Palm Beach, a sun-drenched stretch along Florida’s Gold Coast, is where oil tycoon Henry Flagler set his sights in the 19th century, enticing vacationing Northeasterners of the Vanderbilt and Rockefeller variety. Today, the tony town is known for its Mediterranean Revival mansions and for Worth Avenue—the storied shopping street where nearly every major fashion designer caters to the moneyed residents. “Addison Mizner built those wonderful vias [interior courtyards off Worth Avenue] that put shops on the lower level and living areas overhead,” says Jim Ponce, resident historian of the Breakers hotel. “The Avenue grew from there.” While Worth Avenue remains Mizner’s—and Palm Beach’s—prime retail legacy, the surrounding areas also yield rare finds, like stone fountains from Provence and mid-century-modern furniture at prices below the going rate at New York auction houses.
As soon as you cross the bridge that yawns over the Intracoastal Waterway from West Palm Beach to the island of Palm Beach, even the palm trees appear straighter and more manicured. Shopping on “The Island,” as Palm Beach is called in these parts, centers on Worth Avenue, where many visitors stick to the big names (Prada, Gucci, Tiffany). But there’s far worthier browsing to pursue.
For a glimpse at gorgeous gowns by a designer who has outfitted Audrey Hepburn, Nancy Reagan and charity-ball-bound socialites, stop by Alfred Fiandaca. From there, stroll into CJ Laing to consider the breezy resort wear, like embroidered cotton-and-linen tunics that could go straight from the beach to an alfresco lunch at Café Boulud.
Duck into those vias for surprises at every turn. The home furnishings store Walker Zabriskie manages to make the bohemian look supremely chic, with a clean-lined ethnic mix that includes coffee tables covered in vintage rattan sleeping mats from Borneo, with graphic motifs in black and straw hues. Also look for stingray-skin mirrors, and gorgeous batik pillows by Katherine Rally Textiles.
Nearby, at Letitia Lundeen, collectors go giddy over antique porcelain and 19th-century English and French engravings. And across the street, in a small shop tucked away off Via Gucci, you’ll hear the tap tap tap of metal on leather at Il Sandalo, where bespoke Italian sandals are embellished with Swarovski crystals and stones.
Next stop: the celebrated Breakers hotel, whose Italian-inspired ceiling murals date to 1926. Venture off the lobby to find interesting shops like MIX, with a funky-to-minimalist range of jewelry by designers like Toby Pomeroy, based in Corvallis, OR, who works solely with reclaimed silver and gold.
Finally, stop at the Goodwill Embassy Boutique for Chanel castoffs, pre-owned paintings and tchotchkes. Several consignment shops on the same strip sell high-end women’s and men’s clothing.
ANTIQUE ROW AND BEYOND
Back across the bridge in West Palm Beach, plan an outdoor lunch at Rocco’s Tacos, then hit Authentic Provence for a treasure trove of stone, marble and terra-cotta garden furnishings from France, Italy and England. The European owners saw a need to furnish gardens in keeping with the area’s elegant Mizner–style villas and mansions. “Why build a house for millions and then have clumsy-looking flower pots from Home Depot?” asks owner Susan Hofherr. Her stock ranges from French bark wall sconces to waist-high 18th-century terra-cotta olive jars.
Next, head for Antique Row along the South Dixie Highway, where you’ll find more than 40 antique and home decor shops in an eight-block radius. Big-name designers like Kelly Wearstler jet in from L.A. for one-stop shopping that spans the eras. Objects in the Loft specializes in 20th-century furnishings, selling designs by Jay Spectre, Vladimir Kagan and Edward Wormley. “People don’t necessarily want their grandma’s antiques anymore; they want stuff from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s,” says co-owner Wade Terwilliger. Be sure to climb the stairs for vintage rattan pieces as well as couches, canopy beds and end tables.
Across the street, James and Jeffrey Antiques, in business for more than two decades, has unusual Italian chandeliers from the 1920s through 1940s, sparkling with crystals and gilded iron. Peek into the small pavilion outside for fun finds like cast-concrete pelican sculptures.
North and south of the official AntiqueRow area, new shops are opening all the time. Kourtney Pulitzer stocks fun women’s wear and accessories, like braided wire necklaces with sea glass and fishing lures and breezy beach tunics. (Her father-in-law was married to Lilly Pulitzer.) Across the street at Alan J. Alan In Style, you’ll find wooden doors from a 16th-century galleon and 18th-century Nepalese temple tiles. Break for quiche and gazpacho at Belle and Maxwell’s, where you can also shop for glass mosaics.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
At Northwood Village—a small, interesting strip of shops just a few miles north of downtown West Palm Beach—there’s nary a chain store to be seen. “The street is charming, and every month we have a new business opening up or an old one expanding,” says Emilie Marie, who moved here from the Antique District to sell mid-century furnishings, glassware and her custom jewelry at Left Hand Louis. Ask Marie for a peek into the blue drawers behind the cash register, labeled with names like “Hard Rox” and “Champagne Times.” That’s where she stashes many of the necklaces and cuffs she makes from Italian and French estate pieces—just to save her customers from indecision. “If you give some women too much choice,” she says, “they go insane.” Her vintage pendants strung on colorful suede laces make a great gift.
A few doors down, at Circa Who, owner Tracy DeRamus stocks her shop with vintage Florida furnishings. DeRamus scours estate sales, flea markets and more, and considers the “picking” to be the fun part. Among her finds: early-20th-century terra-cotta elephant garden seats, and the bamboo pagoda mirrors and Chinese Chippendale chairs from Florida’s swinging 1970s. “Lucite pieces are also very Florida—open and airy, so you can see straight to the beach,” she says.
The Sunflower Room is actually a couple of rooms filled with refurbished pieces, especially armoires. Owner Wendy Ricks updates the paint jobs on secondhand cupboards she finds at flea markets and garage sales, then lines the interiors with luxurious wallpaper and adds unusual embellishments, like chicken wire and bamboo pulls. Crafty chic never felt so cool.
Alfred Fiandaca: 351 Worth Ave.; 561.659.3339; alfredfiandaca.com
CJ Laing: 96 Via Mizner; 561.820.0039; cjlaingshop.com
Café Boulud: 301 Australian Ave.; 561.655.6060
Walker Zabriskie: 5 Via Parigi; 561.651.7442; walkerzabriskie.com
Letitia Lundeen: 10 Via Parigi; 561.833.1087
Il Sandalo: 240 Worth Ave.; 561.805.8674; ilsandalo.com
Breakers hotel: One S. County Rd.; 888.273.2537
Goodwill Embassy Boutique: 210 Sunset Ave.; 561.832.8199
Rocco’s Tacos: 224 Clematis St.; 561.650.1001
Authentic Provence: 522 Clematis St.; 561.805.9995; authenticprovence.com
Objects in the Loft: 3611 S. Dixie Hwy.; 561.659.0403; objectsintheloft.com
James and Jeffrey Antiques: 3619 S. Dixie Hwy.; 561.832.1760; jamesandjeffrey.com
Kourtney Pulitzer: 1609 S. Dixie Hwy.; 561.655.1112
Alan J. Alan In Style: 1608 S. Dixie Hwy.; 561.822.3180
Belle and Maxwell’s: 3700 S. Dixie Hwy.; 561.832.4449
Left Hand Louis: 525 Northwood Rd.; 561.835.2121
Circa Who: 531 Northwood Rd.; 561.655.5224; circawho.com
The Sunflower Room: 511½ Northwood Rd.; 561.904.6503
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.