What comes first—the art or the interior design? For a Port Royal couple commissioning their first new-build home, art led the way. When the couple began thinking of the important features they’d like for their future residence, it was less about the bling and more about the blank wall space.
The nearly 6,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom contemporary home was built by The Williams Group and drawn by Stofft Cooney Architects to be the perfect canvas for the homeowner’s new collection of abstract art. The project presented a departure for the ritzy neighborhood. “It was a very interesting project—and clients,” John Cooney says. “They had a little bit of a modern industrial vibe to them.” Typically, you don’t get to mention ‘Port Royal estate’ and ‘industrial’ in the same sentence, but that’s what you get when you have a pair of cultured Northeast transplants.
Faced with the prospect of a new Florida home with tall ceilings and vast expanses of wall space, the homeowners started dreaming of a museum-like space, with an abstract-centered collection as the best fit for the house. They envisioned the home as a backdrop for art, without flourished architectural detailing distracting from the works. Rift-cut white oak ceilings, floors and interior doors balance out the lofty, white surfaces to create a quiet, reflective atmosphere. Minimalist profiling—with baseboards recessed into the walls, contemporary molding, waterfall-edge kitchen counters, and a zero-edge pool sitting level with the deck—creates a sleek view. “We wanted something contemporary but not modern,” the homeowner says. They wanted the home to still fit within the more traditional leanings of their Port Royal neighborhood. “Sometimes, modern is not so livable,” they say. “It’s more about the sculpture of the building.”
While the couple already had a strong collection up north, they wanted to start fresh in Florida. They waited until the home was complete and they began living in the space to start acquiring in earnest. They wanted to understand how the light came in to determine what pieces would go best where. “Collecting art is fun, but you don’t want to do it all at once,” the homeowner says. “We didn’t know how long it would take us to find pieces that spoke to us and that we were going to want to look at day in and day out.”
Now, with walls properly outfitted, while there’s a strong focus on abstract (the couple appreciates the way abstracts can be interpreted differently depending on when you’re viewing them) and some representational pieces, there is really one cohesive thread. “If there is one thing that is dominant in what we enjoy and like to collect, it’s color,” the homeowner says. Vibrant hues come in through big, bold statement pieces, such as Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero’s oil and acrylic painting Do—a Tetris-like arrangement of irregular shapes—which anchors the family room with its 94-by-86-inch size. “We fell in love with him at an art show,” the homeowner says. “The color just jumps out.”
Hanging near a pair of Herman Miller Nelson Cigar Lotus Floor Lamps in the living room is Emily Mason’s 1981 oil on canvas Ancient Incense, where every ebullient shade of complementary blue and orange is precisely considered. “What’s interesting is, she is the wife of Wolf Kahn; though he had a much more illustrious career, I actually like her work more,” the homeowner says. Khan’s work is also represented in the home via the 1990 oil painting Cornfield in Pioneer Valley over the dining table and the 1997 Toward Kirk, which hangs next to Mason’s Ancient Incense. The hues of Ancient Incense play off the lighter shades of blue and orange in Toward Kirk.
The architecture itself is a work of art in its simplicity and craftsmanship. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the two-level entryway staircase. The floating oak stairs glide toward the second floor to an interior balcony/overlook with a stainless mesh system for railing. A Contemporary Chandelier Company fixture, with 53 hand-blown glass orbs dropping down to 12 feet, set the scene, with strategically placed artwork on downstairs walls and along the balcony. On one of the upstairs walls, Sarah Morris’ graphical Family and Authority hangs on the same plane as Wolf Khan’s abstract expressionist trees landscape Much Magenta below. Both works can be seen when you enter the foyer, emphasizing the linear parallels between the two. “Morris’ has the same kind of pink glow [as Kahn’s] but much more abstract,” the homeowner says. “Her painting isn’t of trees—but it could be.”
The longer the couple lives in the space and as they acquire new works, pieces move and rotate. “It’s a work in progress,” the homeowner says. “We live with the art, and it isn’t necessarily fixed to one spot in our home.” But for now, they like what they see.
Architect: Stofft Cooney Architects
Builder: The Williams Group
Photography: Robin Hill