The Flamboyant builder may have lived up to the hype with this engineering marvel.
He says it’s his “final masterpiece,” and Frank McKinney outdid himself accordingly at its “reveal” party, making his entrance rappelling down a rope from a hovering helicopter to the rooftop of the South Palm Beach oceanfront house. And the house, with a sale price of $17.5 million, is almost as dramatic.
First of all, it has all the McKinney trademarks: sexy LED lighting in strategic spots, exotic countertops and over-the-top details. Like the cloudy white “jelly” sphere, an aquarium for translucent jellyfish that change colors with the lighting. Or the $2,800 Venetian Red hand-blown glass sink in a powder room, or the “single spine” floating mahogany staircase that cost $380,000.
The ocean-facing side of the house on both stories is comprised of a series of massive 12- foot sliding “pocket” doors that can retreat into the wall, opening the house entirely to the pool deck and ocean below. A third story is a fully equipped rooftop deck, with commanding ocean vistas and piped-in music. The house totals 7,850 square feet (6,001 square feet under air).
So all the bells and whistles are there—the snow-white porcelain floors, the Wi-Fi-enabled luxe kitchen appliances, a glass elevator that is designed to look like the Apollo 11 space capsule cockpit.
But the real sex appeal this time around is not just the pretty details; it’s the “post-tension” construction and engineering. “This much glass in the house could cause it to be really hot; if you put a thermometer [next to the glass] when the sun comes up in the morning, it can read 120 degrees,” McKinney says. “The engineers installed the return air ‘linears’ [near the top of the windows] so even before it gets into the room, the hot air is sucked up into there—and it keeps the room so much cooler.”
McKinney says there are 600,000 pounds of concrete in the house, and 13 miles of steel and cable. It is 20 feet above the beach and is engineered to withstand 170-mph winds. The 800-pound glass doors can be easily pushed with one hand into the walls, instantly opening the house.
“The pretty stuff is what we want to read about, but because of the way this house is built, the town of South Palm Beach asked if they could use this as a hurricane command center,” McKinney says. “It is a hurricane shelter, it is a bomb shelter, it’s a vault; it’s that structurally sound.”
McKinney admits the modern five-bedroom, five-bath house is the best one he’s ever built, and he’s sticking to his story that it is his last.
“Most people will retire when they’re burnt out,” he says. “They get to the end of their careers and can’t wait to go to the conference room and collect their cake and their Rolex and walk out the door. For me, I’ve never loved what I do more, and I’ve never been better at it; this is the best house we’ve ever done. I kind of see myself as a Renaissance man, [someone] at the peak of his passion taking that passion and redirecting it in some other direction. I’m just going to redirect it, that’s all.”
McKinney isn’t sure whether he will branch into art or something else, and he still owes his publisher two books (he has written six). He considers his work in Haiti building villages for the impoverished an enduring calling and a vocation.
“I’m a believer in that passage for the Bible, Luke chapter 12 verse 48, ‘To whom much is entrusted, much is expected.’ That is my life mantra. You don’t have to be religious to understand that’s a good life mantra. It’s South Florida.
“Some people get it; some people choose to jam their garage with more cars, to jam their closet with more clothes. … I don’t care about that stuff. I feel a responsibility and stewardship and a calling to take what I do for a living—I build houses for people who really don’t need another one—this is a luxury purchase— and we take the proceeds and, along with the donors, we provide for the poorest people at the total opposite end of the spectrum.”
McKinney is building his 27th self-sustaining village in Haiti, and estimates over the past 16 years he and other donors have contributed more than $7 million to the cause. It’s the kind of work he knows he will continue, no matter what direction his life takes.
“I believe God rewards responsible stewards, and if you’re a responsible steward for the blessings he’s given you—my opinion? He will reward you with more,” he says.