Skip to main content

Meet the Society Architect Who Created Palm Beach Style

Addison Mizner, America's most famous architect in the 1920s, was as much a part of society as any of his well-heeled clients. A true bon vivant, the dapper dandy liked to carry a pet monkey on his shoulder amid other eccentricities. Most famously Mizner helped transform Palm Beach from a sleepy resort town into one of the country's most elegant and stylish retreats for the wealthy.

A beautiful new book from Rizzoli, Addison Mizner: Architect of Fantasy and Romance, by Beth Dunlop with photography by Steven Brooke, now available on Amazon, presents the best portrait yet of the "go-to architect for the Jazz Age elite," who helped create a new lifestyle along with his gorgeous mansions and hotels.

He also created a whole new architectural genre in the process, often dubbed “Mizner Mediterranean”, a mashup of the Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles retooled for socially prominent Americans with wealth and taste – or at least enough sense to hire him.

His buildings, which also include private clubs and commercial spaces, managed to evoke old Spain, Venice, and the Moorish capitals of Granada and Seville, with a dose of Hollywood glamor, establishing "a design vocabulary and tradition that continues to influence architects, designers, and builders today," Rizzoli notes.

Some of his distinctive touches include Moorish arches, Gothic and medieval references. elaborate decorative tile and mosaics, courtyards with fountains, trellises with climbing bougainvillea, spiraling marble columns, massive fireplaces, decorative ceilings and grand interiors with palatial proportions. 

Some of his most famous works include the lavish Kennedy Estate, aka JFK's "Winter White House," in Palm Beach which sold for $31 million in 2015; the opulent Cloister Inn, now owned by Waldorf Astoria and known as the Boca Raton Resort & Club; and the Everglades Club, which "revolutionized" Palm Beach architecture when it was completed in 1919 and is still the town's most exclusive private club.

Delving into the book is the next best thing to an actual visit to Palm Beach, where the majority of Mizner's creations still stand, widely admired and even more widely imitated. And if it's design inspiration you're looking for, there's plenty to be found between its covers.