Two breezy Asian lanterns flank the entrance to Curlew Point and hint at surprises in store. Beyond lies a checkerboard of grass-trimmed pavers that leads to oxblood-colored fretwork gates under a brow of bougainvillea, yielding to the lustrous lacquered front door of the Manalapan, Florida, winter retreat of Renny Reynolds and Jack Staub. This is not your grandmother’s Palm Beach vacation home.
Together, Reynolds, a celebrated event and floral designer–turned–plantsman and gardener, and his partner, Staub, a garden writer, have rescued and lovingly restored what was a somewhat neglected Bermuda-style house designed by renowned 1960s architect Henry Harding. The iced lemon–colored, gazebo-like house surrounded on three sides by the Intracoastal Waterway and a lush tropical garden has a magical quality one senses as the tour begins, with each element providing a visual and visceral aha moment.
The owners are creatives and also passionate travelers and collectors who have brought back mementos from their adventures and mixed them in with cherished gifts from friends. Their collection, much of which resides in the living room, runs the gamut from a vast chorus of Buddha statues to a beaded pink pelican (given to Staub by Reynolds for a big birthday) and includes work by artists such as Andy Warhol, Bruce Weber, Robert Rauschenberg, Jennifer Bartlett, Ed Ruscha, and Robert Mapplethorpe, all friends of the pair.
As inviting and entertaining as the interior is, the view through to the loggia, terrace, garden, and water beyond is the real beauty shot. Of course, Reynolds, as the horticultural hands-on man, has been like a virtual kid in a candy shop. “My passion here is the celebration and enjoyment of nature, and exploring the wonderful variety of plant materials that grow in this climate,” he says. “The tropical plants are chosen for their tolerance to the sun, the winds, and the salt air.”
Discover a variety of comfortable spots strategically located throughout the garden to visit, read, nap, or simply take in the swoon-worthy vistas. “I have particularly enjoyed creating a tropical dream for our enjoyment and the enjoyment of our guests. We love to share the views, the gardens, the sunsets, the cloud formations, and even the occasional strolling iguana,” says Reynolds.
He also creates fun and flamboyant tablescapes for the frequent dinner parties the two host, always cutting from the garden for the centerpieces and incorporating whimsical pieces like colored glass bottles, seashells, crystal balls—whatever suits his mood and the palette.
While Reynolds labors in the garden or over the place settings, Staub creates his own brand of beauty with words, penning interesting and informative gardening books and gorgeous coffee-table books on gardens, both public and private. He’s also a gifted and passionate chef, always preparing healthy, delicious meals. In addition, Staub ventured into another medium: seashells. “I’ve always loved shellwork, especially in those fantastic European grotto scenarios but also in ornate frames and boxes,” he says. “Renny decided we needed a big shellwork frame on the living room wall. We had crates of shells left over from the Manet and the Sea party he did at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. So I started building the frame on the terrace before we even moved in, then got slightly obsessed and started making surrounds for the bathroom mirrors, over-door elements, etc.”
As the pages of the calendar flutter by, the days growing longer and hotter, it inevitably happens that these two depart from their South Florida Shangri-La for the cooler climate of their Bucks County, Pennsylvania, paradise, Hortulus Farm. There the gardens await the touch of the master, the parties are poised to be planned, and a book is waiting to be finished.
By Margot Shaw | Photography by Carmel Brantley
More from Staub and Reynolds
Don’t miss Staub’s book, Private Edens: Beautiful Country Gardens excerpted in Exploring Private Edens
Revisit our 2008 feature on the restoration of Hortulus Farm.
Also find their Bucks County farm in our guide to Must-See American Estate Gardens