This Dreamy Miami Home Captures Venetian Glamour


mediterranean living room colorful Moroccan...

Homeowner and designer Anil Kakar imbued his refurbished Palm Island home with Mediterranean charm. "Each layer tells a story," he says about the living room's handwoven Moroccan rug and ceiling beams made of original Dade County Pine. The corner hutch constructed around antique European windows balances the existing fireplace, where selenite logs are lit from behind to mimic fire. Williams-Sonoma Home curtains decorate the walls, while a custom linen sofa fabricated by Sharron Lewis Design Center and a granite coffee table from Monica James & Co. anchor the room.

mediterranean pink exterior entry

In the courtyard, Corinthian columns make a striking statement in front of the home's formal entrance, while a pair of custom stone chairs flank the new marble steps and landing leading up to the living room. Inside, a 19th-century French chandelier suspends from the rafters and an antique floor mirror found in Europe rests against the wall.

mediterranean sun room neutral crystal...

In the sun room, an addition by architect Jan Stanbury, crystal lamps by Carole Stupell set on petrified-wood side tables act as showstoppers in the light-filled space. Throw pillows from Kakar House of Design, the designer's own boutique, enhance the custom Belgian linen sofa that rests upon a Brazilian cowhide rug, and the antique gilded French chairs are upholstered in silk by Donghia.

mediterranean dining room neutral amber...

A 19th-century Italian wood-and-metal candle chandelier illuminates the dining room where artwork by Michael Braun dominates one wall and a sunburst mirror from Stewart Galleries in Palm Springs, California, graces the other.A Swedish settee and dining chairs surround a custom wood table fashioned in the style of a Belgian Library table. Just beyond the French doors, the outdoor cabana features Sunbrella drapes fabricated by Atlantic Awnings.

mediterranean white guesthouse suite

"I love the contrast of all the white with the greenery in the courtyard," says Kakar about the guesthouse suite he likens to a jewel box. The 19th-century French armchairs flank an antique English table, and the Mongolian lamb rug is from Advanced Trading. Built-in bookshelves painted Benjamin Moore Decorator's White are filled with collectibles and tomes, which are hand-wrapped in white paper in keeping with the soothing ambience.

mediterranean blue bedroom white bed

A Syrian bone-and-mother-of-pearl-inlay chest provides the perfect display space for a vintage Murano and Swedish art glass collection in the master bedroom. The uniquely shaped headboard is swathed in Ralph Lauren velvet and the bed linens are Pratesi.

mediterranean blue bedroom white bed

Overlooking the pool, the master bedroom walls are covered in a tone of robin's-egg blue bringing the outdoors into the sleeping quarters. The antique bergere chair from Kakar House of Design wears fabric matching the walls. The sconce on the bed wall is antique metal, and its counterpart on the opposite side is composed of antique French crystals.

Vizcaya, one of Miami’s most-renowned domiciles with stunning gardens, presides over Biscayne Bay like a stately Venetian palazzo. It was there that designer Paul Chalfin rose to prominence in the early 20th century with his deft melding of European furniture styles from various centuries with ornate antiques and modern Renaissance pieces. It is no accident that Villa Louise, the Palm Island residence of designer Anil Kakar and his partner, Don Lawson, emulates Chalfin’s penchant for the eclectic. Albeit smaller than Vizcaya, the rooms are layered with an equally mindful mix of pieces like 18th-century French chandeliers, Swedish antiques, and Moroccan rugs, and the walls feature the same rich saturated colors that define the venerable Miami landmark. “I love Vizcaya,” says Kakar, who credits the building for his home’s inspiration. “It looks like it could be centuries-old, and has a sense of history that I tried to evoke in my own house.”

But while his predecessor started from the ground up creating a new structure, Kakar was faced with the daunting task of transforming a dilapidated 1930s house, yet, fortunately, it had “absolutely gorgeous bones.” To help reshape the space the owners turned to architect Jan Stanbury, who added a sun room next to the living room and upper-level master suite, extended the dining room by 8 feet to create a stronger connection with the water, and reworked the former maid quarters into an office/sitting room. Employing local artisans, the exterior stucco walls were repainted a more appropriate tone of salmon, the roof was topped with authentic Spanish tiles, Corinthian pillars were inserted in the loggia, and two fountains were covered in Tunisian tiles.

At this juncture, landscape designer Stanley Matz was tasked with creating gardens to match the old-world architecture. “The property was pretty run-down. After cleaning it up, we added sculpted podocarpus in the front to mimic Italian cypress trees, which don’t do well in humidity,” says Matz, who also introduced picnic roses and cone-shaped garcinia for a formal touch. In the courtyard, silver buttonwoods with gnarly twisted trunks give the illusion of Tuscan olive trees, and glazed terra-cotta pots overflow with ornamental citrus plants for a more relaxed look.

Inside, the arduous yet extremely rewarding undertaking of covering the walls with lime-based paint began. “It’s been used for centuries in Europe and you apply so many layers the walls never need to be repainted,” says Kakar of the process that yields the rich hues long associated with Italian buildings. “There’s an uneven look to the color that adds a sense of age.”

In the living room, where a mottled tawny backdrop meets French terra-cotta tiles, great care was taken to preserve the Dade County pine ceiling. “You can’t even get that kind of wood anymore and we must have sandblasted off 10 coats of paint,” says Kakar who suspended an 18th-century French chandelier from the rafters, and saved the existing fireplace with its original copper embellishments. Like many items throughout the house, the furnishings and antiques were unearthed during travels to often-exotic locales. “Everyone told us we would buy rugs in Morocco, so even though we had bare floors we promised we wouldn’t do what everyone else had done,” recalls Kakar of their attempt to avoid purchasing anything while visiting. “Of course, by the end of the trip we had bought several, including the one on the living room floor.”

Beams meant to mimic the wood of the living room ceiling were added to the expanded dining room, where Swedish antique side chairs and a settee covered in Belgian linen provide seating around a carved-wood table. “Sitting on a sofa at the table creates a more intimate dining experience,” says Kakar noting that the addition of an adjacent cabana also helped extend the entertaining space.

The ocher-toned walls shift to green in the office/sitting room where Kakar blended a 19th-century Belgian cabinet, contemporary mirrored cube tables, and a hide rug at one end of the long rectangular space, and an old French day bed and a chandelier fashioned from French wine barrels on the other. Meanwhile orange walls with a stenciled border permeate one of the guest rooms where the swag-printed drapes and gilded screen are meant to be reminiscent of a mini palazzo in the Floating City. “It’s Venice all the way,” Kakar says.

In the master bedroom, the robin’s-egg blue walls tie back to the water views, the antique bergère chair is dressed in a “Chanel suit-style fabric,” and the Syrian mother-of-pearl chest is piled high with Murano glass. About his graceful Italian hideaway Kakar says, “When we get home at the end of the day, we want to be transported to another time and place. And when we are here, that’s just how it feels.”