With its subtle play on contrasts, connections, and harmonies, the interior design of a Florida villa by Les Ensembliers reinvents Palm Beach style.
“We worked closely with our client to achieve this result,” explains Richard Ouellette, designer and founding partner of Les Ensembliers. “She has developed a sharp eye for updating classic designs and turning yesterday’s elegance into a contemporary essential. Her vision brought this project to life. We kept the essence of this period house in Florida while adding a contemporary tone through a careful mix of classic and modern styles.”
A blank canvas on a historical background
The challenge of the project was to capitalize on the historical richness of the villa without stifling the space.
The Regency-style house evoked the opulent beginnings of Palm Beach, with its palace-worthy 16-foot ceilings and a wealth of interior architectural details: plaster mouldings forming cornices, friezes, columns, and other spandrels. The presence of history is manifested all the way to the back wall of the residence, a vestige of one of Henry Phipps’s properties and today classified as a heritage element.
To give the space a contemporary feel and somewhat lighten the weight of history, Les Ensembliers provided a counterbalance to the overabundance of tropical colours that define traditional Palm Beach interior design. The designers decided to turn all the surfaces of the house white, attenuating the presence of details. Colour subsisted only in the form of accents in upholstery patterns and rugs. This dominantly monochrome canvas made it possible to highlight certain furniture pieces and contemporary artworks and to bring a touch of modernity into a classic environment.
Between classic and contemporary
“From this blank canvas, we were able to build several environments around the shapes and colours of the elements and arrangements that make up the house’s interior design,” the designers noted. Each room is thus created from the juxtaposition of elements of different styles and histories. In the loggia, a Riopelle print complements classic Porta Romana lamps, a modernized version of a chesterfield, and a low cube-shaped table made of lacquered wood the interior of which is gold-leafed.
Outside, the pure lines of Manutti furniture contrast with the massive look of a classic-styled stone table or an Indonesian-style wood table. The porcelain and ceramic urns that accentuate the space evoke both Antiquity and unwavering modernity.
For Les Ensembliers, “each interior design tells a story.” Every element is chosen for its personality and how it complements the other parts of the composition. For instance, the loggia contains 14 pieces of furniture and objects of 14 different origins. And yet, the grouping forms a coherent whole that establishes a harmony between classic and contemporary, thanks to the play on connections chosen by the design team and the client.
Plays on connections
Each room is built around an artwork that displays the desire of Les Ensembliers to design a contemporary feeling on a classic canvas. In the loggia, it’s a work by Riopelle. In the master bedroom, a silkscreen by Russel Young imbues the space with the painful emotion of a Marilyn in tears. In the living room, the designer created a geometric composition from gold leaf and red- and black-lacquered panels made by a French artisan using ancient methods.
Each of these artworks initiates a play on connections. The monochrome geometry of the Riopelle painting echoes that of the low table and the armrests on the seats in the loggia. Even the symmetrical layout of the room has been considered in relation to the artist’s work. Similarly, the wool carpet in the living room refers to the geometric motifs characteristic of Palm Beach style, reflected in the artwork on the wall. The artwork’s broken lines are also found in the shape and print of the upholstery fabric. “Building an environment means imagining paths for interpretation and connections that create harmony as much as they give a space personality,” Ouellette concludes.
About Les Ensembliers
Founded as a partnership between an architect, Maxime Vandal, and an interior designer, Richard Ouellette, Les Ensembliers brought to Quebec for the first time a model integrating architecture, interior design, and construction.
This vertical integration enables the firm to produce complex, risk-taking projects within budget and on schedule. A good example of this is its heritage renovation at 205 Edge Hill, in Westmount, a 12,000-square-foot project completed in just 12 months.
“We have the architect and the house painter on the same payroll, which makes us quick on our feet and facilitates our quality control of projects,” Vandal notes.
Thanks to this integrated approach to design, Les Ensembliers has specialized in high-end residential projects. Among the firm’s achievements is the restoration of one of the oldest residences in Westmount, the Gate Lodge, for which it received the 2010 Emeritus Heritage Award from the Montréal Architectural Heritage Campaign.
Les Ensembliers’s projects are regularly covered in the international press. In 2012, the magazine House & Home included the firm’s L’Ermite project in Port-au-Persil in its “Best Homes of 2011” ranking of the 12 best residences.
Architects/designers: Maxime Vandal / Richard Ouellette
Designers team: Roxanne Arsenault / Jane Charron
Landscape architects : Sanchez & Maddux Inc.