Robert Frost regarded himself as more of an “awakener” than a “teacher” because he felt he merely unlocked capacities that were already inherent in his students. New York and London-based designer Tinatin Kilaberidze is of the same mind. “I like to involve my clients down to every detail,” she says. “However, I am only an instrument to understand what they could be dreaming of.”
Arguably, two of her most eager pupils are John Brock, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, and his wife, Mary. During the past 20 years, Kilaberidze has gently guided the couple along the design continuum, inspiring greater risk-taking with homes in Connecticut, Brussels and Atlanta. “Tinatin is such a great teacher,” says Mary. “I can’t believe how much I’ve learned about design. Working with someone who can really give you the background and insight is so important.”
The trio’s latest undertaking, an apartment in Key Biscayne (pulled together simultaneously with their Atlanta penthouse), takes them further than they’ve ever gone together. It focuses more resolutely on assembling an important collection of furnishings by such designers as Gabriella Crespi, Piero Fornasetti, Chris Lehrecke, Patrick Naggar, Jens Risom, and Hervé Van der Straeten, among others—much of it with the helpful connoisseurship of eminent dealers Ralph Pucci and Bernd Goeckler.
But any collection needs a context, and for Kilaberidze that begins with a location. “Every place calls for a very specific approach to design,” she explains. “I don’t like to make spaces artificially inappropriate to the environment. In Miami, it’s all about color and the ocean; everything is so vibrant and bold.”
Hence the palette, which begins with tans and browns at the condominium’s center. “They’re the colors of sand,” says Kilaberidze, “and as you move toward the windows, the light makes the colors appear brighter.” That strategy informs the scarlet-and-pink living room rug, the green grass cloth on the master bedroom walls, the grays and ceruleans in the family room, and the deep indigo window shades in the kitchen. Each room’s tones are established by rugs designed by Federica Tondato of Fedora Design, with Kilaberidze chiming in on color palettes for these custom floorcoverings.
Art Deco is another site-specific influence. But, notes Kilaberidze, “Because the apartment itself has modern architecture, the proportions only allowed a slight taste of Deco style.” Low ceilings and modest-size rooms, for example, could only handle traces of this glamorous style. Max Ingrand sconces in the master bathroom, a Jean-Michel Frank console in the living room and Axel Salto’s Janus Head sculpture in the entry, as well as more pieces by Frank in the family room, all subtly insinuate the era.
Furnishings from the 1950s through the ’70s are more naturally at home in this milieu, so Kilaberidze was more generous with pieces from these decades, such as Italian lighting by Arredoluce, FontanaArte and Stilnovo, as well as accent pieces that include a marble table by Angelo Mangiarotti in the family room, a Fornasetti paravan in the master bedroom and Crespi bedside tables in a guest room.
Kilaberidze also drew from the locale’s Latin character with a collection of contemporary Cuban paintings, which she mixed with Russian art acquired for the Brocks’ former Belgian residence. Contemporary designers—Azadeh Shladovsky, Van der Straeten, Naggar, and Axel Vervoordt—tie everything together in a completely up-to-date way.
Although the furnishings are quite an assortment, they are precisely what gives the residence its most distinctive effect, or what Kilaberidze refers to as “quiet chic.” This comes from mixing pieces of extraordinary provenance—from disparate eras and styles—in a way that appears utterly casual and effortless. For the Brocks, reaching this level of design only whets their appetites for even higher learning. In their Connecticut home, where their relationship with Kilaberidze began, says Mary, “There are things we’re going to do that will give more of a sense of how we feel about design now.” Their thirst for education— or awakening, as Frost would say—is clearly endless.
—Jorge S. Arango