He and wife Betsy built the house painstakingly, with antique finishing and an eye to coastal breezes
by JAMES TARMY
For years, Paul Shiverick, co-founder of the hedge fund management firm Seminole Management Co, vacationed in Palm Beach, Florida, with his wife Betsy, a former currency trader.
By 2013, “Our kids were all out of the house, and so we started spending more time down here, then decided to make this our permanent home,” he says.
At the time, the couple had a house in downtown Palm Beach, “and we were always inside”, he continues. “We didn’t have good outdoor space, and we thought if we could be on the water, that would be fantastic — we’d be really outdoors.”
In 2012, the couple found a lot on Everglades Island, a thin strip of land connected to Palm Beach by a small bridge. They paid about US$5.5 million (RM22.5 million) for the property.
There was an existing house that “wasn’t perfect”, Betsy Shiverick says, “but the lot was”. Everglades Island zoning allows for houses to be built a few feet from the water, “and that’s what spurred us to build”, she says. “We were able to create closeness to the water and get those breezes.”
They hired architect Richard Sammons, co-founder of the firm Fairfax & Sammons, then tore down the existing house and set about building a 5,500-sq-ft (511 sq m), Mediterraneanstyle home, which was completed in mid 2014.
Now, less than five years later, the couple is putting the house on the market with Cristina Condon and Kevin Condon, of Sotheby’s International Realty of Palm Beach, listing it for just under US$21 million dollars.
The house takes a U-shape with a series of loggias opening onto a courtyard. Nearly every room in the house opens to the outdoors. “It’s a house that would have been built 80 or 90 years ago to take advantage of breezes and air flow,” Paul Shiverick says. “We liked being more in a natural environment than in air-conditioning.”
In order to correspond to the home’s classical design, the couple tried to use reclaimed materials when possible. “The stone, the wood, the tiles — they’re all old, and when you go into the house, you feel like you’re in an old home,” Paul says. “But it has the conveniences of something new.”
The couple have four grown children, and the house was conceived as a place they and their families could visit. To that end, the five bedrooms have en-suite baths “and are separate from the house”, Betsy says. “Basically, your room has its own little suite, and everything opens to the outdoors.”
In addition to the five bedrooms, there are seven full bathrooms and two half-bathrooms.
The house looks out onto a pool and backyard and faces Palm Beach. “It’s on the eastern side of Everglades Island, which is a subtle distinction but an important one, in that you get the morning sun but you don’t get the afternoon sun, which can be pretty hot,” Paul says. “And we look east over the Palm Beach lagoon, towards the estates section of Palm Beach, so you’re looking at really nice homes that all get illuminated in the afternoon.”
Betsy had left her currency trading job in 2003 (following stints at Merrill Lynch, UBS, and Bank of Montreal, among others) to become an interior decorator. “Interior decoration is a lot more stressful than currency trading,” she says. “I went to the New York School of Interior Design and did a few jobs here and there, but I spent most of my time designing my own houses.”
As the house was being built, she set about designing and then furnishing the interior. She chose native Florida cypress wood for many of the rooms, alternately using it on the ceilings or as wall panels. She commissioned an ironworker in North Carolina to weld the grates and railings for the house by hand, and searched far and wide for decoration that would fit the interior.
“It was painstaking,” she says. “We didn’t go to a place like Restoration Hardware and buy a bunch of stuff. Everything is an antique, and everything was bought over time. I don’t think there’s one piece of new furniture in there; every piece but the beds is old.”
Even the driveway is composed of old materials. “We have 13,000 antique bricks cut lengthwise and laid into the driveway in a herringbone pattern,” Betsy says. “That took four months to do.”
Back and Forth
Building the house took 26 months, during which time, “I was going back and forth to New York every week,” Paul says. “Betsy did everything. I was not even involved really — I mean, with some of the design features, but I wasn’t that involved in building the house.”
At roughly the same time he retired last year, the couple purchased a landmarked house in downtown Palm Beach.
“We weren’t planning on moving, but this house presented itself,” Betsy says. “It went to auction, and nobody was really interested in taking on this challenge, so we decided to.” They like the idea, she says,” ‘of being stewards of the house”, and so after some deliberation, they decided to put their existing home on the market.
“It can appeal to a number of different buyers,” Paul says. “It’s a family-oriented home, but it’s really for anyone who wants to be on the water.”
Even though the house is new, he says, the property has a variety of mature trees; in the few years they’ve lived there, plants have quickly filled out the grounds. “That’s the nice thing about living in Florida,” he says. “You get instant landscaping.” — Bloomberg