Most people have a conversation piece or two in their home— an intriguing painting, a statement chandelier, a vintage armchair with a story. Reinaldo Iragorri and Katalina Bernal, however, are not most people. They arrived at their new Key Biscayne apartment with a trove of family heirlooms, objects from their travels, an extensive collection of artwork and enough books to fill a library. And their 1990s abode, they realized, was not an ideal showpiece for their decor.
A friend introduced the couple to James and Miriam Duncan, and they knew the designers were the perfect match to help arrange their treasures in a cohesive and captivating way. “They describe their practice as ‘disciplined eclecticism,’” Reinaldo says. “It’s a good description of what we like.”
Yet before the designers could curate the assortment, they teamed with general contractor Fabio Cisternino to update and brighten the property. “The idea was to create an open space with nice views of all the elements,” he says. Most of the apartment’s natural light came through the glass doors between the terrace and the living and dining area. To amplify it, they installed mirrored panels on the living area’s largest wall and opened up the dining area to the kitchen, allowing sunlight to bounce into that space. The team also laid pale wood floors throughout, offsetting the crisp white walls while adding warmth.
With a proper backdrop in place, the clients’ colorful belongings set the groundwork for a chic take on maximalism, and the designers brought a disciplined eye, ensuring everything would have a place. Importantly, they knew the assortment of Colombian artworks would be at the heart of the project. “We needed to build and design the apartment around their art collection,” James says. They installed a 30-foot bookcase that stretches across the dining and living area, offering ample display space for items like a portrait of the couple done on an Etch A Sketch, a silver tea dispenser picked up while traveling in Morocco with the Duncans and a 3D painting of an owl by Yosman Botero. “We started with the bookshelf and then built each room around one important piece or several pieces,” James explains. “The overall feeling is a little tongue-in-cheek—serious but fun.” At the center of the unit is an eye-catching red-and-blue painting by Pedro Ruiz, while across the room works like a pencil drawing by Gonzalo Fuenmayor hang from the living area’s mirrors.
More artful treasures occupy the living area’s double-shelf coffee table, decorate hallway walls and even show up in the main bathroom, where the Duncans installed a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. There, they also introduced a double shower as well as vanities they designed made of cerused floorboards. The rest of the apartment’s architecture was kept simple yet impactful, such as an arched pocket door leading to the main suite, a space designed to frame an artwork by Maria Lucia Diaz that commemorates the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.
The Duncans kept the furnishings just as diverse as the artwork, pairing pieces such as a sculptural black metal chandelier above a dining table with a brass base that mimics horse legs. The dining seating combines woven cane side chairs with light pink head chairs, while the living area mixes materials such as stone stools with a tufted velvet sofa—a nod to Reinaldo’s frequent business trips to London. “It was almost like a carte blanche to be able to use creativity and colors and mix patterns, materials and textures,” Miriam says.
Closet space was insufficient, so the designers transformed a windowless bedroom into a spacious walk-in. The exercise proved valuable beyond space planning, as Reinaldo’s and Katalina’s wardrobes inspired the apartment’s colorful textiles and wallcoverings. “These are two individuals who are very into fashion,” Miriam says. “We needed to reflect that in the design of their apartment.” No space is more vibrant than the powder room, papered in a tropical wallcovering featuring hot pink birds and flora on a bright aqua background. But the designers established a calmer mood in the main bedroom, setting an ornate white headboard against a gray herringbone wall. “The headboard is very feminine looking, so we wanted to use more of a masculine wallpaper to create balance between husband and wife,” Miriam explains. Pieces like the room’s vintage yellow Murano chandelier and metal- and-leather armchairs continue the apartment’s eclectic feel, albeit in a subdued manner.
Outside, azure floor tiles on the terrace allude to the water nearby, while benches, a hammock from Colombia and lounge chairs offer plenty of spots to relax and enjoy the outdoors. But even with a bay view, the owners find it difficult to pull guests’ attention away from the wonders inside the apartment. “People come here, and they don’t sit down,” Reinaldo says. “They just go around looking.”