An Oceanfront Vista with a View


At thirty feet in elevation, Highland Beach, where Teppo Uuranniemi built this home for his family, is the highest point in Palm Beach County. And that’s just the first of the home’s many intriguing aspects. Teppo purchased the property from baseball Hall-of-Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who in turn purchased it from Sam Snead, the professional golfer (though rumor has it Yaz won it from Snead in a poker game). During final negotiations, Teppo reports saying to Yazstreminski, “I’ve got one more thing to ask of you: I’d like to have three autographed baseballs.” Yaz responded, “It’s a deal!”


Teppo was living in Georgia at the time but desirous of relocating to Florida. When he found this property in Highland Beach, a three-mile strip of land near Boca Raton between the Atlantic Ocean and Intercoastal Waterway, he knew they were onto something special. “It’s a neat little area,” says Teppo. “It doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s just its own little community with its own police force.” A developer who builds high-end, fully-furnished luxury homes, Teppo immediately realized that the value of the property was greater than the house itself. The house would have to go. “It was a shame to tear it down, but we wanted something larger and more in keeping with the site.” He spent the next three to four years deciding exactly how to proceed. After touring numerous homes, he settled on an architect renowned throughout Palm Beach County for his signature style. Likewise, he enlisted the help of a builder and designer with established reputations. “I got everybody involved in the planning phase,” says Teppo, “and put all their thoughts together. You can never plan too thoroughly.”

“I got everybody involved in the planning phase... You can never plan too thoroughly.”

He “directed the designers to go more into a California-style home, something less like south Florida and more like Spanish mission from the ’20s or ’30s. That’s the mood I was after. “I wanted to steer away from new and modern in favor of classic and elegant.” The designers flew to Malibu to get a better feel for the Spanish-mission look; they came back full of ideas and ready to work. Obtaining approvals from a myriad of agencies, including the Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee,took about a year and a half. “Once we got the go-ahead to build, we started planning for the demolition of Yaz’s home.” Teppo, meanwhile, continued to develop and define their own idea of home. “Every room, every location should be inviting,” he explains. “You should be able to sit down and be comfortable in every room despite its size. A house should not feel like a colossal mansion — it should feel like a home first.” Initially, he had a lot of input in the project, making sure his vision was executed to his satisfaction. As time passed, however, he grew increasingly confident in the team he had assembled. “After a while, I just let them run with it. They accomplished it perfectly.”


“Our intent,” says Teppo, “was for the house to be inviting yet mysterious. Even before you drive in the gate, the house begins feeding you. The motor court draws you in, invites you in, and the house just keeps unfolding after that. There are so many details and great surprises along the way. You’re never bored. It’s a great walk-through.” The intrigue starts at the motor court’s hand-wrought iron gate. “Its perfection lies in its imperfection,” says Teppo. “If you truly make something by hand, it is not perfect. The scrollwork is hand beaten, so you can’t expect it to be the same every time.” He built the rest of the house in much the same way, seeking out artisans “who took their time doing things the old-fashioned way. Their work is always understated…you never get the feeling it’s overdone.”

The motor court itself is paved with Turkish travertine and bordered by a dry-stack wall of Carolina stone. To the left, a running brook meanders among a shaded garden of tropical plants; to the right, a terraced courtyard beckons you to step inside. Also to the right, a stepping-stone pathway incorporating different height elements winds its way up and down to the beach. An archway topped with Mexican-shellstone header marks the transition from motor court to open-air foyer, where guests are once again greeted by the pleasing sight and sound of water, this time from a waterfall streaming down a handcrafted copper sculpture. A doorway opens onto the lower level and the commercial elevator serving all three floors, while a spiral stone staircase leads to the main entrance on the second story. “As soon as you walk through the doors, you have the main attraction,” says Teppo: “the Atlantic Ocean.” Intentionally designed to showcase the magnificent view, the entry offers an unimpeded field of vision extending across the main living room, through the French doors lining the eastern wall, and beyond the loggia to the pool and ocean. “The day that Atlantic Ocean doesn’t make you feel small…” says Teppo, his voice tapering off as he contemplates the panoramic vista. “It’s a majestic, ever-changing work of art, at times angry and stormy, at others peaceful and calm.”

A rounded shower links his bath and hers, a decidedly romantic retreat with balcony, claw-foot tub, and mosaic-covered walls. Shop Bed & Bath.


As promised, the house unfolds detail by enchanting detail. Teppo delights in calling attention to each one, lest anything go unnoticed: The Mexican-shellstone columns and handcarved mantels. The vanities and bowls unique to each bath. The Italian-glass mosaics sprinkled here and there on columns, floors, and walls. The handpainted barrel ceiling. The granite-and-marble dining-room floor paved in a pattern that’s reiterated on the ceiling. The contrast between the kitchen’s sleek stainless steel and earthy river rock. “The his-and-her master baths and closets are in total symmetry,” Teppo explains, “connected by a rounded shower made from one piece of glass.” The “hers” bath is a decidedly romantic retreat with private balcony, claw-foot tub, and walls covered in antiqued wallpaper, Italian-glass mosaics, or elaborately beveled mirrors. “There’s so much detail just in this one room.”

The powder room is another of Teppo’s favorites. Here, Venetian plaster was applied by hand, then painted in a leaf pattern. The mirror, like those in the baths and closets, is beveled with intricate, delicate designs, resembling more of a collage of mirrors than one single piece of glass. “Everything blends together: the walls, ceiling, mirrors, backsplashes, crown mouldings, everything. It seems very insignificant compared to the entire house, but every detail contributes to the overall effect.” His favorite room, however, the one perhaps best typifying the ingenuity that is the home’s hallmark, is the combination club room and theater. Ironically, it’s located on the lower level, which has no windows whatsoever and hence no view of the ocean. Yet the absence of natural light “works to our advantage,” says Teppo, giving the rooms “the dark and moody atmosphere of an upscale club space. Most of our casual entertaining takes place in the kitchen and family room, but as the sun sets, we drop down to the lower floor. It has a very welcoming effect.”

The room serves a multitude of functions. “We might have guys watching sports in the afternoon, then use it as an elegant evening entertainment space.” Teppo and his wife had the foresight to design the room with just such diversity in mind. “So many of the home theaters we’d seen had what I call ‘bus-row seating’ that isn’t very user friendly. I wanted more of a living-room-type theater with sofas, armchairs, and Italian carpets, a place for family entertainment and lounging, not just popcorn and a movie.” At the touch of a button, motorized mahogany pocket doors divide the room in half, allowing each area to be used simultaneously for separate purposes. So advanced is this feature and the room’s dazzling array of cutting-edge entertainment options that they were recently highlighted in “The Robb Report.”


Yet for all its attractions, the club room-and-theater still can’t hold a candle to the main event. When asked how he enjoys spending time at home, Teppo responds, “Anytime you have a home on the ocean, there’s nothing that competes with immediate access to a walk on the beach.

“Two steps out the back door, and you see the majestic form of the Atlantic Ocean. The house is incredibly quiet, but as soon as you walk out the door, it’s one of two things: either a huge roar or a peaceful quiet. It’s beyond compare. Everything else could be created anywhere.”

Being situated at the highest altitude in Florida gives the Uuranniemi home even more to offer than an unrivaled view of the ocean.

“We’re nearly on a mountaintop at 30 feet,” Teppo explains. “This location provides great proximity to the ocean, yet great privacy and protection from storms.”

As the family’s various schedules allow, “everybody’s outside by the pool. The grass space and pool area are total sunshine.”

“We're nearly on a mountaintop at 30 feet, this location provides great proximity to the ocean, yet great privacy and protection from storms.”

As the family’s various schedules allow, “everybody’s outside by the pool. The grass space and pool area are total sunshine.”

For a shadier, more restful experience, Teppo prefers the loggia. Replete with fireplace and comfy seating, “it’s like the indoors — only with oceanside atmosphere,” an ideal spot for settling down with a good read. Never one to sit still when there’s a new project to be undertaken, Teppo is already at work on his family’s next home, and he has three more houses in the planning. Continually delighted at how perfectly their architect, builder, and designer fulfilled their intention, Teppo and his family find that “even after all these years, we’re never bored with this house. It just keeps surprising us! We’re pleased with what we accomplished. It was a fantastic project.” Oh, there’s one final surprise: Teppo thought Yaz had forgotten his promise until Fed Ex delivered a fat, lumpy package three months later. “Highest priced baseballs I ever bought,” he chuckles.

Home Highlights

BUILT: Late 90s

ARCHITECTURE: The mood of classic ’20s-’30s Spanish-mission style

LOCATION: Oceanfront property within three-mile strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Intercoastal Waterway

LIVING SPACE: 14,300 square feet (“Yet it feels like a home, not a colossal mansion”)

FAVORITE ROOM: Hers is her bath, his is the game room AT-HOME PASTIMES — “Nothing competes with a walk on the beach.”

HOUSEBUILDING TIP: “Planning, planning, planning — and communicating. Get everybody involved in the process. It’s a lot easier to change the home on paper.”