This waterfront Palm Beach estate is packed with priceless antiques, fascinating anecdotes and enduring love.
On either side of the Walker Zabriskie Balinese shagreen cocktail table sits an identical pair of 18th century Italian-style sofas trimmed in gold leaf and swathed in lush velvet celadon, Lisbeth Barron’s favorite color. Two upholstered French bergères are balanced by a duo of ornately carved, gilded Italian Renaissance armchairs. Stately French tambour end tables with pierced gold detailing on their trays make yet another stunning pair.
If it’s true that every house has a story to tell, then this one—the $12 million Mediterranean-revival home that investment banking dynamo Lisbeth Barron purchased for her beloved mother, Carla—is a family memoir.
The perfect setting for a tête-à-tête includes two antique fauteuil chairs.
While grand in scale, at 7,896 square feet, with six bedrooms, eight baths and nearly 200 feet of direct Intracoastal access, what’s most impressive about the home is how Lisbeth and her sister, Judy Barron, owner of Brass Scale Antiques in West Palm Beach since 1984, decorated it. Defying all the conventional “rules” of interior design, the Barron sisters unflinchingly cross eras, genres and styles, choosing the treasures that grace every nook and cranny based on what triggers their memories and touches their hearts. “Every single thing you see has a reason behind why we bought it, either individually or together,” says Lisbeth.
Decorative 18th and 19th century Italian prickets and a reliquary sit atop a cast stone fireplace mantel.
Amid its beautiful bones—ivory and red travertine floors, Herpel stone columns and arches, Brazilian cherry hardwood floors, mahogany ceiling beams and wrought iron detailing—a menagerie of animal sculptures, a castle’s worth of crested shields and armor coexist in perfect, eclectic harmony. There are no less than 10 characters about, from a petting zoo-size brass zebra, lion and dolphin to a friendly faced papier-mâché sunburst by celebrated Mexican sculptor Sergio Bustamante.
From the wrought iron and gold leaf spiral staircase, the Barron sisters (from left: Lisbeth and Judy) cast an admiring gaze.
There are museumworthy collections, like the centuries-old wood and glass display case of fisherman’s rope knots from Scotland that Lisbeth bought at auction. In the study, there’s a tribute to her father, Herman Barron, a championship golfer, who, alongside legends Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, led the 1947 U.S. Ryder Cup team to victory. (Notably, Lisbeth recently became the first single female member of the Palm Beach Country Club, where her dad had been a golf pro when she was very young).
A Baroque settee with a bleached mahogany frame and raw silk seat cushion rests in the foreground, and an elegant dining room where an oval-shaped distressed wooden farm table is surrounded by high-back chairs wrapped in salmon and gold silk Fortuny fabric. Gilded swans make for a graceful centerpiece, while a delicate pair of Italian handpainted wood sconces from the 1940s displaying a coral and seashell motif adorn the walls. Between them, a bold carved shield is mounted in relief against a board. The scrolled 14-light chandelier came from an estate sale.
Vivid paintings by acclaimed pop artist Peter Max, a client and friend, hang in the gym. Several spaces display rare watercolors by French painter Philippe Noyer; the subjects’ expressive eyes and delicate fingers enchanted Lisbeth and Judy’s mother, an accomplished sculptor and painter, into procuring them. There’s a Moroccan shoeshine box on the landing, a shofar mounted above the doorway and, in the family room, a three-instrument digital Maximum weather station. If you’re curious about the historical significance or origin of any antique or objet d’art sprinkled throughout the home, Judy can rattle off the data with the greatest of ease. It’s no wonder so many top designers won’t go antiquing at any other shop besides hers.
Eastern exposure allows the second-floor landing to bask in the glow of morning sunlight. The massive wood and seeded glass lantern from the 1870s, once lit only by candles, was refitted for electrical use on Lisbeth’s request. An 18th century Fruitwood Armorial Italian bench, one of the older pieces in the home, was purchased from Craig Mayor, proprietor of DAFA, an antiques gallery in Ft. Lauderdale. On the wall, framed Old Dutch tiles depict musicians playing a variety of instruments next to a turn-of-the-century carved wood violin sconce.
And, oh, the moments that happen here! Lisbeth, chairman & CEO of Barron International Group, who was recently featured in Variety magazine’s Broadway-centric issue as the banking specialist behind the biggest-ticket deals in the theater industry, often lets her famous pianist friends tickle the ivories of her late 1800s antique Steinway (when she’s not playing it herself) or nibble at the coddled eggs and caviar that gal pal Martha Stewart whips up in the kitchen when she visits.
The bulk of the project took three years and is now largely complete; you never know what’ll be in the back of Judy’s truck next, but you can be sure she’ll find a place for it. While the sisters might squabble over the price—or aesthetic—of a new acquisition, they always do so with love.
Photography by: Nickolas Sargent