Posted 2014-01-28 in /stories

The Real Palm Beach

Sure, Palm Beach is known for a lavish lifestyle complete with Rodeo Drive-rivaling boutiques on Worth Avenue and mega-yachts parked in the backyard. But this South Florida island town doesn’t take itself so seriously, and neither do residents unless they’re raising money for a favorite charity or trying to break par.

A popular respite from winter’s wrath (those of you digging out of yet another snow storm right now totally get it), Palm Beach has lured generations of Northerners to its Atlantic shores since Henry Flagler had the gumption to build a grand hotel. Estates, golf courses, shops and fine dining followed in the natural progression of things. And so did the tales, some true, others – like a restaurant’s claim to fame as bloody Mary inventor and the drink’s popularity with German officers supposedly stationed off the coast – are a little questionable.

From the onset, big-than-life characters like Flagler and Addison Mizner, the man with the monkey who created Palm Beach’s signature architecture, have given the town of palatial mansions, the iconic Breakers resort and a main drag lined with wealth management companies a touch of eccentricity that continues today. Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago displays a larger-than-allowed American flag despite objections from town council and a bird sanctuary tucked into one picturesque neighborhood posts a sign urging residents to feed wayward felines across the street.

No, Palm Beach isn’t stuffy at all.

“Palm Beach has a lot of charm and that’s the big reason why people come here,” says Todd Peter, an agent with Sotheby’s International Realty. “You realize once you’re here, Palm Beach is a small community.”

“It’s the weather, the natural beauty and the quiet charm that attract people,” says Pamela Gottfried, an agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Palm Beach is also a town most residents like exactly how it is. “There’s always a battle on new development. People want to keep Palm Beach the way it is,” notes Peter.

Except maybe on the north end, where older ranch homes are now being purchased solely for lot value.

Gottfried says the recent $4.75 million sale of society photographer Mort Kaye’s waterfront home is likely a teardown. Another sale – a two-bedroom condo on Worth Avenue – “will be completely renovated.”

Also on the market is Gottfried’s home, designed by her late husband Robert, hailed by Time magazine for creating Palm Beach’s “Gottfried Regency” style, a vernacular of symmetrical formal facades and large, opulent interiors. Gottfried built some 500 homes in Palm Beach including 10 mansionettes purposely created to look like they’d been there forever – or at least as long at the Mizner manses, many, so they say, which are linked by tunnels burrowing under Ocean Boulevard for beach access.

“Palm Beach is a desirable place to be and there’s only a finite amount of real estate,” says Peter. “Our sales have always been stronger than surrounding markets. There are few mortgages in Palm Beach. Most buyers are cash buyers and most own their home outright.”

Palm Beach for Less
You don’t have to drop a bundle of cash for a piece of the prized Palm Beach lifestyle. Sotheby’s “Best Little Condo,” a spit of a space with one-bedroom and one-bath within its 322 square feet, is under contract. Listed at $269,000, the apartment makes up for its diminutive size with a prime in-town location and French doors opening to a patio and gardens.

“We had a really serious summer with people snapping up these little houses and apartments,” Gottfried says. “They saw the market was changing and recognized they wanted to get in for season. Most of these homes probably required some sort of renovation so they had them fixed up and ready for occupancy.”

A Gottfried condo listing on Cocoanut Row also offers a private garden terrace plus polished marble floors, a serene white bedroom and bath within about 800 square feet. It’s priced at $299,000.

44 Cocoanut living room

44 Cocoanut living room
44 Cocoanut bedroom
44 Cocoanut bedroom

Around $5 million
Another Cocoanut Row property, a Peter listing, offers five times the space – about 4,150 square feet – and a recent renovation, private pool and spa. The four-bedroom townhouse, listed at $5,595,000, has a home office (should you insist on telecommuting) and fireplace, is close to Worth and available furnished. Host cocktails in the formal parlor or out by the pool. For casual entertaining, cozy up to the kitchen’s island painted antique blue.

360 Cocoanut exterior

360 Cocoanut exterior

360 Cocoanut living room

360 Cocoanut living room

360 Cocoanut kitchen

360 Cocoanut kitchen

And Up
For one of his many personal residences, celebrated Robert Gottfried selected the highest point in Palm Beach, overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, or “lake” as long-time residents call it. The private, gated estate has a wine cellar, gym, theater and prime deep-water access. Listed at $19.95 million, the six-bedroom home offers 26,160 square feet, a full-house generator and elegant interior detailing.

Gottfried Aerial

Gottfried Aerial

Gottfried Front

Gottfried Front

Gottfried Lake View

Gottfried Lake View

Gottfried Living Room

Gottfried Living Room

Gottfried Pool

Gottfried Pool

By Nanci Theoret for JamesEdition


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