"THE WEATHER IS gorgeous today!” says interior designer John Rolland. Rolland lives and works on Rittenhouse Square, but on this November day, he’s just leaving the Colony Hotel on Hammon Avenue, headed to a client’s vacation home.
Back north, Philadelphia is blanketed with dead leaves, and daylight savings has just ended, making the area as dreary as, well, Philadelphia in November. In Florida, it’s in the low 80s, with a cloudless Tiffany sky and a light breeze as Rolland departs the Colony. He’s wearing a beautifully tailored sport coat in jaunty colors, and has a light tan and eyes the blue of a Wedgwood vase, so he easily looks the part in spiffy Palm Beach.
“I’ve been doing houses down here for years,” he says. Today, Rolland is working with a longtime client whose homes in Philly and Nantucket he’s also decorated; the client recently sold an apartment in PB and bought a house instead. “I’ve been working on it all summer, on and off, and we’re just about finished,” Rolland says.
Like everywhere else in the world, Palm Beachers have been adversely affected by the plummeting economy: This is one of the epicenters of Madoff victims, some of whom are selling their houses. (Madoff’s own house here, on the Intercoastal, is on the market for $7.9 million.) But unless things are truly dire, people in Palm Beach aren’t going to let their hair and houses go to pot, and Tannenbaum, Gold and Rolland have most of the same clients they did at the height of the boom economy. Tannenbaum points out that it’s much more cost-efficient for clients to bring him to Florida than for them to fly to him. His client Terry Frank admits that her family has gently teased her about importing her hairstylist, but she says Maurice is the only one who gets her cut and color right. “I frankly don’t care what other people think!” she says good-naturedly. “When you have something that works, that’s what you do.”
Being slim is always in fashion in Palm Beach, too, no matter how miserable the money situation, which is why Lauren Boggi, owner of Philly exercise studio Lithe Method, commutes south one or two weekends a month to train her Philly clients. Golf pros who spend the summer at Main Line clubs are seasonal transplants to Florida as well, like Philadelphia Country Club’s Patrick Brosnihan, who winters as caddymaster at the Loblolly club in Hobe Sound, on Jupiter Island, and Tom Gilbert of Gulph Mills Golf Club, who flies down to teach golf in West Palm Beach.
As Rolland describes his stints in Florida, you get the feeling that as much as he’s decorating, he’s squiring his clients around. “We’ve been having fun. She loves to shop with me,” he says of his client. “We bounce off each other.”
In fact, the only downside Tannenbaum has found about going south is that once outside of the glossier towns in Florida, things can get a little too “Real Florida” for him. “It’s the South,” he observes. He also had one traumatic experience at the Cobb Jupiter 18 theater: “The first time I went there, a few years ago, one of my clients took me to the movies. It was like Night of the Living Dead.” Not the movie he was watching, but the crowd at the theater. “Everyone was over 80,” he says, “all chic-ly coiffed and dressed. From the back, they looked 25, but then you saw the walkers and canes.” Well, it can’t all be cocktails and Perfect Hair.