Home, mak­ing it as fresh as a sea breeze.

Belle - - Miami Home - Pho­to­graphs STEPHAN JULLIARD

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


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!” #


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