Friday, July 31, 2009

Destination Design: Miami's Vizcaya

Vizcaya Stone Barge
Courtesy Miami/Dade County

I got to take a few days off this past week and traveled down to Miami, one of my favorite destinations, to spend time with family that lives there and of course sit on the beach and do nothing! However at this time of year I did get a few days of rain and got stuck in MIA...but that's a whole other story! At least they have updated the airport and I think I spent more money there than I did anywhere else. (I am sure the airport board loves the rainy season $$$)

I love the rhythm and diversity of the city, coming from a very diversified family myself being Greek and Italian and my step mother and 3 half brothers being Colombian, cousins that are half Cuban and my daughter is half Puerto Rican - did I loose you yet?! Thought so. I love that you can walk down Ocean Drive or Collins and hear about 5 different languages being spoken as there are tons of Europeans that love Miami as well and many holiday there. Anyways I have been to Miami countless times yet always have seemed to miss one of its premier attractions, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens located in the Coconut Grove area. I have a bit of addiction, I have been told, to anything that has do with interior design/architecture and even on vacation have to get my fix!

Some of the photos I have taken and some are from the website, I am sure it won't be too hard for you to decipher between the two! Hey...remember it was raining! Also, they did not allow any photography inside the home, only exterior shots, so please follow the above link to see some of the amazing rooms showcased on their website.

Exterior Shot From the Back (Photo by Me)

(This part looks over Biscayne Bay and the Stone Barge)

The name Vizcaya is derived from the Spanish region of the same name also overlooking the bay of Biscay, hence in Miami, Biscayne Bay. Upon entering Vizcaya you are immersed in a different time and era, and feel as if you are no longer in the city. With its winding roads and dense tropical foliage where trees are covered with orchids in every shape and color imaginable and statues of Greek gods aplenty, the estate is astounding - truly one of America's best examples of early 20th century industry wealth. The estate is much smaller than the original 180 acres with much of it being destroyed in the hurricane of 1926 and then later some of the property being sold to developers.

James Deering

Coutesy Miami/Dade County

James Deering was an industrialist and Vice President of International Harvester Company working under his father where he accumulated a vast fortune to the likes of families such as the Biltmores and DuPont's. Vizcaya was merely his winter home as he was ill much of the time and was advised by his doctors to spend the winters in the humid, warm weather of the Southeast. He lived in the home from 1916-1925. Miami's population was but a mere 10,000 at the time while 1,000 of the workers were employed by Deering for the construction of the property. 10% of the entire population was working on this home!

Perhaps this is where America's fixation began with making "new old" began as the home was made to appear to be 400 years older than it actually was. James enlisted a young painter Paul Chalfin to be the project supervisor, L. Burrall Hoffman as the architect and Diego Suarez as the landscape architect.

Deering and Chalfin spent several years making the purchases in Europe for the home encompassing all eras and styles of European designs. Each room had a specific look and they adhered to strict period detailing and finishes, from Neoclassical to Italian Renaissance and French Directiore to name a few.


Photo Miami/Dade County

Above is the outdoor veranda...yes the veranda! It is now glassed in to help perserve as the water is literally less than 30 or so feet from the openings. The floors are done from marble and granite slabs with terrazzo surrounds. The ship hanging was the emblem of the home and is symbolized in many different details, one also being the leaded glass inserts in some of the windows.

Entrance Hall

Photo Miami/Dade County

This room is truly amazing, I could have stayed in there at least an hour looking at the countless details. The walls are upholstered with Scalamandre fabric depicting the scenes "The Rape of Helen" by Francesco Primaticcio where Aprodite uses Helen as currency to entice Trojan Prince Paris so he will appoint her the most beautiful of goddesses. The floor design of alternating square and circles mirror the plaster detailing in the ceiling. The urn pictured on the left is a famous reproduction of the Townley Urn - I have two of these but much smaller scale in my own home. The powder baths are right off of this room as well, and of course, there is a his and hers.

Stairwell (one of many)

Photo Miami/Dade County

There are several stairwells throughout the home, this surprising being the main and largest, perhaps because there was an elaborate elevator and most likely it was the house staff that utilized the stairs. The other stairwells are very narrow and windy - think Sleeping Beauty when she is hypnotized to go up the stairs and prick the spinning wheel (that's what my daughter said anyway, I thought it was a good comparison.) There is also a "Vertigo" stairwell as well, it was neat to go look from the top and see the patterned floor detail below and then from the bottom look up and see the patterned leaded glass transom window above, giving some natural light to the space.

The Bay of Biscayne pictured past the stone barge. You guessed right...picture taken by me.

The barge was used for parties where guests would ride a gondola over to board the party boat. I wish I had better shots of this but is started pouring, I don't mind the rain but my camera does... The barge was also used as a barrier between the water and the home, helping protect the home during hurricane season.
I will for sure be returning to tour the gardens and of course throught the home to see what my eye missed the first time, perhaps in the winter when it is nice and sunny!


Intricate wrought iron detail of the entry doors.

I recently used a detail similar to this on a pediment above a formal study doorway, except I turned it the other way and built it up on some back bands. It's under construction now, or else I would put the photo up...

Back on home to Texas...from my flight, until next time Miami...adios!

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