Tommy Hilfiger and Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger are among the many who are setting up life in Southern Florida. Over a Zoom call, the couple tell THE DAILY what they love most about Palm Beach, where you’re likely to find them, and whether they’re still checking on those frigid New York weather forecasts!
What do you love about Palm Beach?
Tommy Hilfiger: It’s the lifestyle! The weather! We love being near the water, palm trees. It’s very serene. There’s not a lot of traffic, beautiful landscaping, water on both sides. There’s great shopping, great restaurants, sports activities—it’s like the ultimate of what one would want!
Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger: At our age! It’s calm and really beautiful. It’s like living in a small village. It’s less dense than Miami. We’ve been going back and forth to Miami. It’s just peaceful. It feels European, and I missed that because I spent most of my adult life in Europe. I love that!
It’s easy to love! Do you remember your first time coming to the Palm Beach area?
Dee: My parents always had a place in Boca Raton, so I used to go to Palm Beach when I was young. I actually dated someone from here, so I was familiar with it. I was in my early twenties when I first started coming.
Tommy: I came probably 20 years ago, but just drove through. We were here looking at mall locations. I heard about Worth Avenue. Shopping Worth was exciting because of all the small shops you don’t see in malls. The beauty of the landscaping and the homes mesmerized me. I had a dream of living here at some point in time.
How do you dress when you’re in Palm Beach?
Dee: Right now, it’s pretty much the same. We’re in lockdown mode. I have sweats on. I dress in more summer dresses. Coats and sweaters are put away.
Tommy: I’m going out to lunch at the yacht club, so I’m dressed up today. We don’t have any winter clothing here. I would say the majority of our wardrobe is in storage right now. I don’t even know what we’ll do with it. We’ll be spending most of our time here. It’s nice to not worry about the weather and wear lightweight summery clothes all the time.
Palm Beach has specific colors that belong only there!
Dee: Like pink and green!? Exactly! What are the colors that remind you of the area? [Tommy gets up to show green and white drapery]
Tommy: Like this drapery? [Laughs] Lilly Pulitzer pink and green! We were just watching people play tennis on a grass court and they were all in tennis whites! It looks like you are going back in time. I’m seeing a lot more young people here. Years ago, you would never see anyone dressed in black. Now, you are seeing a mix of people who might be wearing fashion that’s a bit more international. You do see brighter colors and prints. You see a lot of beachwear.
How do you approach design in Florida compared to Connecticut?
Dee: It’s completely different!
Tommy: We’re embarking upon designing a home we bought, which will take about a year and a half. The process is interesting because it’s definitely going to be different than our home in Connecticut and different than our home in Miami.
Dee: The process is the same, but the choices are different. You want to keep things light and tropical.
Tommy: Indigenous to the area.
Dee: It’s bright, light, and happy! We’re using Slim Aarons as an inspiration. Palm Beach is a town that holds on to its heritage. As Tommy said about the people dressed in all white, that scene could have been from 50 or 60 years ago. It’s fun to be in a town that’s…
Tommy: Real-world old heritage.
Who are some of your favorite local artists who’ve inspired you for the house?
Tommy: I don’t know if it’s any one artist, but you could look at David Hockney to get a vibe of colorful tropical life. Dee was saying one of her favorites was Gauguin. It’s also a blank canvas for us to now do something that is different than anything we’ve done in the past.
Is there any book about Palm Beach that you love?
Dee: Hundreds! I have every single one of them!
Tommy: There’s a fairly new Assouline book about Palm Beach that’s interesting. There’s also Palm Beach Splendor: The Architecture of Jeffery W. Smith. We have a lot of books on architecture and some of the old homes designed by Addison Mizner and Maurice Fatio.
Dee: That’s another quality I love about Palm Beach. It’s rich in history, and a lot of these homes have been here for ages. I think there’s a close connection between Palm Beach and its history. My son is going on a school trip today called The Little Red Schoolhouse, and he has to dress in 1800s clothing and he can’t put his food in plastic. It has to all be authentic. They have to bring fruits like oranges that were indigenous of what people would be eating. He’s learning that. There’s a close tie to the past and that old-school charm.
What are your favorite restaurants in the area?
Tommy: A lot of New York restaurants—we like Sant Ambroeus, Le Bilboquet, and La Goulue. They’re all packed every night. Palm Beach Grill is excellent, too.
How’d you entertain yourselves during non-COVID times?
Tommy: Dinners more than anything else. We went out on a friend’s boat two weeks ago, which was fun. We love the beach!
Tommy: We haven’t really indulged in golf.
Dee: Not yet. Tommy: It’s pretty time-consuming. We’re busy all the time. We’re busy with work and Zooming. It’s not like all of a sudden we have all this free time.
Dee: It’s odd to see people playing golf here because we’re on Zooms all day. They’re obviously retired. Anyone who isn’t retired doesn’t have time to spend half the day on the golf course. We’re not there yet. Maybe in a couple of decades we’ll be there.
Tommy: We stayed at The Breakers for a while and you see people going on and off the golf course and you think,“Where do these people have all this time?” Eventually we’ll maybe have more time, but not now!
Dee: I somehow doubt that. You know Tommy! Tommy: I’m a little afraid of boredom! What are your eating habits like? Tommy: We could be healthier! I think that’s just a COVID hangover. After we get settled, we’ll get back into a routine of being healthier. We do take great walks on the beach in the morning, and there’s a pathway around the lake. I did a little biking last week. Dee: We’re on the COVID diet where we look at our clock and it’s 4 p.m. Is it martini time yet?
Do you have a favorite street?
Dee: Worth Avenue!
Tommy: South Ocean is great! Being near the lake is beautiful. The houses on South County are beautiful.
Dee: There’s a lake trail that’s wonderful that you can walk. There’s a lot of dogs here!
Tommy: Dee recently said it seems like everyone has white dogs!
Dee: There’s more dogs than people here. I swear! I’ve never seen more dogs in my life! What’s your ideal Palm Beach temperature?
Tommy: 80 degrees. Dee likes it warmer.
Dee: I was going to say 78! This is reminding me of The Newlywed Game!
Do you check the temperature in NYC while you’re there?
Tommy: All the time!
Dee: First thing in the morning!
What do you miss about New York when you’re there?
Tommy: We’re not missing New York right now. Maybe at some point in time we’ll miss it when things get back to normal. The last time we were there was cold and rainy. It was depressing.
Dee: And closed! I miss my friends.
Tommy: New York is New York, so we’ll always have a love for it.
What’re you feeling optimistic about in the coming months?
Tommy: The vaccine to go widespread and the roaring twenties to come back, where people are out and enjoying themselves, going to parties, dressing. Obviously buying new clothes wouldn’t be a bad thing for the people in the fashion business. I think people are anxious to get out of their sweats, get dressed up, mingle with their friends, and maybe celebrate.
Dee: One of my girlfriends here is Iris Apfel, who is 99. She hasn’t left her apartment in over a year. She has not gone out for a walk. Nothing. I almost have a bit of anxiety about going out again and seeing large groups of people. Even dressing. It seems like so long ago. It has been a year since we were doing that. I think I’m going to have to pace myself to reenter that. I’ve gotten so accustomed to T-shirts and sweats and my life that I’ve been living now. I’ll have to acclimate into that.
Anything you want to add about Palm Beach?
Tommy: It’s definitely getting younger! Our fear in the beginning was that maybe it was too old for us, but we see there’s a liveliness and a youthfulness bubbling up.
Dee: There’s a lot of New York that has come to Palm Beach. Everything is down here. You feel like you’re in New York!