in talks with architect meghan ford taylor on the historic (and award-winning) duck’s nest project

History and tradition are irrefutable undercurrents of life here on Palm Beach, and it’s no exception when it comes to real estate.

The hard part, often, can be honoring those roots in a genuine and contemporary way.

Especially when the house was built in 1891.

Enter Meghan Ford Taylor – architect, interior designer and construction project manager (to name a few) who was a leading member of the award-winning team that restored “The Duck’s Nest”, the second oldest residential structure on Palm Beach.

With the help of Seabreeze Building, Dailey Janssen architect firm and interior decorator Phoebe Howard, Meghan and the team transformed the 4,000 square foot guest home while maintaining the integrity and intention of the original structure.

Owners Julie and Brian Simmons were uniquely poised to take on the challenge with their waterfront guesthouse, fondly referred to as “The Duck’s Nest” (a nod to the ducks that roosted on what was once a large fresh water marsh) positioned on the North End of the island.

The shared vision of all contributors was executed in an impeccable manner; so much so, that they became the recipients of the 2020 Ballinger Award for the project.

The home itself is everything you think of when conjuring up your ideal guesthouse: spacious, bright, welcoming, dynamic, waterfront…

Are you daydreaming yet?

We got a tour on a sunny afternoon (lucky us), and we’re giving you an exclusive peek into a conversation with Meghan Ford Taylor about what it was like to work on such a project (lucky you)!

 

Written by TSG Contributing editor, Kate Rowan

Aerial view of The Duck’s Nest (waterfront) and main home (forefront)

 

TSG: What are some of the quintessentially Palm Beach elements of the home?

MFT: It’s very bohemian; we really wanted to play on the Florida cottage vernacular and make it really bright, really sunny, really tall ceilings…and then Phoebe (Howard) pulled it together with the decorating.

She used a lot of antiques, bamboo, West indies Caribbean furniture with the caning and the wicker…I think that gives it a really Florida feel.

All the furniture in here is bamboo or rattan so it definitely has a Caribbean colonial Florida feel.

We have a lot of really whimsical moldings that we found on the exterior, then recreated them all throughout on the inside.

All of the latticework, the moldings, the details…come from the Caribbean and old Florida.

It’s all meant to look really aged.

 

 

TSG: What are some of the challenges on a project of this nature?

MFT: Having it be landmarked and so visible, the structural challenges were compounded because you have to reinforce everything but do it from the interior – you have to preserve the exterior.

I was here every day managing the construction…none of the rooms are square, everything is in a different condition, so you have to adapt and adjust; me being on site was really important.

For design, it’s the same thing – you have to be able to adapt.

 

TSG: What updates were implemented to make the space functional in a contemporary manner vs its original state?

MFT: We kept the original functions – it’s still a very traditional early 19th century layout, but we used the capabilities we have now to open up all the spaces and made the ceilings higher.

The only addition we did was a ten foot addition on the second story.

Poolside at The Duck’s Nest

 

TSG: How have building materials and construction processes changed from the time the house was built to now, and how did that impact your own restoration process?

MFT: We rebuilt this as if we were doing this in the 1800’s, except to code.

We braced all of the siding from the exterior and rebuilt it from the interior. So from the outside it looked like nothing was going on but on the inside we were doing new foundation, walls, electrical, insulation…everything.

We basically had a millwork shop on site, with a team of really talented woodworkers here every day- that’s kind of what you would’ve seen back in the day.

I’ve always been very focused on the millwork, bridging between architect and interior design.

 

TSG: What did it mean to you to win the 2020 Ballinger award?

MFT: Being a part of a project that won the Ballinger was really important. The most important thing is that the Preservation Foundation (of Palm Beach) honored the owners, Julie and Brian Simmons, because they put a lot of effort and care and resources into making this project what it is.

Not a lot of people would do that. This is an important piece of Palm Beach’s history which was threatened for a while; it took the right people to come along and really have an appreciation for what this means to Palm Beach.

Plus it was a really great team of designers and great team to work on overall.

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