm Beach Treasure Coast chapter. On alternate years, she focuses on a different organization, from creating a table setting for a benefit at the Norton Museum to helping the Center for Family Services renovate its West Palm Beach offices.

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But this year, she’s returning her time and design talents to the 39th annual Red Cross Show House at a historic lakefront home in Lake Worth, which hosts a preview party Wednesday before opening to the public the next day for a month of tours.

“My parents raised me to always know it was our responsibility to give back if we had the means to do so,” Erdmann says. “So picking a charity is important in my makeup, and working with the Red Cross is a pleasure. It’s so well received that it helps expose our design talent, and it benefits them, too.”

Giving back is not the only way of thinking Erdmann learned from her family.

Her livelihood centers around homes and design, and she comes from a land-development family with a name certainly familiar to Palm Beachers. Her grandfather, E. Llwyd Ecclestone Sr. — an early proponent of building luxury homes clustered around golf courses — developed the South Florida luxury communities Lost Tree Village and John’s Island. Her father, Palm Beacher E. Llwyd Ecclestone, developed PGA National and Old Port Cove. Her brother, E. Llwyd Ecclestone III, meanwhile, has just finished work on a pair of houses he developed on speculation on the North End.

Erdmann graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont and attended Parsons School of Design while working in the design industry in New York City. Having also studied at Florida Institute of Technology, she founded Lisa Erdmann & Associates in 1994. It’s based at her family’s development offices in West Palm Beach but has also long maintained a Palm Beach address.

For this year’s show house, Erdmann is cooking up something special for the living room of the 1925 Mediterranean-style house known locally as the “Birthday Cake Castle,” although its formal name is La Florentia.

The 7,000 square foot house, recently bought by Scott Levine, was originally built by Sherman Childs. It received its Birthday Cake Castle nickname when former owner Upton Close gave the home to his wife, Margaret Fretter Nye, as a birthday present in 1954. With slender candle-like pillars, plaster swirls that resemble icing and graceful curves, it even has a birthday-cake stained-glass window in the stairwell.

Its grandly scaled rooms, casual spaces, and nooks and crannies of various shapes and sizes will be the basic ingredients for 20 designers, who will adorn them to create their own slices of decorating magic.

The living room’s existing architectural features were the starting points for Erdmann and her design team, Rhonda Grammer and Eden Tepper.

“It’s a gorgeous room, very big, with an original Adam fireplace, trefoil windows and original hardwood floor. It was a blank slate,” Erdmann says. “Since it’s an old house and has such wonderful character, we treated it like it was on the island of Palm Beach with a more formal living room.”

Erdmann often uses antiques as part as part of their design strategy, but in the Birthday Cake Castle they played an even more important role.

“This is the correct way the room should be presented. The home is Mediterranean, and the interior needs to be consistent with the exterior,” she explains.

Furniture pieces in the main seating area are grouped around the fireplace, a logical place to gather with family and friends. A second seating vignette, placed near an adjoining wall, consists of two wing chairs and a table, where the home’s residents might settle in for tea, or to play chess or backgammon.

Erdmann chose comfortable upholstered furniture, adding English antiques for a more formal feel. For balance, on the wall opposite the fireplace, she placed a Regency mahogany sideboard. Many of the antiques were supplied by The Elephant’s Foot on Antique Row in West Palm Beach.

Lamps and chandeliers are from Niermann Weeks. “The chandelier that swags either side of the fireplace are crystal and metal with a beautiful Venetian silver type of finish,” she says.

The color scheme is neutral with touches of icy blue. “A room this large needs color, but it has to be soft, which is more consistent with the formal style,” she says. “The room does not get lots of sunlight, and the icy blue brightens the room up.”

Fabrics are by Cowtan and Tout, and all the patterns are subtle, she says.

“There’s a soft pattern on the drapes, a small herringbone on one chair and a larger pattern on the wing chairs, but the room is not defined by pattern; it’s more defined by the mix of the pieces together.”

The goal, she adds, “was to be elegant. In a past showroom, I chose bold colors in the drapery fabric, to draw the eye to the view and away from the adjacent kitchen; that’s a little trick,” she says. “But this is an interior room, with no views. Even the stained glass keeps the eye inside, so the drapes are softer.”

Written for the Palm Beach Daily News, Feb. 27, 2015

 

a really haute ride

For a chic two-wheel ride that celebrates Italian Week Palm Beach in style, hop on the bella Benelli Classica eBike, which importer Larry Ferracci calls “an haute item.”

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Benelli Classica eBike

It’s being shown from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. today and Friday at MacKenzie-Childs Palm Beach, 238 Worth Ave.

Benelli, a century-old luxury Italian brand known for its motorcycles, launched the Classica in December. For Italian Week, it’s available for test rides and for sale with a percentage of proceeds benefiting Il Circolo Palm Beach.

The Classica, which is perfect for urban streets, has a top speed of 20 mph and a range up to 40 miles. It comes in white, cream and black with natural saddle-color leather handlebar grips and seat. Its features include a lightweight lithium battery pack, with Samsung cell technology, that is concealed in the front frame. Recharging is as easy as charging a laptop.

It can be ridden as a bike without pedal-assist, or its rider can twist the shift on the grip to engage the motor and change speeds. Its LCD display shows battery capacity, speed and total distance.

“It’s a classic Milan bicycle and that’s what appeals to me,” Ferracci said. “And I like to think of riding a bike as fun.

“The last time I was in Palm Beach at the Four Seasons, I rode one of their bikes south to Manalapan. It was a nice leisurely ride and I was cruising looking around, but it took longer coming back because of 10 to 15 mile-an-hour headwinds.”

That’s when he wished he was riding a Classica electric bike with pedal assist, he said.

How does the bike work? Just like a bike. With its step-through design, you just get on and pedal. Engaging the motor is intuitive, with the dash integrated into the handlebar. From the grip, twist it on, choose the speed level, pedal and the system activates. It also has a throttle for a burst of energy.

Benelli Classica eBikes, priced at $2,100, can be drop-shipped anywhere in the United States within three or four days. For information, visit www.benellibikesusa.com. They also are available at specialty bicycle dealers, including Palm Beach Bicycle Trail Shop.

Easily maintained and serviced, “it is 98 percent a standard bicycle, with most of its components available at any bike shop,” Ferracci said. “There are only three special components: the front motor, display and battery pack; and a bike shop can call us for those parts, and we’ll send them.

“Keep air in the tires and the batteries charged, and you’ll have an enjoyable time.”

Written for Palm Beach Daily News, February 26, 2015

Building Rybovich boats a family affair

Just up the waterway from Wayne Huizenga Jr.’s marina, Rybovich, is the Michael Rybovich & Sons Boat Works in Palm Beach Gardens at 2175 Idlewild Road, where Michael and Dusty Rybovich build sportfishing boats in their family’s tradition.

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Lizzie Bee

At 64 feet long overall with 18 feet of beam, Lizzie Bee’s walkaround design allows for fishing all the way around the boat. It has a 360-degree center-console fishing platform with a large raised helm deck, well-appointed cabin and four staterooms. “My wife, Pat, likes it as much as I do. She did all the interior design, and is just as enthusiastic,” Larry Wilson said. At its final sea trial, Wilson said: “We went from Palm Beach to Miami and back this morning. Ran perfectly: smooth, dry, fast, fuel efficient, quiet and a great ride.”[/caption]

After Huizenga Jr. bought the Rybovich Spencer boatyard in 2004, he hired Michael to head the new-construction end of the business, Michael explained.

“But when economy tanked, so did interest in new construction, and rather than fund a speculative new-construction venture, they decided to disband the company that was responsible for new construction.”

After he left Huizenga’s Rybovich, in 2011 he, with Palm Beacher Larry Wilson, acquired land owned by E&H Boat Works. Then, Michael sunk money into the rundown property, cleaning it up and rebuilding to create his new boat building, maintenance, modification and repairs company.

Family affair

Building Rybovich boats has been a family affair from its first boat, the 34-foot Miss Chevy II built for Charles Johnson in 1947, and it still is.

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Dusty and Michael Rybovich, photo courtesy of Robert Holland

“In 1975 when I was 19, I was officially placed on the payroll,” Michael said. “I worked on a bottom crew. They haul, launch the boats, clean the bottoms, pull propellers, anything to do with work below the waterline.”

His son, Dusty, was born to the business. Dusty’s favorite Rybovich boat is hull No. 110, a 33-footer built at Ryco Marine in 1987. Dusty helped put new engines in it when he was in high school, he said. “Dad told me he was doing that boat’s sea trial, when mom went into labor with me.”

Like his father, he worked in the boat yard when he was in high school. “I’d come in after school and take care of all the messy jobs: painting in small areas, cleaning up, (doing) basic carpentry, digging through rotten wood, scraping barnacles.”

Undaunted, after high school, he went to Webb Institute in New York state and is now a naval architect and marine engineer. He joined his father in January 2013. “I guess being in the family business was what I’ve always wanted,” Dusty said.

Now with renovations complete, Michael Rybovich & Sons is up and running in all areas.

“We’ve done several major refits in addition to routine service and maintenance,” Michael said. “We worked a lot on our own boats and we’ll work on boats built by others, but most of our customers own one or more of our boats. I’d say we’ve worked on 20 to 25 of them.”

Custom boat builder

The boat building part of the company got underway in May 2012 with a 64-foot walkaround for Larry Wilson. It was finished summer 2014.

“Larry has been a fisherman and boat owner long enough to know exactly what he wants, and every time we’ve done work for Larry he wants something different,” Michael said. “He likes being involved in projects that push the envelope.

“This one was the largest walkaround that we’d ever built, and it had a unique propulsion system using a Volvo IPS Pod drive (a system that has forward-facing counter rotating propellers).”

How does Michael build boats compared to his father, grandfather and uncles? “I don’t want to get stuck with a particular method because we are constantly experimenting with methods of construction, combining Old World craftsmanship with the latest in weight-saving technology,” he said.

Currently, an 86-foot and a 68-foot conventional sportfishing boats are in the works.

“For our new construction business, we are a total custom-builder,” Michael said. “We can build anybody anything they want from 40 to 100 feet as long as it looks and performs like one of our boats.”

Since Dusty joined his father, designing is now digital. “We see how the boat is going to fit before we built it. It’s a great timesaver,” Dusty said.

“While each boat is completely custom, including the way it looks, we try to keep with our signature theme, but make each boat unique unto itself.”

Wilson, who has owned six Rybovich boats, has this to say: “Since 1947, the Rybovich family has been very innovative, with the tuna tower, transom door, fighting chair, and other items that are now standard for sportfishing boats.

“Rybovich boats were always the highest quality, and they were always made out of wood, which is lighter than fiberglass, and has a more elegant look. Of all the Rybovich boats built, 124 are still in use. That’s eight decades. They are works of art.

“Mike is a perfectionist, wants it right and keeps to a high standard,” he said. “He continues to build boats that ride better and perform better than other boats. They are more efficient and elegant. He builds a boat that I believe is the best.”

Currently, in addition to owning the 64-foot walkaround recently launched, Michael Rybovich & Sons’ hull No. 1, Lizzie Bee, Wilson also owns the 32-foot, Charmer, hull No. 108, built at Ryco Marine in 1985, and launched at that same time as Ruthie.

published: Palm Beach Daily News