Most homeowners bring sentimental items and treasured decor with them when relocating to a new residence. Designers Cristina Hoyos and Melanie Weber’s clients, however, arrived with more than a few beloved pieces: a vast art collection, numbering some 400 works by emerging contemporary artists. Although not each one would be displayed, the Venezuelan couple still required a home that would accommodate their acquisitions while remaining suitable for life with three young children. With a few improvements, a structure they discovered on a lush lot had the potential to meet their needs. “They wanted to focus on their art, the walls and the lighting, both inside and out,” Hoyos says.
Architect Alfonso Jurado and builder Eduardo Arenas partnered for the renovation, a major focus of which was to bring as much natural light as possible inside and to create a more open plan. To do so, they eliminated key walls, including between the living and dining rooms, and added full-length windows to the living area. The latter now has enormous views of the Caribbean-inspired grounds by landscape designer Mercedes Porcari, who installed plantings such as ferns, ginger flowers and gardenias around the owners’ outdoor sculptures. “We wanted to create a functional but tropical space,” she says. “It’s romantic and as natural as it could be.” Jurado and Arenas also relocated the primary bedroom from its original ground-floor location to the second floor and improved the transition between the living and dining areas by looking up: “In rejigging the ceiling trusses, we created a vaulted look throughout that entire space,” the architect says.
Most walls were painted white to create a neutral backdrop for the art, yet the owners embraced an element the designers encouraged to warm up the home’s museum-like quality: lightly stained oak woodwork—the more, the better. “We suggest wood all the time to clients, but they’re usually scared to have too much of it,” Weber laughs. “We think there is never too much.” In addition to installing millwork throughout the residence, “we used engineered wood flooring in the living and dining areas and the same paneling on the walls,” Arenas adds. Flush frameless doors in the space remain concealed, creating a seamless look.
Although the updated floor plan produced the bright openness the owners desired, the reduced wall space created a daunting task for the designers: determining where and how to display art. “That became a challenge throughout the house,” Weber acknowledges. “During every call, the husband asked, ‘Where am I going to put this piece? Does it fit on this wall?’” One solution was constructed between the dining and living areas: a slatted oak screen equipped with hooks, letting the homeowners easily hang—and swap out—art from both sides while allowing light to pass through. The husband also proposed the idea of installing a ceiling-mounted hanging system, used often by museums, keeping many walls free of nail holes.
Within the new framework, the designers considered ways to imbue a sophisticated yet cozy vibe without drawing attention away from the art. Coincidentally, just like he had amassed their collection, the husband gravitated toward the value and meaning behind vintage furnishings, which augmented the tone set in each space. “In all of our work, we incorporate some midcentury pieces,” Hoyos notes. “The husband realized he loved this style and could collect pieces like art.” Treating the process in a similar investment manner, he researched the makers and stories behind items such as the dining area’s midcentury modern mahogany table and cane chairs, both complementing the nearby screen, and the living area’s reupholstered Costela chair and ottoman. Maintaining a clean look, the designers focused on a neutral palette and natural materials, including raffia-like rugs throughout and vintage sheepskin chairs in the living area.
Not every piece is decades old, however. The team mixed in contemporary items with a throwback look, like statement light fixtures and the living area’s curvy leather sofa. “These pieces float, like in a museum, so you can walk behind furniture to see the art,” Weber explains. Unsurprisingly, art also shows up in the children’s playrooms and bedrooms, which mirror the rest of the home in refined whimsy. “We wanted items that will last so the kids can grow older with them,” Hoyos says, pointing to the raffia wallcoverings and vintage rugs. Now the family is surrounded by two beloved collections of art and furniture, all under one roof—a little midcentury, a little eclectic and completely them.