A Transitional Coral Gables Dwelling Filled with Art

Details

Transitional Cream Living Room with Crystal Chandelier

A table, covered in a custom cloth made from an Albert Hadley textile for Hinson & Company, sits adjacent to a sofa from Holly Hunt in New York. The sculpture on the mantle was acquired in Parma, Italy.

Transitional Black Dining Room with Contemporary Painting

A contemporary painting in a white-lacquered frame that La Rocca purchased at a street fair in Carmel, California, offers a dramatic focal point in the dining room. Chinese-style lacquered chairs surround a classic oval Saarinen table by Knoll, fostering an inviting atmosphere for La Rocca and guests.

Transitional Cream Living Room Corner

The homeowner's objets d’art found mostly along his travels adorn a corner of the living room.

Transitional Cream Living Room Vignette

A mirrored screen from the 1930s provides the backdrop for a classic vignette in the living room.

Transitional Living Room Gallery

The two-story living room gives owner and designer Michael La Rocca ample space to display his vast collections of furniture and art, including a painting by Roger Mantegani above a black console from HB Home in New York. A custom rug from Stark, with a subtle striated pattern, defines the main seating area.

Transitional Black Dining Room

Reflective surfaces—mercury glass, a black crystal Baccarat chandelier—add sparkle to the dining room. French doors open onto a refreshed garden, and custom shelving allows the space to also serve as a study. A painting, personally given to La Rocca by friend and artist Maria Conti, hangs on the wall.

Transitional Black Dining Room with Contemporary Painting

A contemporary painting in a white-lacquered frame that La Rocca purchased at a street fair in Carmel, California, offers a dramatic focal point in the dining room. Chinese-style lacquered chairs surround a classic oval Saarinen table by Knoll, fostering an inviting atmosphere for La Rocca and guests.

Transitional Brick Patio Dining Area

A white-lacquered aluminum table with stainless-steel-and-mesh chairs, all from Miyo Home, provide the perfect perch for dining alfresco in the garden, another spot for entertaining or relaxation. PDL Studio restored the brick pavers, and the greenery was given a fresh makeover.

Transitional Cream Master Bedroom Entry

As a further reminder of La Rocca’s storied collection, a steel-and-granite table that he picked up in New York more than 20 years ago signals the entry to the master bedroom upstairs. He discovered the white sculpture in the distance at a Paris flea market.

Transitional Gray Master Bedroom

The master bedroom has a black-and-white palette, as seen in the lacquered bedside tables, the bedding and bench, and a Stark cheetah-print rug. A shift in color comes from the gray walls and blue-and-silver ginger jars brought back from Morocco.

After living in New York for years, designer Michael La Rocca decided to pack up his belongings and head south. Though he still has an office in Manhattan, when he’s not working or traveling, he’s likely to be found enjoying the sunny streets of South Florida. “New York is a fabulous city, but I needed a divergence,” he says. “Miami is slower and more relaxed, but also very vital; I love the cultural presence here.”

He also loves a challenge: the designer fell for a French-inspired fixer-upper in Coral Gables and jumped at the chance to make it his own. “Everything was a depressing gray color, and it needed updating,” he says. “But I was awed by the space in the living room, and the flow of the house was so wonderful that I immediately fell in love.”

Built in the early 1980s, the one-bedroom home was also unexpectedly spacious, with two master bathrooms, a loft, and a separate guesthouse that offered another bedroom and bath. It possessed a combination of modern and traditional architectural features that very much appealed to La Rocca and informed the way in which he approached the interiors. “The challenge was to blend the things I already had and have them fit into a totally different environment,” he says. “I didn’t want the house to look New York or Florida; I just wanted it to look comfortable.”

Graciela Ponce de Leon, of PDL Studio, supervised the remodel, which included renovations to the bathrooms, and she says La Rocca more than achieved his goal. “From the outside of the house, you can’t imagine what you’ll see when you open the door,” she says. “It’s glamorous but also very cozy and welcoming, so you never want to leave.” Taking his cues from the contrasting architectural elements, La Rocca furnished the house by mixing styles and centuries and treasures gathered from his world travels, as well as new pieces he selected for this space. The result is a thoughtfully collected home steeped in history.

In the living room, a two-story cathedral ceiling with exposed cypress beams commands attention, but La Rocca filled the space beneath it with an equal amount of interest and intrigue. For example, the carved walnut table he found 25 years ago in New York that follows him everywhere; the lacquered-and-gilded mirror he found in Paris for a client but eventually bought back for himself; the carved wooden Buddha he brought back from Bangkok; and the lanterns he spotted in Morocco and loved so much that he commissioned a second pair—one set flanks the fireplace, while the other hangs in the upstairs loft.

La Rocca designed the dining room—his favorite place in the house— to be an intimate, multipurpose spot where he could work, unwind and entertain. The walls were painted a warm chocolate brown and custom bookshelves were built to hold his personal library. French doors that lead out to the refurbished garden replace the original single-pane glass doors for added interest and texture. “I didn’t want a stagnant room with only a table and chairs,” La Rocca says.

The designer also incorporated cherished artwork throughout, including a pair of charcoal drawings given to La Rocca by New York artist and friend Paul Schmitt. “What excites me is the melding of all of these pieces: old and new, items found near and far, objects that have a slight patina on them,” says the designer. “Collections are personal—they offer insight into someone’s life.”

Although La Rocca’s life is now firmly planted down South, he has no plans to slow down his globe-trotting, his collecting, or his frequent visits to his former hometown. “When I go to New York now, I have these electric-charged two weeks where I see friends and family, go to the opera and the theater, and try new restaurants—I get my fix and reconnect with my roots,” he says. “Then I come back home to Miami and relax.”

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