Wouldn’t you think that if money were no object, you could buy your perfect dream home—no improvement required? Apparently, this is not the case with celebrity homeowners whose income brackets suggest their budget for a luxury home purchase has no ceiling.
Whether it’s because the ‘perfect’ home doesn’t exist or individual taste supersedes architectural styling, home improvements made by owners of newly purchased estates in one of the top zip code’s in the US, the Town of Palm Beach, Florida, reveal an interesting tendency to ‘improve’ their new domiciles. What type of improvements do multi-million dollar homes need? And, who do think is making them?
2021 Home Improvement Trends
First, let’s take a look at what types of home improvements are trending across the nation right now. According to HGTV the upfitting 2021 home owner is creating a happy ambiance that “gives us a hug after the year we’ve had—in the form of cozy cottagecore spaces, curved and welcoming furnishings, comforting color palettes and playful designs…” and “We’re blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors.” Anna Buckham of Lonny Magazine advises, it’s all about multi-functioning spaces such as bedroom/gyms and living room/offices; old combined with new like layering antiques with newly made furniture, and destination-inspired spaces reminding us of our favorite vacation spots.
In context of this new focus on coziness, comfort, convenience and the uplifting of spirits with a strong attitude of individualism, where people are defining how living spaces will be used, rather than the living space dictating how people should use them, let’s see whether celebrity Palm Beachers, residing in some of the most prestigious and classic-Town mansions in the area, are embracing or bucking the trend.
A fairly recent incoming resident to the Town of Palm Beach, and an actor of movie star status, Sylvester Stallone purchased his Florida property in December of 2020. Stallone’s reported income is $44 million and his net worth is $450 million. The property he purchased has the address of 1480 N. Lake Way, Palm Beach, for which a Trust associated with his name paid $35.38 million. Prior to that, the estate had been listed for $37.85 million by Lawrence Moens of Lawrence A. Moens Associates, Inc. The buying agent representing the trust was Christian Angle of Christian of Angle Real Estate.
The two-parcel lake compound included a 13,241 square-foot seven-bedroom residence, separate guesthouse and waterfront pool, 253 feet of lakefront and a dock and sandy beach beyond the seawall. According to a recent report, the exterior of Stallone’s Bermuda-styled property has a metalwork gate that allows partial visibility of the home. Stallone proposed that the property’s southern and northern gates be replaced with two solid wood versions that would stand eight feet tall and be constructed in a camelback design. He and his wife also wanted to replace the front door, remove two columns from the home’s lakeside loggia, and add bronze frames to the property’s windows.
American radio and television personality Howard Stern, also known as the ‘radio shock-jock’, has an annual salary is $90 million and his net worth is $650 according to Celebrity Net Worth. Mr. Stern and his wife, former model and TV presenter, Beth (Ostrosky) Stern, purchased a palatial Town of Palm Beach mansion through MAPP Florida Real Estate, LLC, on the street known as Billionaires Row for $52 million. Local realtor Lawrence Moens of Lawrence A. Moens was involved in this transaction, as well.
The five-bedroom, twelve and 1/2 bath oceanfront house at 601 N. County Road has about 19 thousand square-feet of living space and is located in the prestigious upscale island area locally referred to as the North End. Reportedly, since the Sterns have acquired the property, one of three they now own, they have “spent a bomb” (actually, an estimated $13 million) on renovations, including a new kitchenette, moving the mansion’s grand staircase, and most interestingly, a new 1,000 square-foot clothing closet for Mrs. Stern. And, the spending continues. A Residential permit was just pulled just last month for $2 million in interior renovations at 601 N. County Road.
Classical or Radical Renovation
Consider the Stallone’s request to add bronze window frames to their Bermuda style home. Since Bermuda styling is known for its pastel colored houses, its windows are relatively small with wooden shutters or blinds, and embellishments might include a simple brick pattern down the corners of the building and sometimes a narrow moulding to highlight features such as windows, and although bronze accents are trending now and quite attractive, bronze frames would not be considered Bermuda style. Another atypical choice would be mixing metalwork with wooden gating. This request speaks more to the Stallone’s desire for privacy rather than than the preservation of the building style, and here again, a nod to personal choice over architectural styling constraints, as does removing columns to clear their view.
While the Sterns have completed more extensive remodeling, it appears their choices, are again, more in line with a strong attitude of individualism rather than improvement or enhancement of the original architect’s vision. While it’s possible the re-positioning of the interior main staircase of the mansion was to enhance the aesthetic of the architect’s original blueprint, it is more likely that the Sterns re-imagined their space to make it more ‘livable’ for them, which the addition of a kitchenette and an oversized clothes closet also point to.
All in all, we’re finding that the homes of some of Palm Beach’s most famous and wealthiest home owners appear to be in line with the current sentiments of today’s home remodeler. In re-defining home spaces to accommodate personal style and living convenience, the new home remodeler assumes a forward looking posture that may sacrifice historical form for function, but is a unique expression of the homeowner’s lifestyle.
Building Permits are Public Record
Under federal law, all building permits in the US are public record. Supporting documents such as architectural blueprints and landscape designs may or may not be accessible to the public depending on the professionals that produced them because they have legal protections for their work. Additionally, while building departments may allow the public to see actual drawings and digital records, they will not allow prints or photos of them to be made without the permission of the property owner or another professional associated with the project, such as the architect, engineer, or landscaper.
Town of Palm Beach Land Use & Construction
The Town of Palm Beach, Florida has several entities associated with land use and construction including Town Council, Planning, Zoning & Building Department, Panning and Zoning Commission, Architectural Commission, Landmarks Committee, and the Historic Preservation Commission. All of these affect land use and building construction, and the following three receive applications for various types of residential construction.
The Town Council
The Town of Palm Beach Town Council is the governing body of the Town and sets policy and carries out the legislative matters of the Town through a number of monthly meetings. At their monthly Town Council Development Review meetings, the Town Council holds development reviews for professionals such as Real Estate Lawyers, Architects, or Landscape Companies, who are requesting Site Plan Reviews, Special Exceptions, and or Variances for proposed building projects.
The Architectural Commission (ARCOM)
This Commission consists of seven community volunteers and three alternative members. The board, which the Town Council appoints, is responsible for reviewing proposed architectural projects and ensuring that any additions or renovations are in keeping with the community’s design aesthetic. ARCOM’s goal is to safeguard the town’s architectural standards by ensuring that proposed projects “create harmony, do not disrupt the aesthetic quality of their surroundings, achieve balance with neighboring properties, are in harmony with the proposed developments on land in the general area, are appropriate in relation to the established character of other structures in the immediate area or neighboring areas in respect to significant design features, and will provide the ultimate designers of individual structures with the wider contexts in which their particular works will be viewed.” To this end, the Commission holds monthly meetings to hear and approve or disapprove of Applications For Projects Review.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission (Landmarks)
The Town Council appoints “seven regular and three alternate members, who are registered voters of the Town of Palm Beach and appointed by the town council, and who have, to the highest extent practicable, a special knowledge of and a known interest in landmarks preservation. The Commission’s mission is to study and protect Palm Beach’s most significant architectural achievements,” where it deems significant structures as landmarks of the Town of Palm Beach per a set of objective criteria. Additionally, the Commission holds monthly meetings where they hear applications for Certificates of Appropriateness, and where they approve or disapprove of proposed construction projects.
Building Division Permits
Typically, once the appropriate approvals have been obtained by attending a monthly meeting with one, two or all three of the three groups above, specifically, Town Council, ARCOM, and Landmarks, the construction company of the new project can then begin to apply for the various Building Permits required by the Building Division. At this point, and providing all additional documentation is in place, such as dewatering permits, and delivery permits, the building permit is issued and construction may begin, subject to a beginning and end date for the activity to take place.
Contact the Florida Board Certified Real Estate Attorneys of Rabideau Klein
At Rabideau Klein, our association with the Town of Palm Beach’s commissions that review and regulate land use and building construction is significant. We have successfully represented clients before the Town Council in many intricate construction and land use matters. David E. Klein, Esq. and Guy Rabideau, Esq. are Florida Bar Board-Certified Real Estate attorneys. Contact Rabideau Klein to discuss your Palm Beach real estate legal needs.