A Slice of Show House Birthday Cake

Elegant living room by Lisa Erdmann

Lisa Erdmann’s living room at the 39th American Red Cross Designers’ Show House.

It’s always a pleasure to see how talented designers mix the varied ingredients they source when they are fashioning rooms, every element holding a pinch of sorcery in the right designer’s hands. The magical details are never too subtle or too small—the understated arc of a chair’s profile echoed in the scalloped top of an exotic mirror, for instance, or the frond-like filigree of an iron architectural element-turned-sculpture hinted at in the flourishes of luxuriant fabric patterns cascading from drapery rods.

It was intuitive moves like these that I feel coalesce to weave an enchanting spell in Lisa Erdmann’s living room at the 39th American Red Cross Designers’ Show House.

But within the sumptuous calm, it is the drapery and upholstery fabrics sourced from Cowtan & Tout that captivated me, appearing so lush in the images, I could almost feel the richness running through my fingers, particularly the blue ombre silk and linen fabric framing the trefoil windows. I’ve included close-ups of two of the fabrics below and noted the array of patterns and trims Lisa used in the room at the end of the post in case you’d like to know the particulars.

The Palm Beach-based designer says of her inspiration: “I love to sail and the location of this home reminded me of the serenity that comes from being on the water. The goal was to design a sophisticated room fitting for the house that evokes the elegance of a Palm Beach estate.”

Lisa Erdmann used paintings and antiques for sophistication

Paintings and antiques inform the design of Lisa Erdmann’s space.

The home she is referencing is the historic La Florentia in the Lake Worth area of Palm Beach County. Also known as the Birthday Cake Castle, the collection of interior and exterior rooms span over 7,000 square feet of space, which has now been transformed by 20 designers.

The Mediterranean-style residence was originally built by Addison Mizner’s protégé Sherman Childs in 1925. The Birthday Cake Castle nickname was coined because one of its past owners, Upton Close, gave the home to his wife, Margaret Fretter Nye, as a birthday present in 1954.

“It has numerous cake-like qualities including two birthday candle-like pillars on either side of the grand entrance, thick plaster interior swirls made to resemble icing on a cake, and a birthday cake stained glass window,” the Show House organizers point out.

Over 4,000 people are expected to tour the home on the Intracoastal Waterway, which has other unique features such as an octagonal turret, a grand front stairway and 135 feet of property on the water.

Lisa’s prominent space in the home is filled with English antiques that convey the worldly point of view of homeowners who would have shopped for treasures discovered at classic London antiques markets (or hired a designer who would have done so for them). The previously mentioned lush Cowtan & Tout textiles and Italian paintings that remind her of trips she took to Venice and Florence further the feel of refinement.

39th Red Cross show house in Lake Worth

Lisa Erdmann’s space is filled with rich architectural detailing.

Personable architectural details within the grand living room are an original Adam fireplace and the three-ringed trefoil transoms looping above the windows, a smattering of them ornamented by delicately hued stained glass insets. Counterpoint to the fireplace, Lisa chose to place an antique English Regency mahogany sideboard (circa 1825) from The Elephant’s Foot on Antique Row in West Palm Beach. This piece speaks to her signature style of mixing period antiques with luscious textiles and contemporary accents, all coalescing into a curated montage.

Cordelia fabric by Colefax and Fowler.

Colefax and Fowler’s Cordelia fabric in blue.

An Edward Ferrell sofa in the space is hemmed in a wide velvet trim, which grounds it prettily. The varied accessories, embellishments such as an Italianate bust and a collection of silver and glass pieces harkening back to an era when Edwardians took their formal tea service very seriously, speak the same language as the original artwork to declare globetrotters own this slice of real estate.

Cowtan & Tout's Raleigh fabric in sky color way

Cowtan & Tout’s Raleigh fabric in an ethereal sky blue.

You can see all of the spaces for yourself through April 4th if you happen to be near Palm Beach on a Wanderjahr of your own. Not only will you enjoy a finely designed home, you’ll contribute to an excellent cause. The designers and manufacturers who have donated time, talent and goods to the effort deserve a round of applause: let’s hear it for our generous industry!

*Swatch Watch: Colefax and Fowler choices Lisa and her team made are Cordelia in blue and Eaton Plain in ivory (fabrics), and a variety of trims from the Delano collection in the old blue colorway. Jane Churchill fabrics chosen are Seville, Polaris and Gable in aqua, and Jive in oatmeal. The Manuel Canovas Sana fabric in bleu is in the mix, and Cowtan & Tout products included in the room are the Raleigh fabric pattern and Madison Tape, both in sky. Cowtan & Tout fabrics are available through the trade; for more information, you can visit the Cowtan & Tout site.

Text of A Slice of Show House Birthday Cake © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon Henry is an author, poet and journalist based in New York City. Books include Anywhere But Here and Stranded on the Road to Promise. Saxon is also the co-founder of Sharktooth Press. She also produces The Diary of an Improvateur and is a columnist on Architizer.