The move to South Florida was “sort of an accident,” as one of them tells it. The New York couple had arrived at their condo in Fort Lauderdale relieved to escape the Northeast winter. But 2020 had other plans: Like many, they ended up quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unable and too risky to return home, they decided to sell their house and ship their furnishings south, establishing a more permanent residence in South Florida.
Moving and redecorating is something of a hobby for the duo—in their 38 years together, they’ve designed 14 homes. But they quickly realized their midcentury modern decor, although an ideal look for New York, overwhelmed the glassy condo with bright ocean views. “We were horrified,” one recalls. “The light just made it look awful.” That’s when designer Marcy Garcia stepped in. She guided the couple toward a more minimalist look established with only their most meaningful furnishings, complemented by new streamlined, contemporary ones. “They had a sentimental attachment to a lot of the pieces,” Garcia says, “but they just weren’t the right pieces for this condo.” After a careful selection process, only a handful of originals would remain, including a table in the library nook, the bed in the main bedroom and, in the living area, a vintage red Danish armchair and ottoman the clients had owned for 40 years.
These furnishings now mingle with others Garcia thoughtfully sourced in a proper scale so as not to distract from the view. The red armchair and ottoman, for instance, hold court with a new wood-framed leather chair and a glass-and-mirror coffee table that reflects light. Placement was also important: To create better circulation, she floated the living area’s sofa and armchairs on a rug with a geometric pattern that pulls the eye to the view. And with the help of builder Alex Perez, the designer replaced a heavy built-in cabinet with a more contemporary one that opens up the space.
Yet furnishings weren’t the only sentimental belongings the couple relocated from New York. They also transferred important pieces from their eclectic art collection, which consists of more than 200 works amassed over 60 years, each one tied to precious moments from their life together. “To us, art is not just art,” one of the clients says. “It’s memory lane.” This, Garcia recognized, was the key to making their unexpectedly primary residence feel more like home.
Right from the front door, Garcia arranged the artwork organically, flowing from a similar shape or color to the next, telling a visual narrative of the owners’ story as a couple. The entry welcomes guests with a 19th-century ceremonial shield from Cameroon, a 1700s Oriental wood sign and photos by their good friend Mark Golderman. Shades of red create cohesion between the antique and contemporary pieces, continuing into the library, home to a jali screen the couple found in the basement of a London shop. Another hallway displays a painting from a Union Square artist that hangs opposite a directional bus sign from where one of the owners’ parents had their first date in 1940. And over their bed, the designer persuaded the clients to display an antique marriage robe from Uzbekistan, historically worn by a Jewish groom. “They didn’t want to use it at first, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I needed to use it there,” she says. Garcia wrapped the space in a teal wallcovering, making the multicolored garment the focal point of the room.
With the artwork and furnishings in place, the new condo exudes an aura of familiarity for the couple. But beneath the surface is a deeper, more clinical sense of comfort: Throughout the project, Garcia took careful steps to promote health. She chose sustainable materials, such as environmentally safe paint and sustainably sourced wool rugs, to ensure the chemicals used in manufacturing would not introduce harmful off-gassing. “Every piece or material was chosen based on wellness standards to make sure they are made with materials that do not harm the health and safety of the residents,” the designer says. She measured the quality of lighting, air, water, acoustics and thermal conditions for safe standards and redesigned the kitchen, where she installed extra filters so cooking aromas would remain contained.
In an unexpected pandemic year spent indoors, the condo proved to be an uplifting safe haven for the owners. And for a couple initially unprepared to remain in one place, it offered, as they told Garcia, an important proponent of positive mental health, too: a sense of home. “As a designer,” she says, “that’s the biggest compliment you can receive.”