House Beautiful: Cover Story June 2014
Decorating a Colorful and Modern Miami Beach Apartment
Designer Robert Passal explains how he gave his modern Miami beach apartment a colorful and traditional twist.
Barbara King: You've put a traditional twist on modern in a manner that could inspire all sorts of surprising possibilities.
Robert Passal: I wanted to give the apartment a contemporary feel with a nod to Miami's Art Deco vibe, but also have some old-world elements. All-modern, steel-and-glass spaces aren't my style. Those interiors so often strike me as unapproachable. If one thing is out of line, one pillow moved, it throws the whole room off. I just can't live that way. I like richly layered rooms that aren't defined by one look, one approach. At my office, we have an acronym that we apply to everything we do — MIP, for Making It Personal. I've furnished this place with a highly personalized mix of goods that provide a sense of comfort and luxury.
Not to mention a sense of the many personalities modern can have: refreshing, colorful, sophisticated…and all in one space. There are a few quirky touches as well. Those Louis XVI–style chairs are upholstered in fabric I cut from an African caftan. I love the fresh take on a classic form. Most of the sofa pillows are made with flea market scarves from the 1970s and '80s
That's a rather offbeat take on a sofa, too. The idea was to seamlessly incorporate a casual living/dining space in a room that is very long and narrow. So I designed a 16-foot sofa to accommodate a living area at one end and a dining area at the other, functioning like a banquette. It's also spacious enough to sleep two people when we're overflowing with guests, particularly when there are children here. The casualness of the room comes from the loosely placed furniture arrangement, the mismatched dining chairs, and the pictures hung salon-style on the wall.
There's another ingenious use of space as soon as you walk in the door. Yes, my little home office! The table is a handy desk for me when I need to work on my iPad or laptop. The entry gives you a hint of what's to come in the rest of the apartment — the white, the blue, the mix. I love the contrast of the very textural 1950s Jean Royère shell sconces against the stark cleanliness of the modern art. The round sisal rug takes the edge off the square space, creating a more natural, inviting atmosphere.
Are all these blues inspired by the ocean that's just beyond the sliding glass doors? No, I'm just a blue person. For a long time I had a hankering to do an entire home in blue and white, but every client I ran it past thought I was nuts. So I decided I would do it for myself. Most of the walls and all of the floors are white, and a range of blues are carried throughout the apartment. The palette is juxtaposed with punches of bright, clear colors, nothing muddied or muted. Pure colors speak a language all their own. They really make a room vibrant, without screaming at you.
You also carried the palette — and your richly layered aesthetic — out to the patio. My partner, Antonio, and I spend most of our time out there when we escape to Miami. It's where we eat most of our meals, hang out, read, entertain, get some sun. Living in Manhattan, we're not accustomed to outdoor rooms. Just being able to open the doors and walk outside is a luxury that we don't take for granted. We're in nature! We lounge about and watch yachts going by or just listen to the tides. The patio connects to a garden that Antonio, who is a garden designer, created, and it's lush with greenery. It's very secluded, so we really feel like we're away on holiday. We're completely transported
Why not just put a bed out there and stay all night long?We sort of have. That double chaise is the size of a twin bed — we call it 'the nap zone.'
While we're on the subject of beds — is that actually velvet on the guest room headboard?It is. I love to use velvet, even in a warm climate, because no other fabric absorbs color with such intensity. I see guest rooms as a gift of escape from the ordinary. A fantasy getaway. Who doesn't want to live in a fantasy for an evening or two? I designed the headboard for those who want to escape reality with a book. The design is based on the back of a sofa, so guests can lean back and sink into the plushness.
Or they can escape to the bath. It's super-sexy. My thought was to fashion a cocoon-like bathroom that was dynamic and unexpected, but at the same time cool and serene. I like to set up spaces where you go from light to dark, dark to light, to create subtle drama. The overscale photograph by Hendrik Kerstens in the bath adds to the impact.
Why didn't you treat yourself to a velvet headboard?I always want my guest room to be really sumptuous, but I felt like our bedroom could be a little more pared down. I like the strong lines of the modern bed frame, and the way it visually encloses the space.
What's the one word you'd use to describe your apartment? Comfortable. It's truly comfortable.
Comfort means different things to different people. What does it mean to you? Comfort is making a house a home, making it feel approachable, making it personal: MIP. And, as you know, there's no place like home.
So you can put your feet up here. Oh my gosh, anywhere!