Home, making it as fresh as a sea breeze.
For its interior designer, Jean-louis Deniot, this house in Miami Beach is something of an anomaly. “In Florida, you have either Hispanic, art deco or contemporary homes,” he says. “There aren’t really many mid-century residences.” This structure certainly looks more like something you’d find in Palm Springs – a style Jean-louis loves. “There are some incredible places there, but the problem is that Palm Springs is really quite isolated, whereas here you’re in the centre of Miami, at the heart of the action, and also on the water.”
Jean-louis is a big fan of the city. He loves the mix of people (“from pensioners to the local drag queens”) and the fact that it’s so laidback. “You don’t need to be introduced or to have insider addresses to understand life here,” he says. “Everyone can come and get the most out of Miami.”
He decorated this 430-squaremetre, four-bedroom house for a tech entrepreneur. Located directly on Indian Creek, it was originally designed in 1951 by the architect Robert M. Nordin. When Jean-louis first saw it, it was in quite a sorry state. “I had the impression it was a Sleeping Beauty, but one that had become quite slovenly,” he recalls. “I wanted to save it more than anything. It was almost a conservation project.” It hadn’t been repainted since the 50s, had blue floor tiles with “fake swimming pool reflections”, a fluffy brown carpet and floral wallpapers. There were also lots of drop ceilings and visible airconditioning vents. For Jean-louis, certain elements also seemed incongruous. The front of the house, for instance, had been closed off with a solid concrete wall and there was no direct access to the garden from the master suite.
He completely gutted the interior and tweaked the layout. “Today, it’s difficult to imagine it was ever any different.” He notably moved the laundry to the bedroom wing and paid particular attention to the corridor that leads to the bedrooms. Previously, it was only 2.3-metres high and incredibly dark. “It was like a bowling alley, but without the bowls and skittles, and without any of the excitement.” He not only recovered as much height as possible, but also installed a series of skylights. “When you’re in a summer house, the last thing you want to do is have to switch on the lights,” he says.
For the decoration, one of his main goals was to give it a sense of place. “Miami’s fun and extremely amusing,” says Jean-louis, “and there needed to be that notion of it being relaxed and by the sea.” His choice of terrazzo for the flooring both inside and out was inspired by artist Michele Oka Doner’s installation, A Walk on the Beach, in the city’s international airport, which features bronze shells, seaweed and other marine forms set in a dark grey epoxy terrazzo. “In Miami, you’re often barefoot,” says Jean-louis. “So, if you can’t use it here, I don’t know where you can.”
Many of the walls, meanwhile, were painted a pale grey rather that the all-white so often associated with Miami Beach. “The light is too strong here. Plus, over time, pure white starts to look
“WHEN YOU’RE IN A SUMMER HOUSE, THE LAST THING YOU WANT TO DO IS HAVE TO SWITCH ON THE LIGHTS.”
dirty,” he says. Throughout, there are also several vivid flashes of blue to evoke the proximity of the ocean. The most striking is by way of an Hervé Van der Straeten lacquered cabinet in the master bedroom and a pair of vintage dining chairs in the kitchen. “Different places have their own blue,” he says. “In the Hamptons, it’s a navy, in Tangiers a petrol blue. I always associate Miami with Yves Klein blue.”
A large number of the furnishings come from Jean-louis’s debut collection for the American-based manufacturer, Baker. For him, they offer great versatility. “The pieces are like chameleons,” he says. “They really blend in or stand out depending on the finishes you choose.”
The five-metre cantilevered sofa in the sitting room, meanwhile, was inspired by a visit he made to architect A. Quincy Jones’s 1951 Brody House in Beverly Hills back when it belonged to his friend, Ellen Degeneres. It certainly adds quite a decadent touch and more than anything, the designer wanted to endow the interior with a racy atmosphere. “If you bring a date back here and nothing happens,” he laughs, “then you know you have a problem!”
That, however, does not preclude it from exuding the same effortless elegance as the rest of his work. “There’s a definite aesthetic sensibility here, which is unfortunately so often lacking in Miami,” he says. “Just because something is laidback and relaxed doesn’t mean it can’t also be beautiful!” #
“DIFFERENT PLACES HAVE THEIR OWN BLUE. I ALWAYS ASSOCIATE MIAMI WITH YVES KLEIN BLUE.”