Bonnet House

Bonnet House

artist and arts patron Frederic Clay Bartlett and his second wife, Helen, may have been reluctant to see George Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte leave their home for the Chicago Institute of Art, but perhaps not too reluctant. They were fortunate to live the sort of life depicted by Seurat, except their “island” was a 35-acre Florida oasis stretching from the Atlantic to the Intracoastal Waterway. At the heart of it was their beloved Bonnet House. Built in 1920 and named for a native yellow water lily, it was modeled after traditional plantation houses to take advantage of ocean breezes and encourage easy indoor-outdoor living. The Bartletts entertained frequently, serving cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in a bamboo-lined bar and dinner in the courtyard. The loggia facing the lagoon was a favorite place to retire for post-luncheon coffee, especially after 1931, when Bartlett’s third wife, Evelyn, added two bay windows to the drawing room looking onto the loggia. This was a minor architectural move, but it had a major effect, enhancing comfort and livability indoors and out. The curved bays invited more light and air inside, and at the same time shaped the outside space into a welcoming sitting area. Sisal and rattan furnishings made the “room” complete.