Palm Beach is an oasis for the wealthy. Mansions, each with their own charm and charisma, line the street, and lush greenery is overflowing. It's other-worldly and a world in and of itself, one where there seem to be no cares and the sun is always shining. Perpetually summery style is synonymous with this place; who couldn't use a little more of that after a long, cold winter?
Perhaps no one has a better view of Palm Beach’s inner world than author Jennifer Ash Rudick, who first moved there at the age of 12 when her mother became editor of the Palm Beach Daily (a veritable who’s who handbook for the man or woman about town). Since the release of Palm Beach Chic, Rudick's coffee table book about the town's most elegant and elite residences, the rest of us are allowed to trail behind her beyond their gates and walls.
The residents of Palm Beach are famously idiosyncratic (Iris Apfel is one of them), but there are undeniable common threads that tell a Palm Beach house from any other. "Palm Beachers live graciously, but with individual interpretations of the concept,” the author incisively notes.
So if you aren't planning a vacation anytime soon, and even if palms and pinks aren't your personal style, every once in a while it's fun to go down this very lush rabbit hole. It’s hard to deny, after all, that all drinks taste better with a tiny umbrella.
Below, I've outlined a few core elements of the Palm Beach style, along with some tips for incorporating them into your interiors. Hello, summer!
In the late 1950’s, a young married couple moved to Palm Beach in an effort to escape the East Coast’s hustle and bustle. The husband, Peter Pulitzer, grew orange trees and, as a natural extension, his wife, Lilly, set up an orange juice stand in town. Inevitably her clothes would become stained from squeezing the fruit by hand. So one day, Lilly Pulitzer designed a shift dress with large, colorful graphic prints to hide these orange splashes.
To many, Lilly was and always will be the grande dame of Palm Beach. She was chic and formal, but at the same time, a woman famous for hosting every party barefoot.
The bright, cheery prints found in her fashion label have nearly identical color palettes to what Palm Beach style has become known for. As designer Meg Braff puts it, “in Florida, I use bright colors. Anything else can get lost.” It's easy to see why: Cast against ocean views, the crisp blue sky, and lush subtropical greenery, Palm Beach is a place where it seems a crime to use anything but these powerful hues.
If you feel inspired to add a few of these vibrant hues, but are aren’t ready to commit to a closet full of them, let your furniture do the talking:
- Wallpaper a small room in lush green palm print (or spring for a headboard in a similar pattern). Instant oasis.
- A small end table in cheerful colors or wicker is a good way to sneak in the beachy look.
- For a bolder impression, spring for a jewel-toned sofa—bonus points for extra fluff.
More: These 14 interior designer-approved green paints will have you breaking out the brushes this weekend.
In thumbing through this glossy tome, another commonality emerges: Palm Beach is a haven for collectors. And, of course, its not that they acquire, but instead what they acquire that sets their homes apart. “Palm Beach is the land of dreams come true, and the houses also reflect that," says Rudick. "There is a certain fantasy and confidence in the designs."
Fantasy comes up a lot in describing these residences, which proclaim—by way of a healthy dose of whimsy—that the Palm Beachers who inhabit them must know the secret to happiness.
A few whimsical finds from across the internet to help you reach your inner Iris:
- Try a floral-inspired chandelier, in place of a modern one.
- Hit the pool, in our kind of donut float.
- Trick out your bookshelves with playful figurines, like this friendly leather hippo.
Believe it or not, Palm Beach got its name and its iconic foliage when, in the late 19th century, a Spanish ship containing twenty thousand coconuts crashed ashore the coastline. Early residents planted the coconuts, resulting in the sky high palm trees that exist today.
To say horticulture is important to this community is an understatement; the sub-tropic environment is ideal for growing rare varieties of nearly any plant in abundance.
If there’s one key take away from this article, let it be this: You can own a miniature banana tree for the low price of $25. They even flourish indoors!
- Amp up your houseplant game with something a bit beachier—say, a parlor palm or a fruit tree!
- A pair of topiaries flanking any door will do the trick, too.
Color can be divisive, so tell us: How bold will you go? Share your favorite colors for decorating with in the comments.