How does a 1938 fire house transform into an Art Deco palace?

7:30 a.m. Thursday, March 3, 2016 Community
Photos of 2016 Red Cross Showhouse. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

How to turn a fire house into a show house?

For the 14 design firms working on the 40th Red Cross Designers’ Show House, which opened last week, the answer was a cool shower of clean, modern style dousing any remaining vestiges of the building’s origins as a 1938 West Palm Beach fire station.

It’s a bit of a departure from the very traditional style of most recent Show Houses.

Most of the designers seemed inspired by the building’s original Art Deco architecture, rendered in a version known as Streamline Moderne with rounded stucco corners and incised horizontal lines. Virtually every room has a nod to Florida’s Deco period.

For decades, fire house #3 housed the trucks and firefighters who protected the city’s Northwood neighborhoods, until a new fire station opened nearby. After it was decommissioned, Keith and Gretchen Miller bought the building in 2006.

Flummoxed by how to carve a home from a fire truck garage and firefighter’s living spaces, they hired architect and interior designer Joseph Pubillones. He cut up the huge spaces into high-ceilinged, elegantly-proportioned rooms whose architectural details are in keeping with the building’s era.

But don’t expect a fire pole.

The two-story bays where firetrucks were stored became the Miller’s living room and family room. The firefighters’ common areas are now a sparkling dining room and handsome kitchen. Upstairs, the firemen’s sleeping area became three bedrooms and baths.

Decorating proved another hurdle, since the Millers had previously lived in Mediterranean Revival-style homes, but the designers had no such trouble seeing what the house required.

“The house demanded a cleaner, sleeker, more polished look,” said interior designer Scott Robertson, who uncharacteristically painted the bedroom he designed white. “I haven’t painted a room white in 30 years.”

A small breakfast room got a slick of white-out from designer Veronica Volani-Inza, who had the space spray-painted a high gloss white.

Designer Jack Fhillips swathed the comfortable, traditionally-style living room with a variety of soft whites, grays and a period-appropriate dusty pink, creating a handsome room reminiscent of a 1930’s movie living room.

“I was going for vintage elegance,” said designer Piper Gonzalez, who gave the dining room urbane dazzle with a round glass table paired with acrylic Greek-style chairs and gunmetal gray silk curtains.

She said her inspiration came from the tall lavender lighting fixture she hung over the table, made of recycled vintage Murano glass chandeliers.

Upstairs, Melissa and Noe Guerra of NXG STudio created a South Beach vibe on the long and narrow second-floor terrace.

“It’s a little bit of the Delano and a little bit of The Standard,” said Melissa Guerra, referencing the South Beach and Miami Beach hotels to explain the cheerful groupings of rattan, teak and metal chairs, white and turquoise fabrics and “rugs” made from artificial turf.

A similar sentiment might sum up this year’s Show House: a little bit vintage and a little bit modern.