Palm Beach Daily News / Ballinger Award Winner
The peachy apricot in the living room and other colors chosen by interior designer Bunny Williams earned kudos from Maia Gaillard, executive director of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach. ‘It’s cheery and warm throughout the day,’ Gaillard said. ‘It captures the afternoon sun and evening glow from incandescent lamps beautifully.’
Windsong, a 1939 Georgian Revival-style home, was the first house Wilbur Ross and Hilary Geary, then his fiancee, toured in early 2003 after they decided to buy a home here.
Stepping inside the two-story, John Volk-designed home, the couple delighted in the sunny, airy atmosphere of its well-proportioned interiors. Its graceful windows and French doors provide beautiful views of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Though they investigated many other homes - 35 to be exact - the Rosses decided that Windsong was the right one for them.
“The classical architecture combined with the incredible views made it an irresistible combination,” Geary Ross said.
The sale closed that spring. Then, they hired architect Thomas Kirchhoff and contractor Worth Builders of Palm Beach to restore the home and remodel much of the second floor. The seven-month project, excluding landscaping, was completed in March.
For their efforts in restoring and renovating Windsong - which involved re-opening its loggia,
restoring a grand staircase and turning the master bedroom area into a master suite, the Rosses were honored Friday with the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach’s 2004 Ballinger Award. The award, named for the late Robert I. Ballinger, former chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, recognizes excellence in the restoration and rehabilitation
of historic architecture.
“We’re delighted that people as experienced in restoration as the foundation liked the way we did it.” Ross said. “We’re very honored and flattered,” said Geary Ross.
The house needed new plumbing, wiring and air conditioning, and just a little TLC, Geary Ross said.
While installing those systems and undertaking the home’s restoration and remodeling, crews had to take care to protect original Volk details, such as a shell-pattern frieze under the crown molding in the living room, and bas relief ornamentation in the dining room and a powder room.
“They were a signature part of the design of the house that the owners wanted to keep,” said Maia Gaillard, executive director of the Preservation Foundation.
In the entry hall, the ceiling was replaced, hidden speakers and swinging french doors added, and chandeliers moved over the tables.
Restoring the loggia
A previous owner had enclosed five arches of the home’s loggia in tinted sliding glass doors and had installed “hideous” roll-down shutters on its windows, Kirchhoff said.
“It was the antithesis of light and openness. So we’ve reverted it to what it was,” Ross said. The contractor had to carefully remove the shutters to prevent damage to the room’s crown molding. A bookcase/wall unit added to the loggia after the home’s construction was removed and the wall behind it repaired.
“That is the ultimate Florida room,” said Geary Ross. “I could live in that room.”
Architect Thomas Kirchhoff replicated the railing of the home’s main spiral staircase.
The biggest challenge
The biggest challenge of the project was creating a master suite on the second floor and remodeling a second-story guest room addition constructed in the 1990s.
The original master bedroom had a combined bathroom/closet. Kirchhoff turned that bathroom into a bathroom for the lady of the house. He transformed a bedroom centered above the front entrance of the house into a sitting room for Geary Ross and created a separate closet and bath for Ross beyond that. The changes restored a second bedroom space that had been turned into a children’s room and playroom. The earlier division of the room created a hallway that zig-zagged through the middle
of the space.
“So we straightened that out,” Ross said. That move honored the original architect, he said.
“One of the great things about Volk was his use of proportions. The rooms are tall, so they work better when they are long and wide,” Ross said.
Additionally, Kirchhoff added a wall to make the main staircase open into the master suite.
“So now it all functions as a suite,” Kirchhoff said. In the guest space across from the master suite, Kirchhoff deleted a windowless office to allow for three guest bedrooms. Kirchhoff also created a foyer around the home’s second staircase, so it works as a formal part of the guest suite. The job also involved replicating the second staircase’s original railings.
The architect calls Windsong one of his favorite Palm Beach houses and praises Volk for its design quality.
“I think the style and proportion of the house is beautiful,” Kirchhoff said. “It was definitely rewarding to restore and remodel this house to its former glory. The clients never asked to dramatically alter the spaces. They wanted them brought back to the original design.”
By DAVID ROGERS Daily News Staff Writer
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