Before anyone even steps foot inside a Midwestern couple’s waterfront retreat in Aventura, their love for art makes a powerful statement. A geometric bronze chair greets the owners at the elevator entry along with Marcelo Zampetti’s acrylic painting, giving way to a residence that flows like a gallery exhibition: There’s Virginia Scotchie’s colorful spheres on view in the living room, Rusty Wolfe’s lacquered yellow Ladder climbing a wall in the husband’s den, and Jorge Botero Lujan’s painting of two tango dancers prominently displayed in the dining room, just to name a few.
The owners’ extensive collection of colorful paintings, sculpture and photography would make for a natural focal point and inspire the apartment’s interiors, a result of the efforts of local designer Aldo Puschendorf and Chicago-based interior designers Gary Lee and Donna Corbat. “They’re well-traveled, very sophisticated with a keen eye, and they wanted the art to really stand out,” says Puschendorf, who has enjoyed a long relationship with the owners that dates back to their first project together in the 1990s on Williams Island.
Lee, too, shares a history with the owners, having designed their home in Highland Park, Illinois, and, along with Corbat, kept in mind their penchant for entertaining as well as relaxing when determining how the rooms would be laid out. In addition, a soothing color palette and rich, custom architectural millwork and finishes speak to the couple’s clean, modern sensibilities. Puschendorf was on-site daily to lead the project and see it through to completion, as well as infuse his own design concepts with the same awareness of tastes and lifestyle. By the final installation, each designer had put their stamp on the project—from wallcoverings to new and custom furnishings to reupholstered pieces from the owners’ previous home—all working together in harmony, with Miguel de Diego, of Miguel de Diego Architect P.A., serving as architect of record.
A sense of elegance is evident as soon as one enters, with the foyer featuring lustrous golden flooring, sycamore- clad walls, and a pair of Ming dynasty-era sculptures atop a console that Puschendorf designed through his furniture line, Décor Concepts by Aldo Puschendorf. The sycamore was chosen for the walls because it had the simplest and most consistent grain, but getting them to match up perfectly was a painstaking process. “It was worth it,” says builder James Fitzgerald. “The sycamore walls are such a standout feature.”
As one moves from the foyer into the living area, the panoramic water view just beyond the floor-to-ceiling bay windows is thinly veiled by metallic-mesh draperies. “The idea is to give some shade and privacy without missing the view,” Puschendorf explains. “It is a sophisticated space but minimal to show off the artwork and the seascape.” Here, he curated a pair of gray sofas and a custom wool-and-silk rug with an abstract pattern of clouds. But whether it’s the blue of the water outside or the large, brightly hued photograph and wall sculptures collectively on display, the furniture becomes a subdued stage for the surrounding visual theatrics.
The existing kitchen was largely maintained, but the cabinetry was refinished to a smoky gray and a new bar area was incorporated beyond the island, making the combined kitchen and living area ideal for entertaining. Nearby, the husband’s den was reconfigured from what had previously been a family room and is now appointed with masculine furnishings that create a retreat within a retreat. “That’s his man cave, if you will, to watch his Wall Street shows and smoke cigars,” Puschendorf says. At the end of a hallway lined with vintage black-and-white signed photographs of boxing legend Muhammad Ali lies the wife’s den, which was converted from a bedroom. “We wanted this space to be more feminine,” Puschendorf says of the light palette and delicate pieces. “We didn’t want it to be too heavy or serious.”
Another showstopping space, the dining room incorporates a dramatic bronze-and-steel chandelier and a wall of sycamore that references the adjacent foyer and supports a bold abstract oil painting. Six chairs offer the owners stylish and durable options for intimate dinner parties, with smoky-hued leather designed through Lee’s custom furniture design house, Chai Ming Studios, and procured through his Chicago showroom, Atelier Gary Lee.
A complete renovation, the master bedroom suite
now features soft blue tones that echo the tranquil, airy feel found in the rest of the residence and balance the aquatic view seen through large expanses of glass. The master bath continues the luxurious scheme with a custom makeup vanity, beaded wallcovering and Art Deco-inspired sconces, as does a nearby powder room, which includes a new trough sink and decorative pendants that illuminate textured wallcoverings. The most colorful room in the house is a guest room for the couple’s grandchildren, with striped multihued carpeting, wavy S-shaped chairs and a daybed outfitted with fire engine red pillows.
All told, the residence makes for an ideal oasis from the cold Midwestern winter. “The homeowners are two of the most enjoyable clients to work with,” says Puschendorf, who is still designing further elements of the condo for them; next up: space for a double oven in the kitchen. “Besides being sophisticated and elegant, they have great taste. The apartment is truly a reflection of who lives there.”