Latin Rhythm

Good Design Knows No National Boundaries — Just Ask Interior Designer Pepe Calderin

Story Credits

Interior Design
Pepe Calderin and Mayleen Marrero, Pepe Calderin Design, Miami, FL
Barry Grossman, Weston, FL
Landscape Architecture
Juan Carlos Arzola, JC Enterprise Services, Sunrise, FL
Pedro Rangel, Sunset Contractors, Inc., Miami, FL
Text by
Marina Brown
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I t is no secret that the cultural line between the Americas — its Latin and its Northern counterparts — has become more blurred in recent years. Everything from fashion to music finds adherents on both continents and in between. The same holds true for architecture and design.

When interior designer Pepe Calderin, a native of Cuba, was asked by his clients to design and remodel a 4,000-square-foot home in Doral, Fla., the couple brought with them the sensibilities of both Venezuela and Cuba. Calderin and his lead designer, Mayleen Marrero, sought to translate the owners’ vision into something with both the alegria de vivir (joy of living) of the warmer climes and the sleek South Florida styling that plays to any cultural aesthetic.

But first there were the “brick and mortar” issues. “The home was about 20 years old,” Marrero says. “The ceilings jutted at a variety of angles and the stairway was not up to code.” Calderin and Marrero moved the front entry, designed a new stairway and built it all on a platform. Still, the angled ceilings, which ranged from 10 feet to 14 feet, could prove daunting to integrate into a residence that had left the last century behind. “Not so for Pepe,” Marrero says. “One of his signature elements is innovative ceiling design.”

By floating a large panel overhead and caching tiny LED lights behind it, the eye is pulled to the center of the living room and what lies below — an astounding, cantilevered fireplace wall covered in white onyx. Weighing in at nearly 400 lbs., the hand-selected slabs are suspended by structural steel with an inner wall of Plexiglass, between which is the delicate illumination.

“Because the onyx takes on a variety of colors as the sun dances on it during the day, or if it’s lit from behind at night, the area rug combines not only the owners’ favorite color, turquoise, but a range of beiges, yellows and oranges from the stone,” Marrero says. Glas Italia’s mirrored occasional tables and Calderin Design’s own glass cocktail table provide plenty of reflected sparkle.

A study in darks, whites and the glowing stone, the elevated dining area belies its size with what appears to be the barely supported glass dining table. With a view toward the front entry, diners are surrounded by warm wenge paneling and the soft glow of white onyx.

Not content with the singularity of the fireplace wall, nor of the theatrical three-step elevation, this design duo introduced yet another eye-popping feature: a mirrored, rippling water element nestled in a stacked travertine wall on the landing. “Water is very important to our design, as are the organic surfaces of wenge wood and stone,” Marrero says. As if continuing a Feng Shui checklist, more reflecting surfaces are found in room-opening glass railings by Empire Metal.

To the original structure, the design team both took and gave back. “We added a cabana room, and an outdoor gazebo and pool. The cabana room, which flows conveniently onto the pool area and outdoor kitchen/gazebo, has family and fun written all over it. “The couple has a school-age child — with many cousins,” Marrero says. With its Paul Bunyan-size sofa from B&B Italia that seems meant for jumping, the bold punch of primary reds also suggests a place for some “man-cave” time. The elongated oval of the ceiling’s millwork gives the illusion of a soaring dome with LED lighting that once again proves its magic.

Outside, the balcony overlooks the 56-foot-long pool complete with its spa and soaking bar. Just beyond is the shimmering lake and swaying imported palms that gently ring the water. And judging by the pure joy of living found in this redesigned home, soft nights of music and dance, entertainment and laughter will continue to bind the Americas for many years to come.