Naples’s Creative Power Couple

Interior designer Jeffrey Fisher and artist Juan Carlos Collada share their home, careers and lives that they have built around their shared creative language.

BY March 1, 2023
Naples Creative Power Couple
Juan Carlos Collada (known for his butterfly assemblages) met his husband, Jeffrey Fisher, in 2013 in North Carolina. Three years later, they settled in Naples, where the two have built prolific careers around their penchant for art and beauty. (Photo by Tina Sargeant)

Interior designer Jeffrey Fisher and his husband, artist Juan Carlos Collada, cut a striking pair. Jeffrey is boyish and buoyant with strands of gray hair; Juan Carlos has dark, expressive eyes and a chiseled jawline. The two are in the midst of renovating their two-bed, two-bath 1970s home. With 1,200 square feet to work with and two lifetimes of art and collected objects, there are many decisions to make. But, since art and design are their shared language, the renovation is more of a collaborative creative project between the two. “It’s the early days,” Jeffrey says, noting the power couple aims to finish their Naples bungalow by late summer. “We’re playing in the design sandbox very well together. Check back in September and see if we built a castle, or if someone stomped off with their pail and shovel.” 

On any given day, Jeffrey can be found running his Naples-based interior design firm, Jeffrey Fisher Home, where he tailors luxe finishes to the needs of his well-heeled clientele. Juan Carlos works full-time as an artist, creating paintings, minimalist sculptures and his in-demand butterfly assemblages. Often, the pair finds themselves working together, with many of Juan Carlos’ pieces adorning the homes Jeffrey designs. “We learned early on that we’re not intended to go into business together,” Jeffrey says. “Rather, we’re meant to work on selected projects together.” 

The duo met through friends in 2013, when Jeffrey was on vacation in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Juan Carlos lived. On a whim, Jeffrey asked Juan Carlos to join him on an excursion to look for a rug for a client in nearby High Point’s renowned home furnishings market. In a rom-com-worthy meet cute that would make Nora Ephron proud, the two creatives spent a day perusing textiles and realized it wasn’t just their sharply honed sense for aesthetics that was well-suited. “I was in my late 30s,” Juan Carlos recalls. “I was happy to be single; I adored my friends; I had a life. Then, in comes Jeffrey on vacation.” After spending the entire day together, they realized they were fated to be together. “And so it’s been ever since,” Jeffrey adds.   

Jeffrey’s career began in New York City in the late 1990s, when the  Canadian émigré redesigned silver screen legend Diahann Carroll’s living room in her Upper West Side apartment. Jeffrey, who studied fashion design at Ryerson University and apprenticed for eveningwear designer Wayne Clark (whom he describes as Canada’s Oscar de la Renta), met Diahann while working as a costumer for headed-to-Broadway musicals. The two met on set for a Canadian production of Sunset Boulevard in 1995, which led to her hiring Jeffrey as her personal dresser, stylist and, ultimately, redecorator. “We had the walls upholstered in the lightest apricot moire,” he recalls, referring to the textile known for its wavy, undulating weave. “Miss Carroll told me ladies look best dining in rooms with lighting that casts a faint pink tone upon their skin.” 

By 1999, he’d started an eponymous atelier with his sister, Deborah, producing luxury bedding and linens. The collections attracted major buzz in North American design markets and helped him get cast as a host on Canadian interior makeover show Arresting Design, for which he filmed 65 episodes between 2003 and 2005. “It encompassed all my talents,” he says of the show. “During this time, I realized I wanted to design interiors full-time.”    

Meanwhile, Miami native Juan Carlos was in Milan, working as a textile designer at Melvin Anderson Studios. From the onset, the artist showed dexterity and focus honed since he was a child inspired by his father, a marble mason from Cuba.

After graduating from Miami Dade College with a degree in painting and printmaking in 1987, Juan Carlos headed to Milan, followed by forays into furniture design in San Francisco, lighting design in North Carolina and fashion styling in Miami, plus a stint in banking. When he met Jeffrey, he’d been working in a spa and as a waiter for six years, trying to support himself as an artist. Strolling through showrooms with Jeffrey on their first date in High Point, he recalls being more captivated by framed prints than rugs. “I felt like, why am I struggling? I could be doing this,” he recalls.   

A year later, Jeffrey set up shop in Naples in 2014 after designing his sister’s new Southwest Florida home. “One project led to another,” Jeffrey says. He and Juan Carlos settled in Naples two years later and now call the Gulf Coast their full-time home. Clients covet Jeffrey’s penchant for selecting and placing texture—rich upholstery, gleaming vases for pops of color or Moroccan-inspired mosaic backsplashes—to break up the atmospheric neutrals he favors for walls and floors. (Embroidered throw pillows can be swapped out much more easily than travertine, after all.) 

His clients love that they can easily include artwork from Juan Carlos in their homes. “His butterfly assemblage pieces are so beautifully relatable that I never tire of placing them,” Jeffrey says. “I love to come home at the end of a day and see his latest color combo and patterns.” Despite his enthusiasm for his husband’s work, Jeffrey’s careful not to force it on his clients. “As we know, art is personal, and if it’s not their taste, I certainly will not push it,” he clarifies. If one of Jeffrey’s clients commissions Juan Carlos, Jeffrey errs on the side of giving clients and the artist their own space. “Some like working directly with Juan Carlos and others like me acting as the middle person.”

They often collaborate on projects, with Juan Carlos creating custom works for Jeffrey’s design clients. In the living room, Juan Carlos’ Out of His League painting hangs behind a sofa by Barber Osgerby and the Chauncey bronze rabbit sculpture by Jim Budish. The butterfly assemblage on the wall and sculpture on the side table are also by Juan Carlos. (Photo by Dan Cutrona)
Butterfly assemblage
Butterfly assemblage by Juan Carlos Collada (Photo by Tina Sargeant)

Besides creating artwork to adorn Jeffrey’s designs, Juan Carlos is represented by 13 galleries across North America; he recently hired assistants to keep up with demand. “I took a leap with the support of my now-husband,” he says. “He gave me a lot of courage in the beginning.” Locally, you might see his assemblages at Naples’ Gardner Colby gallery, where kaleidoscopes of butterflies, fashioned from dyed, hand-painted feathers, dance and converge in organic formations on linen-wrapped panels. Sometimes, he arranges the butterflies into stark geometric patterns, like those found in his acrylic paintings and sculptures (ranging from stone to sleek acrylic boxes). The painstakingly executed abstractions revolve around the color and placement of shapes, revealing the influence of 20th-century minimalist artists, like Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder.   

“I guess it all starts with beauty,” Juan Carlos says. “I only see beauty, and if it’s not beautiful but has potential, then I want to alter it until it’s pleasant to me. This is why my surroundings are so important.” Working out of a poolside studio in the couple’s backyard, he’s keenly aware of the interiors. “Over the years, Jeffrey has realized this and has been kind enough to allow me to design our space, even though he is the true expert,” says Juan Carlos, who, much to Jeffrey’s chagrin, is always rearranging the sofas. “He’s sweet that way.” 

Whether collaborating professionally or designing their own home, Jeffrey says: “We’ve been together long enough to know when to stay in our own lanes and when to swerve.” 

On a late January afternoon, the power couple mixes drinks in an orderly living room peppered with jewel-toned throw pillows and Juan Carlos’ small sculptures. Even during the cacophonous construction of a new kitchen, primary closet and two bathrooms, the scene is serene. As their two rescue dogs clamor for attention at their feet, the designer and the artist continue brainstorming their renovation, discussing how best to display Juan Carlos’ collection of Elsa Peretti boxes and where to integrate souvenirs from a recent trip to Africa. “We both appreciate well-designed spaces,” Jeffrey says, sipping his Paper Plane cocktail. “But if left unattended, I would be more of a maximalist than Juan Carlos.” 

Juan Carlos demurs, “I used to think of Jeffrey as the ‘fancy’ designer, and I was the proud, well-designed minimalist. Recently, I’ve started to notice our design aesthetics overlap. I think we’ve agreed on every single thing.” Their unified look is shaping up to be what Jeffrey describes as “Japanese meets midcentury meets minimalism meets maximalism meets modern meets …” Any other inspiration could seep in as they renovate. 

Juan Carlos reflects on how two creatives can curate a life together—not just by merging styles in their bungalow, but also in intertwining their stories: He thinks back to 2013, when the two of them sat on a Naples beach just weeks after meeting and started dreaming of a life together. “Ten years have passed; every plan and objective we dreamed of has come to be.” 

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