Palm Beach, the elegant sliver of land surrounded by glistening water on all sides, has long been the winter escape for the wealthy. Dynastic families like the Phipps and Flaglers spent the months following Thanksgiving until a few weeks past Easter on these well-manicured lawns and sunny shores. One might say it was an insular world with its own etiquette (even though it was beachy, it was quite buttoned-up for decades) and social mores.
Palm Beach still has plenty of offspring from those robber-baron families, but the more known residents now include sugar baron Pepe Fanjul and wife Emilia, Henry Kravis and wife Marie-Josée, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Aerin Lauder, whose family has been part of the pink-and-green ecosystem for generations, wrote the coffee-table book Palm Beach, published in 2019, has a store on Via Mizner, and has recently designed a villa at The Colony Hotel. The area’s post-pandemic draw continues to bring new, youthful vibrancy into the chic Florida haven.
While visiting Palm Beach for a dear friend’s birthday blowout last winter, I took the opportunity to hone my PB radar. Below, you’ll find suggestions for shopping, exclusive clubs to hopefully gain access, where to rest your weary head, and grab a nibble or a cocktail. I’ve also jotted down some vocabulary to utilize while mingling with the tanned and moneyed set.
WHERE TO REST IN PALM BEACH
The Brazilian Court: This is definitely top of my list in terms of recommendations. It’s just steps from Worth Avenue and a short walk to the white sandy shores of Palm Beach.
I spent a sublime night in one of their well-appointed suites (they have a total of 80 custom-designed rooms and suites). The decor was modern Art Deco glam in feel and was a perfect complement to the Mediterranean architecture of the hotel. The living room of my suite had a large vintage black-and-white print of Elizabeth Taylor shot poolside, wearing a turban and peering down at my seating area. It was as if a glamorous angel was looking down upon me for my entire stay.
Built in 1926 and celebrating its 94th anniversary, the hotel has a pedigree as a favorite of celebrities, financial titans, media moguls, and socialites from Amelia Hearst and Marjorie Merriweather Post. The hotel’s architecture is by Rosario Candela, the famed New York architect who dared to go against the traditional Palm Beach mold created by architect Addison Mizner. Overall, the property feels like a clandestine escape for an actress from Hollywood’s golden era to have a rendezvous with Clark Gable. It’s effortlessly old-school chic with meandering pathways connecting intimate spaces perfect for a naughty tête à tête over an Aperol Spritz. If all goes as planned I am hopeful that it will now become my new home away from home when visiting Palm Beach. 301 Australian Ave, Palm Beach, thebraziliancourt.com.
The Breakers: This historic property, located on a sizable oceanfront plot, has a long, imposing entrance (with a guard gate to keep the looky-loos out). Given The Breakers’ litany of restaurants, shops, and spa services, you needn’t leave the grounds if you so wish. 1 S. County Road, Palm Beach, thebreakers.com.
The Colony Hotel: When new owners Sarah and Andrew Wetenhall purchased the hotel in 2016, they called upon Mimi McMakin and Celerie Kemble of Kemble Interiors to give it a refresh. They, in turn, collaborated with de Gournay on a wallpaper mural for the soigné living-room space of the lobby. It was such a hit, de Gournay has The Colony permanently in its collection of wallpapers. 155 Hammon Ave., Palm Beach, thecolonypalmbeach.com.
PALM BEACH FASHION RETAIL THERAPY
C.Orrico: This shopping spot is a favorite of locals and a recommendation from Cornelia Guest. C.Orrico was opened by three sisters (Casey, Kathie, and Colleen) on South County Road in 1985 and has been dressing sophisticates ever since — initially just women, but now men can buy a needlepoint belt and classic blue blazer here as well. 336 S. County Road, Palm Beach, corrico.com.
Lilly Pulitzer: The OG of the community, Lilly Pulitzer set the standard and created the uniform for residents. The boutique is filled with color and whimsical prints for all outfits a Bergdorf blonde needs while in PB. 240 Worth Ave., Palm Beach, lillypulitzer.com.
The Church Mouse: The “thrift” store where God-fearing congregants of The Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea donate their gently used Birkins and Lilly housedresses. 374 S. County Road, Palm Beach, bbts.org/church-mouse.
DECORATION + VINTAGE HUNTING
One of our favorite Palm Beach girls (and many other islands), designer Amanda Lindroth, shares her PB design haunts.
Kassatly’s. One of the most old-fashioned linen shops in America. Madeira linens are rare as can be. 250 Worth Ave.
Leta Austin Foster. The most beautiful taste there is. Great decorator and prettiest PB shop! 64 Via Mizner, letaaustinfoster.com.
Lori Jayne. Monograms galore! Linens, tableware. Happiness. 301 S. County Road, lorijayne.com.
Mary Mahoney. Tabletop wonderland. 336 Worth Ave., marymahoney.com.
And, too modest to mention, but we love…
Amanda Lindroth. The design-world darling has Palm Beach in her DNA, having grown up here in the 1970s. Shop the Amanda Lindroth collection of breezy linens and rattan and wicker furniture and accessories, as well as all manner of vintage furnishings and other tropical finds. 312B S. County Road, Palm Beach, amandalindroth.com.
RECOMMENDED PALM BEACH DESIGN SHOPS
Authentic Provence. A treasure trove of hand-sculpted garden antiques and large-scale architectural elements. A favorite of leading landscape architects and interior designers with the largest inventory of garden antiques in the US. 3735 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach, authenticprovence.com.
Casa Branca. Designer Alessandra Branca’s newest location for her exuberant Casa Branca collection of fabric, wallpaper, furniture, and tableware, as well as French porcelains and ceramics, vintage finds, artworks, and lampshades. 344 Worth Ave., casabranca.com.
Casa Gusto: Filled with Swedish, English, and French antiques, handpainted Talavera dishes, white tole, and papier-mâché blooms, hand-painted mattes, and frames, with furniture and objects displayed like art. 6316 Georgia Ave., West Palm Beach, getthegusto.com.
While on the subject of home design, don’t miss the 19th Annual Palm Beach Show, February 17 through 22, and Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach, returning for its fifth consecutive year for one month, March 5 through April 3. All will be designed as usual by the international designer set with names we know and love. Tickets kipsbaydecoratorshowhouse.org.
LEST WE FORGET SOME CULTURE
Christie’s Pop-Up: Nestled between Brioni and Le Bilboquet on Worth Avenue is hallowed auction house Christie’s gallery residency open during the vibrant winter calendar. November 30 through April 30, showcasing fine art and luxury objects in a series of exhibitions featuring auction highlights, as well as Private Sale works available for immediate purchase. 249 Worth Ave., Palm Beach, christies.com.
The Society of the Four Arts: This nonprofit is one of the most popular and respected cultural destinations on the island. The institution offers dynamic programming with renowned speakers and a rotating schedule of art exhibitions. 100 Four Arts Plaza, Palm Beach, fourarts.org.
WHEN YOU’RE FEELING PECKISH
La Goulue: This classic French bistro, has been a weekly go-to for Upper East Side New Yorkers. If you’re fortunate enough to get a Friday 8 pm seating, indulge in Le Cheeseburger Maison made with grilled black Angus. 288 S. County Road, Palm Beach, 561.284.6292, lagouluepalmbeach.com.
Le Bilboquet: On the agenda for my friend’s birthday was a brunch at this tucked-away spot on Worth Avenue, another NYC import. Spotted in the dining room that day were Kris Jenner and Corey Gamble and designer Tommy Hilfiger. 245 Worth Ave., Palm Beach, 561.812.2363, lebilboquetpb.com.
TWO OTHER HOT NYC OUTPOSTS
Café Boulud at The Brazilian Court hotel, an outpost of chef Daniel Boulud’s lauded restaurants. His other locations include New York City, Toronto, and the Bahamas. I had the opportunity to dine here for lunch before I checked out. Try and secure an al fresco table as the setting is serene and oh-so chic.
We started our meal (alongside our Arnold Palmers since I am a firm believer in not drinking until at least 2 pm) with their divine smoked salmon served with multigrain bread and cream fraîche. Then moved on to sharing two main courses (which the staff was happy to separate out for us to have our own portions) — the café Cobb and wild Maine lobster roll. I adore a classic Cobb with the freshest of ingredients which included chicken, corn, avocado, blue cheese, and buttermilk dressing. It was the perfect complement to the slightly indulgent (generous amounts of butter on the bread) lobster sandwich.
Definitely make plans to include Café Boulud on your itinerary. I am assuming that under the glittering stars that dinner is just a heavenly experience as lunch or weekend brunch. 301 Australian Ave., cafeboulud.com/palmbeach.
Swifty’s, poolside at The Colony Hotel. This is the perfect location for a decadent afternoon (promptly at 2 pm if you follow my rule book) cocktail. 155 Hammon Ave., thecolonypalmbeach.com.
A GUIDE TO PALM BEACH STREET SLANG
When you find yourself in a playground like Palm Beach, you need to have the vernacular down pat. Here are a few phrases that could come in handy when you’re lunching at Le Bilboquet.
Between the clubs: The area betwixt the two clubs, one being the B&T (never refer to it as the Bath & Tennis Club) and the Everglades Club.
He’s not an islander: Referring to the nouveau riche crowd that has migrated down to Palm Beach since the excessive ’80s, and trying to pass as local.
Over-served: One never gets drunk in Palm Beach. But one might occasionally get “over-served.” And, BTW, no one ever asks, “Would you like another cocktail?” That would imply you’ve already had one.
Pandemic Islander: Referring to the even fresher crop that came in droves when the Northeast lockdown started in 2020.
Seasons: Since so many residents are only there during season, it’s the time period of November through April. Used in a sentence: That restaurant has been around for at least 20 seasons.
B & T (Bath & Tennis Club): Dallas’ Kit Sawers, Klyde Warren Park president, shared many a story with me of years spent here when her dad, Ham Richardson, was on the pro tennis circuit. Apparently, they would deplane and immediately hit the courts. 1170 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, bathandtennisclub.com (members-only access).
Everglades Club: The grande dame of the circuit is the hallowed institution on Worth Avenue. What happens behind those storied walls apparently stays behind those storied walls, as members aren’t allowed cell phones while on the property, and the club boasts no website. The lore of its origin dates to 1918 when Paris Singer (of the Singer Sewing Machine family) and his friend, architect Addison Mizner, decided to build a hospital (with Mizner as architect) for soldiers wounded during World War I. However, those veterans all wanted to return home, so it was re-envisioned as a private club with Singer as gatekeeper deciding who would be allowed membership. The exclusivity remains today with access allowed to only a certain elite set. 356 Worth Ave., Palm Beach.
Coconuts: One only hears whispered mentions of this private men’s club — or rather, fraternity. The history of this group seems to change from source to source. If you have more intel or want to share the membership list, then ring me up, and we can meet in a darkened parking garage.
Carriage House: This soon-to-open social club, located at South County Road and Phipps Plaza, is an English-style club with lounges, dining spaces, and reading and game rooms, all crafted by project architect SpinaOrourke. Many locals hope it will be just like 5HS, the storied 5 Hertford Street members-only club in London — apparently too cool for school stays with you well after you graduate from Spence. 264 S. County Road, Palm Beach, carriagehousepb.com (members-only access).