The West Palm Beach House
  • Homeowner Rob Thompson and the This Old House team transformed this Mediterranean Revival-style house into a delightful tropical compound. .

  • Richard Trethewey said it best at the wrap party: "This project had the greatest karma — the contractors, the homeowner, even the weather."

    The sun and warm breezes aside, we will always remember the West Palm Beach job for its terrific people. Contractors John Kern and Harley Edgell were hands-on, unflappable, good-humored, never-say-never craftsmen who gradually worked their way up to six- and seven-day weeks over the course of the project. The team of subcontractors they assembled was similarly dedicated and skilled and even-tempered in the face of our deadline and the crowding it occasionally led to on the job. "The discounted and donated products were great, and much appreciated," says homeowner Rob Thompson, "but it was the spirit and efforts of everyone involved that I will always think back on."

    That goes for us too, and it includes Rob. Rob was the ideal TOH homeowner: upbeat, excited, highly involved and interested in the process, able to roll with the punches, appreciative of all the work being done on his behalf. His skill as an interior decorator was the icing on the cake, as we all learned from the designer's eye he brought to the project.

    As with all our projects, this one had its greatest hits:

    • The landscape: Jeff Blakely's design is a triumph. It softens, enriches, and makes more dramatic the house and its lot. The replacement of the dead-straight monolithic driveway with a sinuous, two-track one was a particularly successful move.

    • The windows: These laminated hurricane-rated aluminum units work well, preclude the need for shutters, and are close enough to the historic sash in looks to be quite a successful choice.

    • The barrel roof tiles and terra cotta pipe attic vents: Rob's decision to restore these important features on an otherwise rather plain house make all the difference in the world to its historic look.

    • The pool: Though it cost $35,000 to install, the pool adds a huge outdoor dimension to Rob's house, making the tiny lot into a jewel of a compound. Its Tuscan feeling draws the eye out of the house, and the splashing water of its two fountains soothes the senses.

    • The Moroccan tile: From the arch of the front door to the eye-popping fireplace, these hand-cut mosaics were the hit detail of the project, providing an exotic touch that defines the house.

    • The kitchen: Every piece of it was a great choice, from the simple white cabinets to the "Hawaiian Green" granite, from the sleek stainless-steel appliances to the whisper-quiet, behind-cabinet Swedish laundry system, just great.

    In the end, Rob spent more than he'd expected — around $200,000. But, like many TOH homeowners, he's happy he seized the moment: "I did exactly what I wanted to do with this house, and now I can settle in and live there for a good, long time." We wish him continuing good karma.

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