BY LINDA MARX
Jeanette King, widow of the late “comic with chutzpah” Alan King, asked Marc Janecki to design her Aventura condominium with inviting sophistication—and that he did.
When comedian and show business legend Alan King passed away in 2004, his wife of 54 years, Jeanette, decided to spend the winter in Aventura where she had a lot of friends, including Don Soffer and his family.
Dismantling the Tudor estate on Long Island where the couple had lived was a difficult task, but King became determined to make the rest of her life as pleasant as possible. “I had a hard time when Alan died,” admits King. “I emptied out a big house, then selected Marc Janecki to design my new home in South Florida. I found him through friends and hired him because I loved the way he designed their apartments.”
King bought a 3,500-square-foot, oceanfront condominium on the 19th floor of the Porto Vita condominium with three bedrooms and four and a half baths. Since it had finished concrete floors and no trims or casings, King gave the designer carte blanche to transform the space into her own private paradise. “Jeanette asked me to make her home warm, inviting and comfortable,” says Janecki, a diversified designer based in Miami Beach. “She also wanted glamour, sophistication and warm wood tones.”
Janecki, who spent many years designing for prominent clients in Palm Beach, always gets to know his clients while creating the interiors of their homes. He made a trip to Long Island to see King’s house before she moved so he could assess some of her favorite pieces and see how they would work in the new apartment. He saw what an interesting life she had lived with her husband and understood that she wanted to bring along furnishings that held special memories. “Jeanette wanted to surround herself with some of her former pieces, like her canopy bed, rustic round table, a chaise from her bedroom, a pair of small x-leg stools, etc.,” he says. “I made her new apartment interesting with character and a mix of pieces.”
Janecki had no major challenges in his eight-month design of the apartment because King was easy to work with—and they had a good contractor. “Everyone should be like Jeanette,” laughs Janecki. “She loved my ideas, was quick to make a decision, and we had nothing to redo.” Adds King, “We shopped, had fun and got along great. Marc is very talented and quite efficient.”
The designer installed wide-plank custom oak floors throughout the residence except in the bedrooms, which are carpeted. All the rooms have either cream-colored or light-toned walls. Lighting is modern, including the abundant use of natural light. The designer kept the space clean and modern, adding no crown moldings. “It would have been too much with her mix,” he says. “The contrast makes it work. The character of the home comes from a variety of furnishings.”
While Janecki gives his spaces character, each project is different because he allows the design to become the personality of the owner. In the living room, he was able to utilize many of King’s life experiences. Built-in bookcases reflect her passion for reading, and he placed her many collectibles around the room. “I kept a neutral palette here because of her accessories and bookshelves,” he says. “I didn’t want confusion or to make things too neurotic. Patterns on her x-stool cushions were enough. I didn’t want to overwhelm.”
He also used a mix of pieces that don’t match, which works well: a French Modern library table, wood-framed lounge chairs, a black lacquer and mahogany coffee table, and ostrich round side tables, for example. “The living room theme was a mix of character to reflect the diversity of her life experiences,” he says.
For the glamorous dining room, it was important to offer a “feel good” vibe for the occasions when King hosts guests for dinner or her children and grandchildren come to visit. There’s a tray ceiling over the round dining table and dark chairs, along with a round antique mirror and chandelier. “I wanted to turn your head in this room,” says Janecki. “The chandelier added another layer to show everything in the home was not recessed lighting. I wanted to define this area.”
Since King doesn’t cook much, Janecki didn’t rip out the kitchen; instead, he installed a wood floor and commissioned a custom high-top walnut table with a steel frame and dark wood high chairs in walnut with leather seats and backs. He also kept the cabinets and applied his Midas touch by modernizing them, explaining, “We lightened the existing cabinets, got new pulls and added a stainless backsplash for the ocean effect.”
The master suite is a sanctuary of peace and quiet with wonderful floor-to-ceiling glass windows. For King’s original dark mahogany canopy bed from Long Island, the designer simply lightened it to change the look and make it work for South Florida living. “I made it feminine with fabrics and faux-finished it,” the designer says. He also reupholstered and skirted her chaise lounge from Long Island and added her drop leaf table, and chose a floor lamp from Rose Tarlow and an accent table he brought back from a trip to Paris. At the foot of the bed is a walnut cabinet that Janecki custom designed for King. It was created on a lift and houses her television. Since it rotates 180 degrees, she can watch it from the bed or the chaise lounge, so the piece works aesthetically and also functions well.
The marble master bath was in fairly good shape, so the designer merely “fluffed it up.” He added accessories, made a vanity chair to match the marble surrounding the tub, and motorized the shade at the tub. “Jeanette has a wide view of the ocean from her bathroom similar to what she enjoys in her living room,” says Janecki.
When the widow witnessed the finished product, she was uplifted and happy. “As I opened the door to my new home I was delighted,” she says.. “I felt young and ready to start a new life.”
And of course, Janecki was delighted that this vibrant and interesting woman of the world was so pleased. She allowed the designer, who had become a personal friend, to experiment and not worry about being safe. “I like the character and personality that the condominium reflects,” says Janecki. “As Jeanette told me, “Make it interesting—boring I am not!’”