Artisanal Design Flourishes in this Coconut Grove Home


Cool and Collected in Miami

A husband-and-wife design team adorn their Coconut Grove villa with a global mix of art and furnishings.

Black Wall of Art in Frames with Sofa and Patterned Chair

There is, without doubt, a bit of an old soul in interior designer Bea Pila. How else would you explain a passion for vintage, timeworn patinas and a fancy for acrylic and midcentury modern; an understanding and equal reverence for Andrea Palladio and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; and a love of such formidable designers as Sister Parish, Dorothy Draper and Mark Hampton?

Brick Coconut Grove Entrance with Iron Gate, Palm Trees, and Fountain

Interior designer Bea Pila and her husband—architect and builder Carlos Gonzalez-Ochoa—worked under the guidance of friend and landscape architect Orlando Comas to design the landscaping plan for their own Coconut Grove home, such as in the charming front courtyard that includes heliconias, ginger and a range of palms. Cardboard palms in pots flank the entry, while the path is paved with old Chicago bricks, which Pila selected for their aged quality.

4 Column Hallway with Wooden Storage and Stone Flooring

A quartet of columns beneath a vaulted ceiling visually separates the living and dining rooms and keeps the spaces open. Draperies made in a sheer fabric with wide satin stripes by P/Kaufmann are mounted high in the living room, while in the foyer, the tortoiseshell-glass lantern is from Currey & Company. The Italian Noce travertine floor was purposely unfilled to give it a rustic look.

Colorful Glass Cabinet Storage with Black Wall and Side Chair

Many years ago, Pila negotiated to get her price on a breakfront she fell in love with. It now sits in the dining room and is filled with a glass collection from the couple’s international travels. For Pila, it’s all about color: The light blue with navy rim vessel is from the Clignancourt flea market in Paris, and the orange-and-white one is from an Atlanta antiques mall; on top is a grouping with a fish motif from Global Views in High Point. The acrylic on paper landscape (on top of the cabinet) is from Sweden; the other piece is a Cuban pastel.

Green Geode Patterned Wallcovering Dining Room with Artwork and Tropical Plants

The dining room’s Malachite wallcovering from Cole & Son’s Fornasetti collection is a stunning backdrop for a painting by Honduran artist Julio Visquerra. A midcentury-style chandelier that Pila purchased in Venice from Barovier & Toso’s Murano studio hangs over an 80-inch table with a live-edge tree trunk base from Costa Rica and diamond-backed mahogany chairs.

Red Wood Beam Ceiling Kitchen with White Kitchen Cabinets and Glass Cloche

In the kitchen, woven-abaca barstools from Padma’s Plantation pull up to a granite-clad island, which Pila painted black to ground the white cabinets; the backsplash is 5/8-inch tumbled Noce travertine, the same stone as the floor, in a mosaic pattern. Pendant lights are suspended from supporting cedar timbers via a modern stainless-steel cable system from Bruck, while grass cloth on one wall and an old kilim lend both texture and character.

Red and Yellow Patterned Bar Stools with Dark Wood Bar and Liquor Cabinet

The couple forwent a breakfast room in favor of a more practical bar. Pila found vintage bark cloth in Key West to cover the midcentury bamboo stools and banded the cushions with raffia and nailheads. The bar is by Theodore Alexander; on the walls is a Madagascar vinyl-raffia from Phillip Jeffries.

Stained Geometric Glass Arched Window Living Room with Lucite Chair and Ottomans

A blend of styles continues in the family room, where rustic unfinished ceiling beams mix with such modern furnishings as Pila’s own acrylic Player’s chair, inspired by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The stained glass by a Colombian leaded-glass artist is an homage to the designer’s Cuban roots, and the mushroom-shaped ottomans are clad in more kilims.

Palm Tree Wicker Loggia Side with Reclaimed Wood Bench and Ceiling Fan

Wicker chairs and a vintage bench made from reclaimed Indonesian wood are paired with a metal table topped with colorful Cuban tile to form a cozy outdoor dining area on one side of the loggia.

White Arched Loggia with Pool Adjacent and Glass Outdoor Seating

Lush tropical foliage is visible through the arches of the room-size loggia. Pila’s Pangea sectionals are made of Brazilian teak with acrylic backs; the patterned pillows are clad in an indoor fabric from Osborne and Little.

Japanese Lantern Loggia with Porch Swing and Pool

The loggia’s Pick Me Up swinging bench, designed by Pila in collaboration with daughter Gabi, features a cushion topped with a Sunbrella stripe. The small acrylic table with a blue top is also a custom design by Pila, and the lightweight concrete table is by Seasonal Living. Japanese-style lanterns hang on the columns.

Copper Venetian Master Bedroom with Citrus Color Accents and Lucite Bench

The designer loves the silky feel of the warm coppery frescoed Venetian plaster walls in the master bedroom, where a taupe linen-upholstered bed by Barbara Barry for Baker is accented with a colorful embroidered cover and pillow sewn from vintage suzani textiles. The bench, another custom design by Pila, boasts a cowhide seat and leather strap; the night table is by Bolier.

Red Asian Art Master Bedroom Entrance with Neutral Chaise

One of a pair of 6-foot-tall, 18-inch-wide red Asian panels marks the entrance to the master bedroom. An Arc daybed by Camerich provides elegant simplicity.

Moody Blue Artwork Master Bathroom with Large Soaking Tub, Lucite Side Table

In the master bathroom, Pila had silver leaf hand-applied to the wall to create a shimmery backdrop for the freestanding BainUltra tub. A painting in watery tones adds a shot of color.

There is, without doubt, a bit of an old soul in interior designer Bea Pila. How else would you explain a passion for vintage, timeworn patinas and a fancy for acrylic and midcentury modern; an understanding and equal reverence for Andrea Palladio and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; and a love of such formidable designers as Sister Parish, Dorothy Draper and Mark Hampton? Add to that a penchant for vibrant palettes that feed off her Cuban heritage and one can see how new and trendy are definitely not on the designer’s go-to style list. 

It’s no surprise, then, that all the homes in which Pila has lived have had some age—a fact that caused some trepidation when she and her architect-builder husband, Carlos Gonzalez-Ochoa, decided to build a new home from the ground up in Coconut Grove. “I have never lived in a brand-new home,” Pila says. “I grew up with thick cement and terrazzo floors, and my husband and I lived in an old gabled Spanish bungalow from 1926 and then a midcentury ranch.” 

A trip to Tuscany with friends cemented the design of their home. “It’s very easy to be seduced by the beauty of Tuscany,” Pila says. “Walking through the olive groves and vineyards and then seeing all these original materials and elements really made a deep impression on us and primed our inspiration.” So, she took mental notes of the Venetian plaster, graceful arches and terra-cotta floors as examples for the type of ambience she and her husband wanted to recreate in their own home: a mix of architecture and materials that evoked the old yet with all the conveniences of present day. 

Despite its nearly 5,000 square feet, the house has an intimacy that is apparent from the entry courtyard. “The lot is long and narrow,” says Gonzalez-Ochoa, who cites the home’s footprint situated on a north-south axis as an opportunity to maximize the side and backyards with landscaping for privacy. “The front garden is super charming and lush,” Pila adds. “When you walk into the space, with its stone fountain and brick paving, you are transported into another world.” 

Inside is a surprisingly open plan, deftly defined by classical columns punctuating a central corridor that spills into adjacent spaces. “The extra square footage from the hallways is gathered and becomes part of the rooms,” says Gonzalez-Ochoa. Eleven-foot ceilings allow the rooms to breathe and live large, while Italian Noce travertine, which was purposely left unfilled with a distressed chiseled edge, covers the floors and continues to the outdoors, where Palladian arches frame a dreamy loggia. 

When it came time for the furnishings, Pila, who proselytizes Mies’ “God in the details,” chose to forgo the architect’s less-is-more mantra. For the designer, more is more, and that means an evolving canvas, one packed with treasured acquisitions from travels, flea markets and thrift shops in an array of disparate collections. For example, an assemblage of porcelain Foo dogs that she has been collecting for 15 years, some of which are 70 years old, fill a cabinet in the living room, while an assortment of colorful handblown glass vessels take residence in the dining room. Also in the living room is a massive gallery wall that dominates a space behind the sofa. “It’s a hodgepodge,” Pila admits. “There’s a painting by my grandmother, etchings from an artist in the Keys, watercolors from Florence and pieces from thrift stores.” 

For Pila, it’s all about layering—and celebrating the handcrafted. “I love things made by hand,” she says. “There is so much beauty in the artisanal, where things aren’t perfect—and yet they are.” She and her husband recently switched out their dining table, for instance, for one that pairs a simple but sizable 80-inch-square glass top over a rugged tree trunk from Costa Rica, and in the family room, the eye is drawn to the bold geometry on the half-circle stained-glass windows, an homage to the stained glass prevalent in homes in Cuba’s 19th century. The designer even snapped up an entire lot of 100 vintage suzanis from a local dealer in one of those impulse buys she rarely regrets—the richly patterned textiles now appear on upholstery, bedding and pillows throughout.

Indeed, color touches almost every room—from the bright malachite design in the dining room and Tuscan red frescoed walls in the master bedroom to furnishings of Pila’s own design, such as the family room’s modern acrylic lounge chair with a canary yellow cushion. In a recent kitchen update, however, the designer quieted cherry cabinets by painting them white with a satin sheen. A touch of modern lighting hung from stainless-steel cables is juxtaposed with the room’s rustic cedar timbers. 

Pila credits growing up in a talented household as the stimulus that paved the path to her creativity: Her grandmother was an artist, her father and grandfather owned a glass, glazing and framing company, and her mother, she says, “just had amazingly good taste.” Even daughter Gabi is an accomplished designer who has collaborated on furniture collections with her mom. Fortunately, the whole family is on the same design page, with Gonzalez-Ochoa approving and admiring his wife’s eclectic, albeit sometimes flamboyant, touches. “Some people say I’m ahead of the trends, but I call it being connected to the design universe,” Pila says. “Design has the ability to influence the soul and elevate us to another level, and that’s what I wanted to do for my own home.” 

–Elaine Markoutsas