What to expect at Carriage House Palm Beach
Palm Beach’s social season may traditionally end next month, but a new private club is just getting started.
Carriage House opens the doors to its iconic buildings by architects Addison Mizner and Maurice Fatio this month, bringing a new place to eat and socialize to the town that has seen a resurgence and attracted dozens of young families during the pandemic.
The private club – the latest in a number of recent openings – is the vision of founders Michael and Paula Bickford, who moved to Palm Beach from London eight years ago. The couple stumbled across the Mizner-designed building at 264 South County Road while restoring their own 1930s home. The building once contained the world’s first stock trading floor and was built for husband Marjorie Merriweather Post , EF Hutton. More recently, it was home to 264 the Grill, which closed in 2015.
Michael, a real estate investment fund manager, developed the preservation and restoration plan for the Mizner Building and its Fatio-designed neighbor at 270 South County Road. Michael R. McCarty, who owned and operated Michael R. McCarty’s beloved restaurant at Royal Poinciana Plaza for more than a decade before it closed in 2016, helped the founders navigate concerns raised by the community early in the project while they sought approval from the city council.
“Restoring two of Palm Beach’s most significant buildings was both an incredible opportunity and a responsibility,” Michael said in press materials for the club. “Through our work, we intend to honor the great minds who built the foundations of Palm Beach as it is today. Our dream is for the Club to have true longevity. To become a place for generations of friends and families. Together, we can celebrate the past and create the future by honoring the spirit of the early 20th century.”
Michael’s wife, Paula, who was born in Brazil and traded commodities there before studying fashion design at Central Saint Martins in London, oversaw the design of the club. As creative director, she brought in architect Keith Spina to manage the restoration of the buildings and worked with Madrid designer Luis Bustamante on the interiors.
Design elements include an art collection featuring works by Robert Longo, Tracey Emin and Brice Guilbert among other well-known artists, backgammon-inspired wooden floors in the club’s reading room, an emerald bathroom with backlit green agate stone flooring, Portuguese tile painted walls, semi-precious stone table tops in the dining room and a carefully restored fireplace in the Mizner Building. The courtyard sidewalk is built in the same style as that of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, a nod to Paula’s Brazilian heritage.
In addition to the design, the ability to have another place to dine and entertain is what attracted several Palm Beach residents to accept the club’s invitation to join and pay an initiation fee believed to be six figures. Mediterranean and Japanese cuisine will be served; the Mediterranean offer will be overseen by chef Mathias Gervais—who previously worked with top chefs Daniel Boulud and Joël Robuchon, and the Japanese cuisine will be provided by chef Shuji Hiyakawa, trained by Masaharu Morimoto.
Carriage House niche in a town rich in clubs
What will Carriage House add to a town of around 9,000 that already has its fair share of social clubs? “It gives the community an exciting, delightful and beautiful place to go and come together across generations in a place that feels like a home away from home,” said one member, who grew up in Palm Beach and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The member said he was looking forward to a new nightlife destination. “A long time ago there were places where people could go out for a drink after dinner, but Palm Beach now lacks that and people go home after dinner,” they said. “It’s going to be fun to have this concept where you can go to a wonderful place and have fun outside of your house like it’s your own house – where you know everyone and every room has a warm and intimate atmosphere.”
Some other appealing aspects of Carriage House for the member are the wide range of ages that join and the easy access to prime dinner reservations – which have become a commodity since the pandemic began and newcomers descended. en masse in the Palm Beach area.
“I know people who don’t go to restaurants between January and March because it’s so hard to get a reservation,” the member said. “It will be nice to look forward to a great place with amazing food and not have to think about calling weeks in advance to get a reservation.”
Confidentiality is paramount
The club will operate a strict no-picture, no-phone policy, Paula Bickford said, and members have been receptive. “It’s not about depriving you of using your phone, it’s about letting you know that no one is using their phone, so you’re relaxed, you know you won’t end up on social media and you are in a place to enjoy yourself, your family, your friends, as well as great food, great atmosphere, great music and great art.”
Asked about the qualifications for membership, a Carriage House representative provided the following statement: “Membership is carefully curated to reflect the club’s sophisticated yet playful atmosphere and includes a diverse group of individuals with new and generations with Palm Beach.”
Membership is capped by the City of Palm Beach and occupancy will be limited to 225 except for special events, where it will be 250.
Community members take note
Mish Tworkowski, who recently opened his Mish Fine Jewelry studio across from the Carriage House buildings at Phipps Plaza, says he and his team are excited about the new addition to the community: “As a neighbor of Carriage House, we are delighted with the beautiful renovation they have undertaken with their historic buildings. It will certainly bring life and beauty to Phipps Plaza and our beautiful part of Palm Beach.”
Photographer Nick Mele, who spends his winters in Palm Beach, summed up some of the initial skepticism that gave way to intrigue among community members: “I would have been skeptical if the city could support another club private until all these new people started coming down during the pandemic,” Mele says. “Now I think there’s an excess of people looking for fun things to participate in. So in that sense, the timing might be perfect.”
The new club scene in Miami and New York
The timing may be perfect, as sleek new private clubs have also recently opened in Miami and New York. In Miami’s Design District, Major Food Group collaborated with designer Ken Fulk on ZZ’s Club, which includes a cigar lounge and modern Japanese restaurant featuring Tokyo seafood and the largest offering of southern Wagyu beef from Florida. The Bath Club, Miami’s oldest club, recently reopened in Miami Beach after a complete renovation of its 1927 building.
In lower Manhattan, the Cipriani family opened Casa Cipriani in the 1909 Beaux-Arts Battery Marine Building last September. The club includes a restaurant, jazz cafe, spa, ballroom and 47 rooms and suites with private balconies overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
Uptown on Fifth Avenue, the Brazilian restaurateur and JHSF opened the Fasano Club at Fasano Fifth Avenue last year. Featuring interiors by architect Thierry W. Despont, the club offers members the option to book 3,600 square foot duplex suites on a full floor with views of Central Park. A few blocks south, Aman New York will open this spring in the historic Crown Building at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.
Members of the Aman Club, a global private club with an initiation fee of $100,000 and an annual membership fee of $15,000, have access to dedicated spaces at Aman city destinations. They will be able to enjoy private club spaces at Aman properties in New York, Tokyo and Venice, as well as all of the brand’s future urban destinations, such as Aman Miami and Aman Nai Lert Bangkok. At Aman New York, the members-only Aman Club on the 14th and 15th floors of the 83-room hotel features a cigar lounge and wine bar.
Even at already exclusive locations like Palm Beach and Aman Hotels, membership has its perks.
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