A Mid-century house celebrates Miami’s unhurried way of life
For its interior designer, Jean-louis Deniot, this house in Miami Beach is something of an anomaly. “In Florida, you have Hispanic-style, Art Deco or contemporary homes,” he notes. “But there aren’t really many Mid- Century residences.” Currently the abode of a tech entrepreneur, the structure of the house certainly looks more like something one would find in Palm Springs, California— and it is a style Deniot loves. “I’ve visited many houses there that were for sale,” he says. “There are some incredible places, 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.”
Located directly on Indian Creek, the fourbedroom house was originally designed in 1951 by architect Robert Nordin. When Deniot first saw the place, 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.” The home had not been repainted since the 1950s, 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 air-conditioning vents. For Deniot, 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. The interior was completely gutted and the layout tweaked. “It was a very natural process,” says Deniot. “Today, it’s difficult to imagine it was ever any different.” Notably, he moved the laundry room to the bedroom wing and paid particular attention to the corridor that leads to the nocturnal areas, as previously it was only 2.3 metres high—and incredibly dark. “It was the tunnel of death,” he quips. “A kind of bowling alley, but without the bowls and skittles, and without any of the excitement.” Deniot 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 have to do is switch on the lights,” he says.
When it came to decoration, one of Deniot’s main goals was to create a sense of place. “Miami is fun and extremely amusing, and there was a need for that notion of it being relaxed and by the sea,” he says. The designer is a big fan of the city—he loves the mix of people and the fact that it is so laid-back. “You don’t need to be introduced or have insider addresses to understand life here,” he asserts. “Anyone can come and get the most out of Miami.” 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 North Terminal of 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 Deniot. “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 than in the all-white often associated with Miami Beach. “The light is too strong here,” he explains. “Plus, over time, pure white starts to look dirty.” Throughout the home, there are also vivid flashes of blue to
evoke the proximity of the ocean. The most striking ones come 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,” opines Deniot. “In the Hamptons, it’s a navy and in Tangiers, it’s a petrol blue. I associate Miami with Yves Klein blue.” A large number of furnishings comes from Deniot’s debut collection for 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 Archibald Quincy Jones’s 1951 Brody House in Beverly Hills, back when it belonged to his friend Ellen Degeneres. It certainly adds a decadent touch—but more than anything, Deniot wanted to endow the interior with a racy atmosphere. “If you bring a date back here and nothing happens, then you know you have a problem,” he quips. That, however, doesn’t 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. “It’s not true that because something is laid-back and relaxed, it can’t also be beautiful.”
LEFT TO RIGHT Interior designer Jean-louis Deniot; the home features a mix of custom designs, vintage finds, as well as versatile pieces from Deniot’s debut collection for Baker
LEFT TO RIGHT Pale grey walls form the perfect canvas to the abode’s eclectic collection of art and decorative objects; vivid flashes of blue evoke the home’s proximity to the ocean