By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub
City & Shore Magazine
Dr. George and Jana Hanbury had lived on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons condominium in Fort Lauderdale for 25 years before they finally got an opportunity to buy the penthouse they’d always wanted in the building.
“We just loved it,” says George Hanbury, president of Nova Southeastern University and a former Fort Lauderdale city manager. “It is finally finished and we are looking forward to enjoying it. We cannot wait to light the fireplace. We searched high and low for the white Italian marble mantel. It came from an old estate from Italy in the 1800s.”
Their new home is next door to the space in the building once housed by Le Dôme, the legendary restaurant where waiters wore white gloves and served French cuisine in grand European style. The venerable restaurant closed in the mid 1990s.
Something of a venerable building itself – at least by South Florida standards – The Four Seasons was built almost 60 years ago in 1957. Completed long before building codes put into place after Hurricane Andrew, the renovation presented a few construction challenges when interior designer William Riddle and Alain Dezzi of Gallo-Herbert Architects began the remodel last year.
“The biggest challenges were working with the existing plumbing and electrical lines inside a residential tower,” says Dezzi, the project supervisor. “We had to make it work within the existing structure. We were able to manipulate space planning to get bathrooms and adjacencies where they wanted. I don’t think there was anything they wanted that we didn’t deliver.”
The windows were not impact resistant, he says, so each one had to be removed and the concrete openings reframed to meet the new codes. The 6-inch platform, which creates a stage for the piano, gives the piano more visibility but also hides infrastructure to accommodate the powder room next door.
Dezzi’s firm worked closely with Riddle, the mechanical team and structural engineers. Riddle was the liaison between the Hanburys and the others.
The 4,375-square-foot condo, which includes terraces, needed to be gutted so the former maze of small rooms could accommodate a 2,000-square-foot space for entertaining.
“The apartment was built for entertaining,” Riddle says. “We took it down to the bare concrete and redesigned it to meet their needs. The dropped ceilings were raised to 9 feet.”
The private master suite is accessible through a center gallery at one end of the apartment. Two guest rooms and an office are to the left.
Riddle had worked with the Hanburys on their former apartment so he was familiar with their taste. He incorporated some of the antique furnishings from the couple’s former apartment, but selected new furniture in the Great Room so 26 people could be seated on chairs, ottomans and a bench. There are no sofas, which can make conversation awkward. (The Hanburys hosted a cocktail party in June for the Venetian Arts Society that drew 80 guests).
The design is a mixture of Asian, Italian and French. Some of the outstanding pieces include two Venetian carved sconces and an eight-panel screen from Asia.
“George has a real appreciation of history,” says Riddle, executive director of the Venetian Arts Society, a cultural arts organization. “When he was city manager, he saved many historic buildings, such as the Casablanca Café on the beach, the Sheppard Estate on Las Olas and Himmarshee Court on Southeast Eighth Avenue.
“We saved a lot of original things and used them in the apartment,” he says. “This was a labor of love for him because of the historic connection.”