Designer Constanza Collarte was intrigued when a California couple called to see if she could inject some personality and character into the modern white dwelling they’d just purchased in South Florida. But her interest particularly piqued when she discovered the house was just down the street from her own. “Both of them are creative professionals, and they really wanted a home that was expressive,” the designer recalls. “Having been through several renovation projects, they were decisive and well versed in design. This wasn’t their first rodeo.”
The owners, who were relocating from a Los Angeles residence with a French Normandy style, were hoping to transform their new Coconut Grove home and its striking geometries to feel more personal, rich and layered. A more serious challenge was posed by their timeline: Collarte had four months to make the abode livable in time for the couple’s three daughters to begin a new school year.
Taking into account the structure’s flat roof, double-height overhangs, large columns and generous windows, the designer wasted no time showing her clients conceptual presentations and mood boards full of ideas. Inspiration came from the West Coast, specifically the architecture and interiors of midcentury Los Angeles homes. “The house’s lines hark back to residences by Pierre Koenig, Raphael Soriano and Richard Neutra,” Collarte says. To enhance the indoor-outdoor experience, she employed an earthy color palette, incorporating a range of beige, ochre and chocolate tones with statement touches of black.
Working in phases, Collarte revamped the kitchen and transformed bathrooms, including taking a risk that paid off by enveloping the primary in dramatic white marble with striking dark gray and purple veining. She also repurposed two spaces to better fit the family’s needs: The porte cochere turned into a multipurpose game room with a pool table and the owners’ 1970s leather sofa, while an area near the pool that once housed a gym became the wife’s writing den.
To introduce texture, the designer added walnut and brushed oak millwork and plastered walls as well as ceilings. She also replaced a low partition in a corner of the living area with a custom travertine bar and knotty hemp wall. “It reinforced that ’60s-’70s feel,” Collarte observes. And she embraced the kitchen’s dark palette with a shou sugi ban finish on the island and a custom iron-and-glass cabinet.
The clients arrived with a beloved collection of furnishings, decor and eclectic artworks, so the designer worked closely with them to round out the home with a unique array of pieces. For instance, surrounding the kitchen’s new iron table are the owners’ Brutalist stools. To occupy space beneath an existing geometric green artwork in the foyer, she acquired a 1960s French sideboard. A wall hanging and a midcentury chair that had adorned the family’s former living room are now accompanied by a sculptural brass floor lamp and a parasol-like chandelier in their new space. And in the primary bedroom, Collarte paired the couple’s curvy sofa with a custom bedspread boasting warm, natural hues. “There was a lot of adaptation and seeing how we could add new pieces and elements to what they already had to make it feel fresh,” she says.
Bringing in layers and textures also guided the design of the garden by landscape architect Carolina Monteiro. She supplemented the property’s vegetation with layers of tropical foliage for privacy, along with new orange, lemon and lime trees as well as an ice cream mango—a special request by the husband.
At the front of the house, Monteiro framed the yard with a new hedge and created a tranquil seating area on a gravel-covered ground. “The moment we enclosed it and started to add plants, it felt much more private and inviting,” she explains. At the rear, the landscape architect set an outdoor shower in a lush area near the pool and chose hardwood flooring for a new deck that’s become a favorite spot for sunbathing.
In spite of the quick timeline, the finished house is a marvel of collaboration and modification. “The beauty of this project is how the owners challenged me in terms of color palettes and shapes,” Collarte says. “I take so much from my clients and try to add to who they are and how they want to live.”