The lighthearted interior of Luis Pons's Miami home-office blows conventional workspaces away
Tom Austin -- Interior Design, 3/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
No materialism for Luis Pons. "We live in an inflated real-estate market, where you meet inflated people with expensive cars. This is my comment on that inflatable culture, my conceptual installation," says the architect, making a sweeping gesture in his live-work space on the top floor of the four-story Moore Building in Miami's design district. The place is covered in inexpensive blow-up furniture. (Even the ceiling is padded with air mattresses.) "This is all The Container Store and a place I really love, Home Depot," Pons says.
His firm, Aponwao Design, is hardly known for work this thrifty, with projects ranging from an upcoming East Hampton, New York, beach house to an acclaimed modernist house for Latin singer Chayanne that's loaded with travertine marble and furniture by Isamu Noguchi and Le Corbusier. But Pons is open to experimentation. At his computer, he points to solutions in a client's apartment. "These dividers are just bakery carts covered in latex, like a condom," he says. For another local project he used inexpensive limestone floors and created an outdoor landscape with swirls of white pea rock. "Three hundred dollars a truckload," he recalls.
When he moved into this space two years ago following his divorce, he decided he prefers a flat-out cheap aesthetic to buying the kind of substantial pieces he used to crave. "I collected expensive things—art nouveau vases from the 1880's, Brazilian conceptual art, weird little objects," Pons says. "Pieces were always breaking. Our house was full of furniture by Droog Design, Hans Wegner, and Finn Juhl."
But after moving out of the 1956 bungalow he had shared with his wife, he decided to turn his 1,500-square-foot, one-person office—there was a single desk, a conference table, a chair, and some books—into a low-maintenance live-work bachelor pad. "When I got divorced, I gave up everything," he says. "All the fights with my ex-wife were about 'things.'"
The T-shape floor plan evolved gradually to include, on one side of the entry, reception and workstations for Pons and his two recent hires and, along the opposite wall, a side-by-side kitchen and bathroom. Along the windowed back wall (the top of the T), alcoves for sleeping and 'dining are situated on either side of a lounge area.
Out went a George Nelson conference table, wall-to-wall carpeting, and a 1960's Scandinavian modern walnut desk. In came three identical glass-topped desks from Office Depot, followed by a fleet of blow-up plastic mattresses, chairs, tables, and even lighting, which Pons designed. He painted walls alternately blue, purple, and green, and the cement floor gray. A few substantial pieces such as Frank Gehry aluminum desk chairs keep the scheme functional without appearing too dorm-room.
Rows of silver air mattresses, bought for $7 apiece at local supermarkets and drugstores, line the ceiling. A large, raftlike one in blue hangs from the ceiling to serve as a partition between the work area and reception, which is furnished with lime-green balloon chairs. Pons's desk is visible from those chairs but partially screened from the staff area by mobile storage units. Constructed of white Peg-Board and enclosed by silver air-mattress doors, the units hold office supplies and clothes.
Pons sleeps in one of the alcoves in the back. His bed is another blow-up mattress perched on six inflatable purple stools. When it's not hidden by a sliding air-mattress partition, his sleeping nook opens onto a common lounge area. Green plastic end tables flank a sofa; they face an ottoman and more lime-green chairs. In the other alcove, a vintage set of interlocking PVC table and chairs provides additional seating.
A ball-chain curtain conceals the 80-square-foot kitchen, which contains a bare minimum of appliances—a microwave, blender, and cappuccino machine. Pons kept the adjacent bathroom, appointed in no-frills ceramic white tile, as he found it.
"This is a rented space, so I didn't put too much money into it," Pons says. Instead, he splurged on wit: Fragmented crown moldings used as decorative paneling on mobile storage units are his private joke about Miami's new Mediterranean-revival mansions, which he says overuse them to cover up flawed construction. Cheap doesn't have to mean shoddy, even though Pons is truly devoted to his low-budget inflatable tableau. "I set a budget of $999," he says, "and I can deflate it and take it with me."