The Renaissance of Old Palm Beach Style

417 Peruvian Avenue #3 Major Alley Represented by Lisa & John Creegan

Quintessential Palm Beach style is experiencing a resurgence with a modern twist on tradition. Prints, bold colors and patterns, and jewel toned hues are being featured across homes that are reminiscent of the glory days of Palm Beach and the iconic style that became synonymous with South Florida.

The first settlers began arriving in what is now Palm Beach over 150 years ago and, since then, it has become a haven for seasonal and annual residents who desire the best our area has to offer and the style that accompanies that lifestyle. “Old Palm Beach embodies a sense of enduring beauty and timeless elegance,” according to Palm Beach Interior Designer, Ellen Kavanaugh. “We have built a culture here that is so special. So very unique and worth preserving. Palm Beach is rich in its history, and you can feel it.”

Photo Courtesy of Historical Society of Palm Beach County
Lifetime Kitchen( 728 x 90)
Photos Courtesy of Historical Society of Palm Beach County

That history is something the Historical Society of Palm Beach County is working hard to preserve. “The architecture of the past tells its own story. One does not need to know the details about a town or a building to recognize when it was most lovingly created and then preserved,” says Debi Murray, Chief Curator at the Historical Society. “Those buildings speak for themselves and hopefully will entice people to take notice…once one person saves a building and returns it to its former glory, other people take notice and continue the movement.”

Dancing couple on the roof of the El Verano Hotel overlooking Lake Worth with the Royal Poinciana Hotel in the background. Ca. Mid 1920s.

A shining example of this is Major Alley on Peruvian Avenue in Palm Beach. Built in 1925 by Howard Brougham Major, the six Bermuda-style houses were built close together, yet separate. 417 Peruvian Avenue #3 is currently represented by Lisa & John Cregan with Sotheby’s International Realty “Major thought the Spanish architecture of the day hideous and set out to create something new. The houses all had their own private patio and unique floor plans,” says Murray.

The current design of Major Alley #3 represents iconic Palm Beach style not only in architecture, but the use of colors, prints, and florals is evident throughout. The modern take on traditional Palm beach styles is happening in a few ways, according to Kavanaugh. “Traditional Palm Beach Style is known for its bright, bold colors and, often, shades of pastel. Look out for the resurgence of these same colors mixed with modern neutrals. Rattan and wicker, a staple in Palm Beach design, is being married with materials such as metals and glass, fusing the old with the new, an aspect that is important to me in my designs.”

417 Peruvian Avenue #3 | Major Alley | Represented by Lisa & John Cregan
Storm Smart Blog Ad( 728 x 90)

Another truly unique home radiating with Palm Beach style is 240 N. Ocean Blvd listed by Elizabeth DeWoody with Compass. As of our print date, this property is one of only two oceanfront estates currently available on the island of Palm Beach. With its coffered wood ceilings, serene pastels, and lush greenery throughout, this home is the epitome of Palm Beach style. This mix of old and new with a maximalist touch is what designer Ellen Kavanaugh embraces in her designs. “Maximalism is not just about abundance when it comes to the new Contemporary Palm Beach style. It is about curated abundance. Combining colors, textures, and materials in a way that feels intentional and harmonious within the space.” Modern design embraces eclectic and vibrant prints that Kavanaugh embraces by “putting a traditional Palm Beach chintz on a sleek, streamlined, and modern piece of furniture.”

240 N. Ocean Blvd listed by Elizabeth DeWoody

The combination of old and new is evident throughout our area and our history is something the public is embracing with renewed vigor. “I think that as people age, things start clicking and those half-remembered history classes they took in school start making sense as they travel more and hopefully,” grins Murray, “visit more museums, historic homes and sites, or even their [own] neighborhoods.”

With more people making Palm Beach their full-time home, Kavanaugh says that the people who visit and reside in Palm Beach represent the changes in the area. “Palm Beach has become less of a vacation destination and more of a home to many post-pandemic. At the end of the day, we want our spaces to be both nostalgic and reflective of what makes traditional Palm Beach design so iconic, yet also forward looking. We strive for a charmful edge.”

Preserving the history of Palm Beach is something that the Historical Society works around the clock to preserve. Murray shares their greatest challenge is funding the preservation of the materials that were donated to their care. “From Palm Beach to Belle Glade, from Jupiter to Boca, we have items of interest from all corners of the county. It is a privilege to be able to serve the people of Palm Beach County knowing that what we do today will still be important in the future.” Kavanaugh echoes the sentiment and aims to preserve the history, style, and glamour of Palm Beach through her designs. “Palm Beach is my home. It is where my business was born and it is a constant inspiration to me every day.”

Photo courtesy of Ellen Kavanaugh

Visit Luxury Home Magazine of The Palm Beaches to discover more features of the Palm Beach area.

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