Here’s one way to drum up interest in a condo building’s lackluster sales.
Hire Palm Beach native Celerie Kemble, the stylish young New York decorator, to inject some youthful North-Lake-Trail-by-way-of-Park-Avenue zest to a model in the Landmark at the Gardens building. The 160-unit condo had the misfortune to come on line in 2007, well after the housing slide had begun.
More than two years after it opened, 50 units remain unsold, despite price cuts of as much as one-third. The sales team wanted a model apartment that would stand out against the glut of condos on the Palm Beach County market.
“Celerie understands luxury, and so do our clients,” said Beth Fisher, of Corcoran’s New York marketing group, who hopes to attract buyers very much like Kemble and her friends: well-heeled New Yorkers who commute to second homes in South Florida.
Kemble anchors the New York office of Kemble Interiors, the Palm Beach firm started by her mother, Mimi McMakin, and Brooke Huttig. The firm has built a reputation for color and whimsy in less formal versions of Old Palm Beach rooms. Earlier this year, the company refurbished the guest rooms at two venerable resorts: The Gasparilla Inn in Boca Grande and The Breakers in Palm Beach.
Last year, Kemble published her first book, To Your Taste: Creating Modern Rooms with a Traditional Twist.
The opening of the just-finished Landmark model recently was the occasion for a book-signing, where polished Palm Beachers and real estate salespeople mingled to look at the condo — and at Kemble, a Harvard-educated blonde who wears her friend Lela Rose’s dresses and makes frequent appearances in society pages and magazine profiles.
Yet, she’s no dilettante decorator. Kemble and her team had just eight weeks to design and install the 2,300-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 3-bath apartment. She even persuaded a fabric company to make a custom sofa fabric “in August, when the mills were closed.” Above all, the project had to be “accessible, affordable and have a sharp personality,” she said.
For most clients, Kemble tries to create a nuanced portrayal of a client’s personality in fabric and furniture. Designing for anonymous buyers was far different.
“My sense of a corporate model apartment is that it tends to look like a furniture showroom, decorated to the most middling, slightly formal taste,” said Kemble. “It’s the ‘offend no one, excite no one’ strategy.”
Instead, she wanted to distill Palm Beach’s sandals-and-caftans look, in colors “that I’m hungry for while in New York: kiwi, cantaloupe, limes, tangerines and pomegranate.”
Or thirsty for.
“They’re cocktail colors, that’s part of what Palm Beach is to me,” Kemble said. “For a lot of people, a condo like this is a second home so they’re looking to play out a fantasy. They say, ‘Please give me something where I take my shoes off and twirl in the sun.'”