Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach honors designer, historic Mizner building – Palm Beach Daily News

A renowned interior designer with a boutique on Via Mizner has been honored for her efforts to restore a piece of iconic architect Addison Mizner’s work on the island and her work with the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.
Several dozen people attended a foundation event Wednesday night at Leta Austin Foster’s Via Mizner apartment. She and her husband, Ridgely, bought the then-condemned building in 1994 and gave it a new life, with her boutique on the first floor, offices and design space on the second floor and the residence on the third floor.
“I told my husband, ‘I want a wreck, because I want to do it over,’” Foster said. “He came back to me and said, ‘I found your wreck,’ and that was the building.”
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The night also honored Mizner’s work, as the Preservation Foundation celebrated its recently acquired original handwritten manuscript of the second part of Mizner’s autobiography, a follow-up to his popular “The Many Mizners.” Foster read an excerpt from the book, which was written shortly before Mizner’s death and never published. 
The foundation’s acquisition also included correspondence between Mizner and his mother, and insight into his friendship with financier Paris Singer and their eventual partnership in Palm Beach.
Wednesday’s event was the first showcase of Foster’s apartment since the recent completion of its renovation, which used Foster’s wallpaper designs in partnership with Waterhouse Wallhangings. Foster also shared some of the building’s history, including its past as a hotel for bachelors when it was built by Mizner in 1917.
“We took it down to the studs and made it a really beautiful building,” Foster said.
The guests at her home Wednesday were members and friends of the Preservation Foundation’s 1878 Series for younger community members interested in history and preservation. They celebrated the original mixed-use plan for Worth Avenue as Addison Mizner envisioned it when he first arrived in Palm Beach. 
The event also served as a preview of Foster’s feature in an upcoming episode of the foundation’s “Landmarks Discovered” video series that launched during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foster has spoken at past foundation events, including the Polly Jessup Design Series.
“She is an amazing supporter of the foundation and an incredible preservationist,” said Amanda Skier, president and CEO of the Preservation Foundation. 
This past year, Foster become one of the first people on the island to voluntarily landmark another home she and her husband own on Pendleton Lane. 
“It was a perfect fit to have an opportunity to highlight the work she did on the (Via Mizner) building,” Skier said. “We love to highlight people who are so committed to preserving the architectural heritage of the town.”
Foster’s preservation work extends to her interior design work and relationship with Waterhouse Wallhangings. When looking for a distinctive striped wallpaper with a client about eight years ago, she was told it had been discontinued. 
“I said, ‘You absolutely cannot discontinue that,’” she said. “‘It’s the most beautiful part of your line.’” 
Waterhouse agreed, adding the stripe back into their line — and renaming it the Foster Stripe. The company eventually asked Foster if she would like to collaborate on a curated collection of wallpapers, by working with an artist to go back through their archives.
When she first saw the drawers of discontinued and historic prints — Waterhouse Wallhangings dates back to 1866 — she was thrilled.
“It was like a child at Christmas,” Foster said. “There were just so many beautiful things.”
The wallpapers featured in her home include designs from that collection and the Foster Stripe. She was particularly excited on Wednesday night to see reactions to a room for which she drew inspiration from a Maurice Fatio-designed room in a home on the North End. 
She designed the room to capture “a feeling of unexpected delight,” she said. The wallpaper is teal and rusty rose on off-white, with maize yellow for the curtains and the fabric in the room. The chairs are lacquered in a dusty rose color. 
“Every single person came up to me and said, ‘I love what you did in this room,’” Foster said. “I was so pleased.”
“It’s always wonderful to do events at Via Mizner and Via Parigi, because they’re so iconic,” Skier said. “It’s amazing to think about it as a mixed-use development.”
Though the buildings look like they were built separately, they were built all at once as part of Mizner and Singer’s vision. 
“It shows how timeless the design is,” Skier said. “You can still have a shop on the first floor, and a residence above it. 
“It has a small-town feel,” she added. “In some ways, it hearkens back to an earlier time of historic main streets, where the shopkeeper lived above the shop.”


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