When interior designer Caroline Rafferty and her husband spotted a midcentury modern home for sale in Palm Beach, they were quick to snatch it up. Rafferty, who runs her own local design studio, was particularly sold on the 1950s architecture, an anomaly amid the British Colonial and Mediterranean Revival properties that typify the posh island.

The house was, in Rafferty’s telling, “simple enough that it didn’t demand one distinct style of decorations.” Better still? There was ample room to house her sizable assemblage of blue-chip art and vintage furnishings. “Finally, a place big enough to take all of our collections!” Rafferty notes.

caroline rafferty palm beach house
Rafferty and her husband snatched up the low-slung midcentury house and transformed it into a sunny, beachside family home.
Carmel Brantley

Before the storage units (chockablock with auction finds and treasures from Paris’s marché aux puces) could be uncrated, however, the house needed an update, one that turned into a two-year renovation. For starters, twisting hallways made for cramped bedrooms and blocked access to the back courtyard and pool. But during one evening walkthrough, iPad in hand for sketching, “I realized that changing the main hallway [by pushing it to the courtyard side] would unlock the orientation of the house,” says Rafferty.

Now, one wing of the home hosts public spaces like the living room, kitchen, and family room, while private spaces including the bedrooms, bathrooms, and offices are located in the opposite wing. The key hallway shift really “cracked the house open,” says Rafferty and helped ascertain the breezy, oasislike persona she was seeking.

long white walkway with art on the walls and two adorable fluffy puppies in the middle taking a stroll toward the viewer
To open up the home’s interiors, Rafferty relocated the main hallway to the building’s perimeter. All of the floors are terrazzo, in keeping with the house’s midcentury originals.
Carmel Brantley

Once the demolition began, construction workers chipped away to discover that the original floor had been terrazzo. “While we couldn’t save it, I repoured the entire house with terrazzo everywhere—in the showers and everything,” says the designer, who also raised the ceilings from eight feet to a loftier 12 feet. By keeping the palette light and the spaces airy, “I could really play with color everywhere,” she says.

Canvas freshly readied, Rafferty got to work. She envisioned the home as “a rotating gallery” and sought to display as many of her pieces as possible. Nowhere is this approach showcased better than in her impressive 2,000-square-foot living room (a space that is “more than double the size of my first New York apartment,” she observes). The sofa wall features two works by Andy Warhol, two paintings by Rene Gagnon flank a Damien Hirst piece, and a Diego Giacometti bird sculpture preens on a side table nearby.

living room with glossy white interior, long white cushioned sofa along the wall and several chairs and low tables in front and five pieces of art hanging on the wall above the sofa, one of which is a large modernistic sketch of albert einstein on the far left
The living room is a testament to Rafferty’s love of mixing midcentury pieces with contemporary ones.
Carmel Brantley

A monumental 20-foot-long white sofa from CB2 juxtaposes the area’s rarefied art and antiques (including a Pierre Jeanneret cocktail table). “That’s my vibe. I buy what’s valuable that I love, but a white sofa is a white sofa,” she says of the affordable find. A Poul Cadovius Cado teak wall unit, found at auction, brings in midcentury swagger while also anchoring another seating area. Across the way in the big living room, Rafferty composed a cool yet sentimental arrangement around her grandmother’s original Karl Springer dining table—“bought directly from Karl,” she adds. Rafferty surrounded it with an eclectic arrangement of Moroccan chandeliers and a chair, shaped like a cupped hand, designed by Pedro Friedeberg.

bedroom with white platform bed with blue sheets and pillows a greenish marbled carpet and a pink striped chair next to it
Throughout, Rafferty sought to create an indoor-outdoor feel with botanical prints and green accents. The vintage Karl Springer bed is another treasure from Rafferty’s grandmother.
Carmel Brantley

Throughout the rest of the home, Rafferty leaned into walnut and cherry cabinetry to nod to the house’s midcentury roots, as well as clean marble finishes and crisp colors— particularly hints of green, as featured in the kitchen, family room, and primary bedroom. “This house has so many windows and so much green outside, so I brought that grass color indoors, which is unusual for coastal homes,” she says.

But don’t expect the home to stay this way for too long: “That’s the good thing about a designer’s own home,” Rafferty muses. “It’s totally organic and ever-changing.”

See More of This Vibrant Palm Beach Home
detail of living area with chair resembling a wooden hand for seat and foot for pedestal in front of a framed painting with a large metal bronze pendant hanging above the area