Architect and antiques dealer Carlos Aparicio merges French
flair and Scandinavian serenity in his Palladian-style villa on the Florida coast
Architects have a reputation for sweating the small stuff. So it's not surprising that cites as inspiration the work of his forerunners Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, and Gio Ponti—early-20th-century architects who each obsessively oversaw their projects down to the design of the doorknobs. Like these Renaissance men, Aparicio conceives of a house as a whole entity. His vision for a space encompasses everything from the floor plans to the light fixtures to the colors of the walls.
In the living room of architect Carlos Aparicio's Miami home, the sofa is custom made, the armchairs are by Jean-Michel Frank, and the 1920s light fixture is by Carl Hallberg; the columns are of French limestone, the rugs are midcentury Swedish, and the flooring is coral limestone.
Take, for example, his own weekend retreat in the Miami neighborhood of Surfside. "From the start," he says, "I knew what the palette would be and where every piece of furniture would go."
The exterior of the Palladian-style house, which was built in the 1930s.
Those pieces of furniture reflect a lifetime of connoisseurship. The Cuban-born Aparicio has been collecting since his years as an architecture student, first at the Rhode Island School of Design, then at Harvard. "When I had the choice between buying food and buying furniture, I always bought furniture," he jokes.
The cocktail table, armchairs, and side tables in the living room are by Frank; the painting is Danish, the lamp is by Jacques Adnet, and the ottoman is custom made.
At some point in his career, he began designing interiors; on shopping trips with his clients, he found that he was unable to resist picking up pieces for his own collection. His New York loft was soon overflowing, to the point where he had to store the sur in a warehouse. In 2001, he opened . Located in SoHo, it showcases the work of Jean-Michel Frank, André Arbus, Maison Jansen, and other 20th-century European designers.
The dining table and chairs are by Frank, and the 1930s rug is Swedish; custom-made pedestals of French limestone support Swedish cast-iron urns from the '20s.
Jean-Michel Frank's elegant creations take pride of place in almost every room of Aparicio's Florida house, from an oak dining table surrounded by klismos chairs, to an iron desk sheathed in leather in the study. The living room fireplace was carefully measured so that it would be proportionate to a pair of the French designer's chaise longues. "I wanted to fill the house with strong, sculptural pieces that have simple geometries," Aparicio says. "There's a carefully orchestrated rhythm of opposites here: light and dark, simple and complex, interior and exterior."
Chaise longues by Frank, a Jens Jakob Bregnø sculpture and pedestal from the '30s, a vintage Kähler vase, and a Mathieu Matégot tripod table in the living room.
If many of the furnishings echo classical forms—such as a pair of Grecian-style urns on plinths and a statue of a nude bather in the living room—that's only appropriate. The house, which was built in 1935, during the city's Art Deco heyday, was modeled after a 16th-century Palladian villa. Aparicio purchased it in 2009, after seeing a few online pictures of its symmetrical silhouette and pinpointing its location on Google Maps. "When I saw that it was on a bay, and that it was only three blocks from the ocean, I knew that I had hit the jackpot," he says. "I said, 'That's my baby.'"
A pergola designed by Aparicio is shaded with curtains of a fabric.
The interior was a different story. The layout was "chopped up, with too many bedrooms," he says. "Instead, I wanted one big room, infused with Florida light." He ended up stripping the house down to the studs but keeping the basic structure, eventually creating an airy, central space with two flanking wings.
The kitchen's custom-made cabinetry is painted in 's Snow White, and the Swedish stools are by ; the cooktop is
by , the refrigerator is by , and the sink fittings are by .
The living room has doors on either side that open onto the lush tropical property (two palm trees wave on the front lawn). The house occupies just 2,000 square feet, but the grounds are spacious; in the backyard—his "inner sanctum," as he describes it—Aparicio has installed a pool, a pergola with seating, and a terrace. "The house is basically a large pleasure pavilion in a garden, which is just how I had envisioned it," he says.
The terrace sofas are custom made, the striped fabric is by , and the vintage table is French.
The interiors literally shimmer. The floors are made of sparkling coral limestone, both indoors and on the terrace. The stone is porous and stays cool underfoot, making it a traditional favorite in the tropics. The ceilings and shutters are painted blue, resulting in rooms that feel open to the sky. A vintage brass light fixture embellished with stars hangs from the center of the living room. "When I open the front door," says Aparicio, "the tassels move in the breeze, and the fixture becomes kinetic."
The bed in the master bedroom is custom made, and the side table is by Frank.
Miami was a natural choice for a weekend retreat. When he was growing up in Puerto Rico, his parents kept a house in the city. He now maintains another home in Buenos Aires, but he wanted a warm-weather refuge for himself and his guests that was only a domestic plane ride away from New York City. A visit to Art Basel a few years ago convinced him that Miami possessed an ideal combination of culture and outdoor life.
The fireplace, which is original to the house, has a coral limestone surround and hearth; the side table is by Matégot.
Indeed, when Aparicio arrives from the airport—he tries to visit twice a month—the first thing he does is change from his city clothes into shorts. (He's a die-hard kayaking enthusiast.) By the time he moved here, his social life was already in place: He's surrounded by a community of New York friends who own second homes in Miami. "Surfside is a real neighborhood, reminiscent of the 1940s, where people know one another and drop in to visit," he says. "I'm in and out of the house all day long.
A Gustavian bench and Lefroy Brooks tub fittings in the master bath.
"I think this is how people lived long ago, surrounded by beauty and the lushness of nature."
The sofa in the study is custom made, the wrought-iron chair is by Marc du Plantier, and the 18th-century wood chair is Swedish; the leather-sheathed iron desk and the cocktail table and side table are all by Frank, and the rug is midcentury Swedish.