What would look right with pink Venetian plaster walls and a live-edge redwood headboard reminiscent of a Nakashima piece? It’s a question Los Angeles-based designer Tatum Kendrick pondered about the master bedroom she was renovating inside a condo on Fisher Island. Kendrick’s answer—side tables that look like brass cubes inspired by Donald Judd—along with the aforementioned selections, is indicative of her upbeat, eclectic and often fearless approach to interior design. For this particular project, Kendrick had in mind a Cuban vibe comingling with the essence of the French Riviera. “I wanted to capture Miami back in the 1940s and ’50s, when the Cuban influence was everywhere, and combine it with an easy indoor-outdoor feeling that evokes the South of France.”
Her clients Mia and Rafael Llopiz, a New York couple with Cuban roots who had worked with the designer on two previous homes, were immediately on board. “There’s a romantic, sexy spiciness about them that I wanted their home to reflect,” Kendrick says about the stylish high school sweethearts who are now empty nesters. But the existing condo, with its hollow-core bifold doors, ho-hum living room built-ins and a dated kitchen, was devoid of both sensuality and imagination. “We needed to start by elevating the architectural finishes,” she adds.
The designer tackled those challenges in concert with builder Ray Martinez, who gutted the kitchen and oversaw the installation of new cabinets and finishes in the existing footprint. “Because of the location of the mechanicals, the layout needed to remain the same,” says Martinez, who helmed construction with the help of his colleague Mike Mila. “We also removed the living room wall unit and filled in a recessed section created by a wet bar, so the new wall was flush and ready to be covered with Venetian plaster.” Juan Jose Leon served as the architect of record to handle logistics and permitting.
The wall finishes were the first of many choices to make the Cuban connection. “Cuban interiors are all about history and rich patinas, and plaster walls have that old, historical feeling,” Kendrick says; she used a soft gray in the main living spaces and a more daring pink in the bedroom, where new black studded leather doors counteract the feminine hue.
In the living room, brass stanchions on the media shelving and brass banding on the main light fixture—both custom pieces by Los Angeles-based artisan Jason Koharik—were selected with an eye toward how they would age. “Being this close to the ocean, they are starting to get a patina already, and they’ll just keep getting better over time,” Kendrick says.
The sparkling metal accents join a sofa upholstered in three distinct textiles: burgundy leather, polka-dotted fabric and dusty pink velvet. It’s one of many custom-designed pieces by Kendrick, and it joins brassy Z-shaped dining chairs to establish a ashy, vibrant postwar Miami ambience that imbues the entire residence with a salsa beat. “It’s a super eclectic mix of eras and materials that just work well together,” says Kendrick, who didn’t hesitate to add a pillowy Mario Bellini-inspired chair by Koharik dressed in studded pale pink leather. “The kidskin is so soft; it’s like sitting in this big, amazing marshmallow.”
The rhythm begins in the entry, where the tropical foliage wallpaper instantly puts you in the mood for a margarita. Paired with a modern table carved from balsa wood and covered with plaster, the combination of disparate items is Kendrick at her nest. “I love playing with tension points and figuring out what partners best with something else,” says the designer. Case in point: her coupling of busy black- and-white-print wallpaper with canvas draperies and black ra a-like trim in the study. “The drapes are so graphic and out there,” she says. “They were definitely a design risk.” This bold pairing stops just short of going over the top.
Equally graphic is the strong veining in the marble that swathes the kitchen counters, island and backsplash. According to Kendrick, because the kitchen is open to the rest of the condo, it needed to make its own stylistic statement. “The stone resembles old Roman marble like you’d see in a museum,” she says.
In contrast to the bolder statements, the Riviera influence arrives in more subtle ways, as in the sensuous curve of the Roger Rougier coffee table and soft white living room sheers that billow in the breeze. The latter creates a gentle connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces, and strategically placed potted palms further blur the lines between inside and out. On the terraces, many of the furnishings, designed by Kendrick and inspired by the work of Jean Royère, have a noticeable French attitude. “The sofas and sling chairs with ironwork pattern and brass ball details are very French,” says Kendrick. “And the small stripes on the upholstery along with the mustache fringe on the cushions is like something you would see on the Riviera.”
Whether inside or outside, the ongoing juxtaposition of styles and materials succeeds in denoting the romance and glamour of a time gone by. As Kendrick explains, “I think we captured the feel and lifestyle of someone living in the 1950s. There’s a wonderful interplay between French refinement and a bold Cuban punch.”