New Yorkers can resurrect almost anything, as anyone who has wandered the High Line—a former railroad spur turned lofted greenway—might attest. Lewis Miller, however, can make resplendent beauty adding to things just as they are. Whether the floral and event designer is arranging a blitz of white anemones and sweet peas on a subway stop’s cast iron railing or placing hundreds of peonies in a galvanized metal trash bin, his street art installations—known as Flower Flashes—stop even the most harried city-dwellers in their tracks.
So when Miller scooped up a 1926 Spanish Mission home in West Palm Beach, Florida, that was down on her luck—literally, as it sat sinking on its east side into the humid Florida earth—no one seemed to doubt that he could work magic to turn it into a showstopper. To get the job done properly, he enlisted a coterie of pros to revamp and restore the property, including Natasha Steinle of Romanov Interiors and architectural interior designer Alexandra Cargill Reynolds. “He’s a genius—he’s seriously a genius,” Steinle says. “And it comes out in his house.”
Miller’s good friend, designer Matthew Kowles, jumped in on the brainstorming meetings when he was honing in on the overall look and feeling of the home. “He gave me a few words—’Hemingway’s Florida,’ ‘the South before air conditioning,’” Kowles recalls. The resulting color palette is a bit muddy, “almost more like Hemingway in New Orleans or Cartagena and how that would be interpreted in a place in West Palm Beach. It was a fantasy.”
Case in point: Throughout the home, there are now small trompe-l’oeil surprises, hand-painted by Joseph Steiert Studio. “He texted me one day and he’s like, ‘I want to do some fun, whimsical sort of trompe l’oeil,’” says Steinle. “So the three of us [including Steiert] came up with a list of things that he wanted. Now, there’s a mouse on the staircase, a $50 bill by the bar on the floor, and a dead butterfly on the windowsill in the library.”
Unburied treasure abounds, much of which Miller has been secreting away for years in storage in New York before its moment in the sun. “There were what felt like thousands of boxes,” Steinle says, “but he knew exactly what he had. And the house, it sucked it all in. Everything had a place the minute we opened it.” One particularly exquisite find: a pair of caryatids that Miller found at Kofski West Palm beach. “He texted me a picture of them and said, ‘I just splurged and bought these!’” Steinle recalls. “I ran over to the house and my electrician electrified them on site, because I didn’t want to move them.”
Long after all the dust of the install had settled, pixie dust remains. “It’s pretty magical,” Steinle says. “I hadn’t been in there for a couple of months and just walked in there today to meet my upholsterer, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this place is so special.’” She notes that, like any grande dame, the house has its own signature scent—Pot Pourri by Santa Maria Novella, a pharmacy founded by Dominican friars in Florence, Italy circa 1221. “The house literally has character. It smells good, it looks amazing. It envelops you and your senses from the moment you walk in.” Hemingway would love it.