At Home With Art And Artifacts

Designed To Showcase The Owners' Varied Collections, An Eclectic Home Provides Comfortable Space For Year-Round Living

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When interior designer John Barman first saw the Bal Harbour condominium that he had been commissioned to decorate, he was instantly taken with the 6,500-square-foot space. Stunning 180-degree vistas of the Atlantic Ocean seen through floor-to-ceiling walls of glass caught his eye and his imagination. "I couldn't get over the views," he says.

Barman worked with the couple on their home up north. But now that they were moving to Bal Harbour, Fla., he had his work cut out for him in this unit perched on the 20th floor of an existing high rise. The previous owners had joined two condos and gutted the space — but that's as far as they got. "There was excellent square footage and a great view, but nothing else," Barman says.

Now it was up to him to reconfigure the space to showcase about 150 pieces of art and artifacts that his clients had collected during their travels to Turkey, India, France and the American Southwest. He began by looking at photos of the pieces that the couple wanted to display. And then there were the crates … seven of them delivered to the unfinished unit and opened in front of him. Inside were pieces of art glass that the clients wanted to actually "build" into the interior. "I was surprised by the quantity but eager to work with the vast collection," the designer says.

Step inside, where a pristine interior is upbeat and inviting with walls, ceilings and shiny glass-tile flooring in white. "This is South Florida after all and the white provides a sunny, resort feel," Barman says of the interior scheme dotted with touches of black by design. "The dark colors help ground the house during cooler weather or rainy days."

Lacquer, glass and Lucite pieces offer a very fresh look that seems to shine in the living room, where Holly Hunt sectional sofas are set in opposite directions to shape two separate conversation groupings in one social setting. The Lucite chairs are vintage Rus Steele; the cantilevered, glass-topped occasional tables on polished stainless steel bases are a vintage Ron Seff design that is still in production.

Barman admits that, if he could, he'd like to spend time sitting in the living room with his feet up enjoying the view. But at night, when the ocean looks more like ink than azure, you can turn your back to it and enjoy the colorful art displayed throughout the room. The designer is particularly proud of the three art-glass panels from the owners' collection that he built into the front of the wet bar — they look like they were made for this spot.

To the right of the bar is the game table, where a chess set by Charles Hollis Jones sits ready for play. The couple admired and owned some of the work by this artist who pioneered acrylic design in the 1970s. So they tracked him down in Los Angeles and commissioned him to create works for their new home.

In the foyer, the couple's Southwestern artifacts are on display along with other sculptures. A dozen high-gloss painted niches create order with each shelf individually lit for easy viewing.

Organization is key in the kitchen as well. "The whole room is sleek and easy to clean with every item stored in its own place," Barman says. Charles Hollis Jones Lucite stools — some vintage and some newly crafted — pull up to the counter topped in black granite. Custom-designed, black and white wall tiles help break up the whiteness of the space complete with an open breakfast area.

A formal dining room conveniently flows into the living room to offer the perfect entertaining venue for the couple's many charitable events. Illuminated Art Deco-style glass panels by artist Gene Lutz edge the space with shimmering light.

The media room is a must for the man of the house who is a sports fan. It is carefully insulated with ultra-suede drapes and wall coverings. "They give the room a womb-like feeling with exceptional sound quality," the designer says. The elevated glass-top of the Dakota Jackson cocktail table spins for easy reach of the popcorn.

"We wanted our clients to come home to an exciting space complete with all of the art and artifacts that color their life," Barman says. "That was our mission."

Interior Design
John Barman, New York, NY, Los Angeles, CA, and Miami, FL

Nickolas Sargent, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

General Contractor
Steve Paskoski, Paskoski Construction, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Text by
Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley