Before the family who owns this handsome Coral Gables home purchased the property, they had to get the opinion of one important person in their lives: Juan Poggi, their interior designer who had outfitted residences for them in Aruba, Panama, Venezuela and Miami over the course of 12 years. “After all this time together, I know them well,” he laughs. “I told them we could make this house into a beautiful home in just the way they would like it.” So the family purchased the residence, and Poggi got to work.
The clients were drawn to the structure’s architecture—a contemporary riff on Colonial style—as well as its location: The grounds are lush, and the site backs up to a gorgeous, wide-open stretch of canal. But the interiors required a level of personalization that reflects the owners’ fondness for sophisticated, modern design. “We had to look at every detail of a room and enhance it,” Poggi says. He began by looking up: The interior designer removed the standard recessed lighting, remodeled the soffits for a cleaner look and selected—or designed—sculptural fixtures as statement features throughout the home.
One such piece, a cylindrical chandelier Poggi dreamed up, illuminates the lounge, a space with views of the water that would traditionally serve as the living room. “People often pass by the living room in their home,” he says, “so to really use it, you have to make it into a very cool space.” To do so here, he paired six linen swivel chairs with a circular rug and a stacked-glass table he designed. “You see the table from the entry, so I wanted a see-through scene to the water but also something sculptural,” Poggi explains. Notably, the table is 27 inches high—“the perfect height, so you don’t have to bend over to put your drink down,” the interior designer says.
That same attention to detail inspired Poggi’s thoughtful use of materials throughout the residence. Walnut paneling, used sparingly to great effect, warms the hallways that lead from the entry to the lounge and from the dining room to the living area. It also shows up as a “floating frame” around the double-sided fireplace separating the lounge and the living area. “I love the color, balance and tightness of the walnut’s grain,” Poggi says. The wood balances sleek counterpoints such as the fireplace’s new granite interior and the main level’s marble floors. A similar feel extends to the home’s exterior, where the interior designer resurfaced the pool with gray tones. “It makes the water look transparent,” he says.
Within the materials palette, Poggi had the added challenge of selecting upholstery and rugs that are non-allergenic to accommodate his clients’ sensitivities to animal-derived textiles. “Even though wool makes the most beautiful draperies, we couldn’t use it,” he points out. Instead, he chose synthetic wool—a polyester blend that mimics the look and hand of the real thing; the rugs, too, are all synthetic yet deceivingly like wool. The result is a study in neutrals and comfy furnishings, such as the living area’s off-white sofas—upholstered in a linen and low-profile chenille blend—atop a tan, gray and white rug and the master bedroom’s plush beige sectional.
The look receives an infusion of color from the owners’ collection of modern artworks, most of which are from Venezuela and curated by Poggi. Deciding where each piece would hang came effortlessly for the interior designer—a brightly hued portrait in the lounge; an iconic Robert Indiana Hope statue in the dining room—except for the grand entry, which required a custom piece. There, he commissioned a contemporary Peruvian photographer to create four panels of black-and-white images that climb the 28-foot-tall entry wall. “The work is massive,” Poggi says, “and it makes the most dramatic first impression.”
But the point here isn’t creating drama or a showpiece, the interior designer adds. Rather, the house exists to enrich the daily life of the owners. “When a home is contemporary, you need to be careful not to make it untouchable,” Poggi says. “I would call this soft contemporary; it’s not edgy. To me, it feels like the right reflection of the people who live here.”