Yes, one may eat too many sweets; imbibe too many glasses of champagne; and perhaps purchase too many pairs of shoes. But if one has exquisite taste, the ability and the space — one can never, ever have too much art. That must be the attitude of the owners of this 10,000-square-foot Italianate villa in North Miami.
Though there are four or more other residences — from France to South America — from which the homeowners can choose, it seems that they have poured their hearts into this spacious estate.
Built in 2005, yet glowing with an old-world patina, the home incorporates a gym, a library, a private sitting room, and a series of galleries and verandas that overlook three lushly landscaped lots and a sparkling, blue canal. With such an exterior setting, it could be suggested that any interior would find it difficult to compete with Mother Nature’s creations. But in this case, it would be an even match. It was up to the interior designer to create an environment that could incorporate the outside views into a vast architectural canvas specifically designed to present some of the major sculptors, painters and artisans of our time.
Colombian-born Juan Montoya, who established his eponymous design firm over 40 years ago in New York, was just the international designer for the role. With his connections to little-known quarries in Italy, artisanal upholstering workshops in France, and his own sense of color and artistic scale, he, together with the homeowners, set out to develop what is at once a home with comfort and warmth, and a brilliant backdrop for breathtaking art.
The entry sets the stage. Step through a Montoya-designed iron grill, where the arched stone portal leads to a vine-covered dromos beneath a vintage chandelier. Here, mahogany doors open their 12-foot-high arches into the theatricality of the vestibule. From the towering ceiling, a private gallery rings what could be described as an enchanted jewel box. “With the vestibule ceiling reaching to 22 feet high, I knew I had plenty of wall space to fill with art,” Montoya says. Many of the pieces were already in the owners’ collection. Montoya designed a unique pattern of yellow onyx, absolute black, and bianco perlino to ground the space. Rarer than fine marble, the onyx was found in a Montoya-selected quarry in Italy run by Georgio Porcelli. Choosing the exact colors he desired, Montoya then brought skilled artisans stateside to install the pietre dure flooring. A massive onyx pillar stands like a sculptural gemstone alone in the vestibule, while small spheres of the golden stone appear like tiny planets on the custom bianco perlino stairway with its iron work railing that winds its way to the second level.
It seems the perfect framing for the floor art of the vestibule, where a console table by French Art Deco metal artist Edgar Brandt resonates with the modern metal work of the stairway. Tucked in a niche, a realistic sculpture of black resin with what appears to be a pitcher and cloth is called the Server by Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Beside the stairway, a monumental bronze figure by Jim Dine presides, while the stairway wall presents two paintings by German artist Anselm Keifer, who incorporates ash, straw and clay into his organic works.
The living room’s scale is kept intimate with matching French sofas, covered in ivory silk that face one another across a Montoya-designed cocktail table inlaid with metal and parchment. Relaxing on the table, bronze sculptures seem implacable — a comfortable Botero and a diminutive Rodin. On one side of the space, two paintings of female figures complement each other with their difference. A chubby Botero holds flowers, while The Bather by Manolo Valdès throws her arms high.
Double doors recede to reveal the dining room, where colorful pop art by Roy Lichtenstein pulls disparate époques together. A prominent Picasso watches over an Art Deco dining ensemble illuminated by a glistening Venetian glass chandelier. The 1920s table and its serving console are topped with silver service by Jean Puiforcat.
From the library, where burled maple covers the walls and a Japanese cabinet sits comfortably beside chairs covered in silk and velvet; to the intimate Russian tea table in the master suite, whose ebony, gold and mother-of-pearl suggest a Grecian inspiration; to the breakfast area wrapped in giant slabs of blue marble from Italy that lend the beauty of their striations, the swirl of art in all its guises ignites each wall and corner throughout the home.
What allowed it to all come together? “Simplicity is the key,” Montoya says. “Careful editing, and dialogue between the owner and the designer is essential.” The result is a thrilling home filled with brilliant beauty which brings its own kind of serenity.
Interior Design by Juan Montoya, Juan Montoya Design, New York, NY
Photography by Jean Francois Jaussaud, Brussels, Belgium