“We fell in love with this house the moment we walked in the door. It was special, beautiful, and it had a story,” says retired attorney Fred Tanne about his 1930s Mediterranean Revival residence in West Palm Beach’s historic El Cid neighborhood. He and his wife, Laura Moore-Tanne, purchased the property in 2016 after a two-year search for a similar domicile in Palm Beach island proved futile.
They weren’t the only ones smitten. Interior designer Lauren Czarniecki of Czar Interiors in Delray Beach, who had worked with the couple on their Hamptons estate, was invited along for one of the site visits and immediately gave the place her seal of approval. “We saw plenty of potential,” says Czarniecki of the five-bedroom home near the Intracoastal Waterway.
Upon closing, the list of improvements constituted basic projects such as replacing laminate floors, improving the lighting throughout, and updating a guesthouse that Czarniecki suspected hadn’t been touched since the primary house was first built.
The homeowners and designer agreed to preserve as many of the 5,160-square-foot property’s time markers as possible, including the arched doorways and thick crown molding, but they were also in agreement that they didn’t want a home stuck in the past. Additionally, the husband’s penchant for midcentury-modern furniture had to be accommodated. “The shell is true to history, but the interiors are true to the clients,” says Czarniecki. “We worked really hard to balance those two sides.”
As work got underway, Czarniecki added well-integrated, often unexpected, elements wherever possible: a geometric pattern of Taj Mahal quartzite was incorporated into the entryway flooring, and the kitchen’s lower cabinet fronts were replaced with bleached pecky cypress with layered finishes.
Czarniecki also suggested engineered white oak flooring throughout, since it would not only compliment the furnishings the husband had his eye on, but would also withstand the wear and tear that would likely be caused by the couple’s two dogs. That process yielded an unwelcome surprise: “When we went to tackle the floors, we realized that we needed to reinforce the floor joists,” says Czarniecki. “All of a sudden we are taking furniture and artwork out of the house because we’re literally opening up the floor to the dirt level and exposing the interior to the elements. Plastic had to go up on all the walls. It was a nightmare. We basically rebuilt from the floor up.”
As the renovation progressed, the couple continued suggesting alterations to make the house more hospitable. First, a downstairs bedroom. Then, a redo of the garage… an expansion of the breakfast nook… the installation of an elevator. In the end, the main property gained 500 square feet of space, and the guesthouse was completely modernized with three new bedrooms, a sauna, and a gym. Czarniecki’s team worked around the clock during the summer and early autumn months while the homeowners were away traveling. Before they all knew it, seven years had passed.
“We did the renovation in phases, which we all now agree was not the smartest way to go,” says Czarniecki with a laugh. “But in the end, it turned out absolutely stunning.”
Text by Riki Altman-Yee
Photography by Carmel Brantley