Any art collector knows, displaying an assortment of works adds character to a residence, transforming it into a showcase of treasures. Yet smoothly integrating paintings and sculpture throughout an interior requires a deft touch to ensure the surroundings retain the comfortable qualities of a home and don’t assume the chilly sterility of a museum.
Achieving that delicate balance was the challenge presented to designer Anil Kakar when envisioning a vacation property in Surfside for his clients. Longtime collectors, the owners had amassed a storage warehouse of predominately Indian art begging to be displayed in their condo at the Residences at Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club near Miami. “Their specific request was to infuse color, pattern and texture into a monochromatic palette of white, off-white, beige and cream,” says Kakar. “They wanted a gallery feel, very elegant and simple, with clean lines, in keeping with the architecture and design of the brand-new building.”
The residence’s crisp white walls and sandy travertine flooring offered an ideal blank canvas for Kakar, whose strategy involved curating pieces from the couple’s prized art collection and combining them with antique furnishings and textiles. “The design is a study in minimalism, really— just enough layering, color, texture and pattern,” he says. Furnishings and rugs came first, setting the stage for the designer to arrange artworks throughout the home. “We wanted the greatest impact for each piece in each room,” he says. “Each artwork was thought-out and tried in several different areas until we got it right.” The result is a vibrant, livable residence that catches the eye at every turn.
Perched atop pedestals in the foyer, antique sculptures of a garuda—an Asian mythological bird-like beast that blends the features of a man and eagle—as well as a kelly green cowhide rug establish the eclectic tone. Between them hangs an abstract artwork in complementary hues that “reminds me of a modern interpretation of a guru or swami sitting down or kneeling in meditation” Kakar says.
The color-and-texture infusion continues in the dining area, where Kakar placed modernist side chairs in sage green velvet around a 1940s French table with a mercury-glass base. “Vintage and antique pieces help give contemporary spaces soul, personality and charm,” he says. The table’s custom round glass top strategically echoes the framed artwork of concentric circles by S. H. Raza hanging above one of the two white-lacquered credenzas that anchor the open room. Crowning the scene is a midcentury-style flush-mounted light fixture—part of a matching pair that glass masters in Murano, Italy, crafted for this space and the adjacent living area, tying them together. “We wanted identical pieces because the dining and living areas are one giant great room,” the designer explains.
The living area draws in the commanding presence of the Atlantic Ocean, visible through floor-to-ceiling windows. Ensuring the sea would remain the dominant element in the space, Kakar emphasized a sense of serenity by orienting a neutral linear sofa and coffee table toward the water view. Touches of color come from a pair of moss green chairs and the sofa’s red-and-black throw pillows, made of vintage Uzbek suzani textiles. “Some of these suzanis are between 70 and 100-plus years old,” the designer says.
More suzani fabrics appear throughout the residence as pops of pattern on the pillows and benches in all three bedrooms. Repeating the approach he used in the living area, Kakar maintained a focus on the ocean in the sleeping quarters by employing taupe headboards, white bed linens and cream-colored rugs. The lack of windows in the media room, however, allowed the designer to get more playful. “We started with a very neutral palette and worked our way up,” he says, pointing to the light-toned sofa, coffee table and rug. Vibrant hues brighten the room thanks to the addition of oversize artwork, throw pillows sheathed in hand-embroidered Otomi textiles, a turquoise vase and pendant lights in a color he describes as “Hermès orange.”
Between the thoughtful furnishings and museum-quality displays, the residence offers the comforts of home with the intrigue of a gallery. No longer stored in a warehouse, every last piece of the couple’s art collection has found its rightful place in stunning new surroundings. “With the amount of art and wall space, it was a perfect marriage,” Kakar says. “There wasn’t anything left over, and we didn’t run out of walls—it all fit nicely.”