Eter­nal Sun­shine

A Mid-cen­tury house cel­e­brates Mi­ami’s un­hur­ried way of life

Singapore Tatler Homes - - SANCTUARIES -

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

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