A 1950s Coral Gables Ranch House Boasts Avant-Garde Art


With 30 years of design experience behind her, designer, art collector and homeowner Lourdes Fernandez-Grattan knows what she likes when she sees it—be it an avant-garde painting or a chaise that doubles as sculpture. But when her realtor pulled up to this 1950s ranch house years ago, the Cuba-born designer wasn’t so sure. “I said, ‘no way,’ ” Fernandez-Grattan recalls the first time she laid eyes on the once bluish-gray bungalow. “There was absolutely no curb appeal.” But looking up, she noticed eight stately oaks shading the property, and after seeing the large living room inside, she “saw a lot of potential,” she recalls. It didn’t hurt that the home also features 22-foot-high ceilings in the living room—an added perk for her 61/2-foot-tall husband, Patrick.

Situated in Ponce Davis near Coral Gables, the home captures the unique character of its historic neighborhood. Lush with trees, larger lots and a family-friendly vibe, the community complements Fernandez-Grattan’s eclectic nature as well as the needs of her family, which includes 10-year-old son Patrick Ryan. “We’re a very outgoing, social family,” she says. “And we’re so close with our neighbors that we travel together. It’s like a throwback to the ’70s—the kids all play together outside.”

That’s a good thing for young Patrick because stepping inside this home is like walking into a gallery filled with seemingly untouchable art and furniture. “This house is definitely more my personality,” Fernandez-Grattan says with a laugh, “and I’m lucky because my husband loves my taste and lets me do whatever I want. And my son is finally adjusting to living around it.”

When she first purchased the home, she embarked on a vast renovation, bringing Karla Ortez-Colindres of LandStudio on board to help her redesign the landscaping, which includes a gated and walled entry, and a pool. She also added an ipe wood roof detail that intersects from the front entry to the rear, where it tops a walkway to the pool. Now painted a crisp, refreshing white with a contrasting black tile roof, the home reflects the interior’s modern aesthetic … with one glaring difference.

While the exterior remains rather quiet and unassuming, the interior shouts with its cutting-edge art and statement furniture, such as Bert Rodriguez’s neon floor sculpture that reads “kill yourself,” Luis Gispert’s untitled (Zombie) cheerleader print or Marc Newson’s glossy white sculpture-chaise in the living room. “Some of my friends come over and don’t get it,” Fernandez-Grattan says, referring to her oft-controversial choices. “I’ve been collecting art as long as I’ve been designing, so when I go to a show, I like to see who’s up-and-coming.”

What began in her 20s as a collection of predominantly South American and Cuban art has amassed to an abundance of contemporary works by innovative artists Fernandez-Grattan has discovered at shows and galleries around the world: New York’s Armory Show, Art Basel Miami Beach, Frieze London and Miami’s Fredric Snitzer, to name a few. “All of the art and furniture in my home has been collected over so many years that I don’t eliminate any of it,” she says. “I like to collect items that are iconic. I always wait to find the right piece and then keep it.”

To maintain the interior’s flow and focus, Fernandez-Grattan expanded the hallways and bedrooms, combined two baths into one and redid the entire kitchen. She chose a crisp white for the walls and sandblasted volcanic rock flooring in the common areas because of its “texture and movement,” she says. Dark walnut flooring in the bedrooms and black oak cabinetry in the kitchen and master bath add Zen-like warmth. “I like clean, linear symmetry and modernity with an edge,” she says.

Such straightforward finishes put the art and furniture center stage. But with names such as Knoll, Eames, Frank Gehry, Christian Liaigre, and Isamu Noguchi, who needs the spotlight? “I buy pieces because I love them and then find a place for them,” Fernandez-Grattan says. “I don’t like to commission pieces for a particular space.”

And what better way to appreciate such beautiful works than in the natural light. Soaked in sun from 10 French doors and floor-to-ceiling windows in nearly every room, Fernandez-Grattan’s home shines bright, much like her discerning collection.