What Is Art?
A Miami Beach apartment by Luis Pons begs the question
Linda Lee -- Interior Design, 8/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
The playful condo Luis Pons designed for developer Ricardo Dunin isn't so much a bachelor pad as a launch pad. After a divorce, Dunin needed a place to start his new life on a tight budget—and to entertain in style. "I didn't know how long I was going to be here," he explains. Which meant that Pons, who has worked on projects with seemingly endless resources, had to don his most creative thinking cap to make every design dollar count.
Hence this 2,100-square-foot two-bedroom in the Meridian, a Miami Beach condominium developed by Dunin's Flagler Group and designed by the architecture firm Zyscovich with interiors by Alison Spear. Almost everything in the fifth-floor apartment was done inexpensively. Pons barely touched the kitchen other than adding a frosted-glass backsplash, to make the space warmer, and cladding the ceiling with black mirror, to make it look taller. Other public areas are defined by curtains of magnetic beaded chains instead of walls. Vintage furniture was acquired from Ebay and assorted thrift shops.
In lieu of paintings and sculpture, Pons relied on industrial materials and his own (very active) imagination, blurring the boundary between architect and artist. "What is art anyway?" Dunin asks rhetorically. Rather than buying a conventional artwork, he purchased a Pons.
The two men met on St. Bart's in 2004. Dunin was developing Le Sereno, a luxury resort at which the least expensive rooms go for $700 a night in low season. Luis Pons D-Lab was working on villa interiors with Interior Design Hall of Fame member Christian Liaigre. "Luis and I bonded," says Dunin, who instructed Pons to make the Miami Beach apartment "interesting and cool."
"Because Ricardo wasn't able to pay for art, we gave him pieces that look like art," Pons says. A mold of an 1890's gear, cut in two, hangs above a sofa in the living area. In the entry hall and dining area are Pons prototypes that masquerade as wall sculpture: A rectangle of metallic-gray plastic laminate, backed by strong magnets, holds a swath of iron mesh in place but allows its loose folds to be endlessly rearranged.
Pons calls it Magnetic Wallpaper. "Everyone plays with it," Dunin says. "It's very interactive." Ditto for the living area's cocktail table, its top filled with magnetic filings that can be moved around, Wooly Willy–style, by sliding a couple of ball bearings across the glass.
For the entry and one wall of the living area, Pons chose clay-red paint to humanize the gray of the apartment's polished concrete floor and raw concrete ceiling. "Ricardo's not a cold person. He's Brazilian," says Pons—who hails from Venezuela.
On close inspection, the red paint stops just short of the ceiling, a Pons trick. "I always leave a ¾-inch gap, so you can control the straight line of the painting, because ceilings are not always square," he explains. At the bottom of the red walls is an inside joke about developers' inch-pinching mentality: Stainless-steel rulers serve as baseboards.
Pons calls the living area's sofa and sectionals by Andrea Parisio "casual, neutral and comfortable. They go with everything. I use them a lot." Mostly, however, architect and client shopped vintage and junk stores together.
A pair of 1950's chrome armchairs, $200 each, now sport Ferrari-red leather upholstery. Pons describes 1940's wooden dining chairs as "Harry Potter furniture." (It's the pale yellow stars strewn across the black upholstery.) Dunin paid $1,200 for the eight chairs and a table, a price that makes it acceptable to put an iced tea down without a coaster, as he often does. Over the dining table hang two of Ingo Maurer's Campari pendant fixtures. "Very beautiful," Pons says. "And they add color."
Pons stuck to cheap chic when he needed interesting "art" for the dining area. "Basically, you buy cardboard tiles from this company, and you can turn them into any design you'd like," he explains. He then glued the tiles to two sheets of plywood and painted both panels of his "diptych" green.
As an industrial designer under the name Aponwao Design, Pons is known for his Frames collection of dressers and chests made from lengths of picture-frame material. He used that concept to make the tall panel attached to the master bedroom's headboard. Textured gray paint gives this rippling surface the appearance of sculpted stone—a dazzling solution that's, of course, inexpensive.
With money (or the lack of it) foremost in Pons's mind, he ordered a rug woven to look like a giant $100 bill and laid it down in the entry. He also had 80 rolls of toilet paper printed with C notes and hung them on acrylic cylinders, like a shower curtain, across one wall of the powder room. Apparently, "absolutely anything" can be printed on toilet paper, Dunin says, showing off his site-specific installation. "Even Osama bin Laden."
PROJECT TEAM: JUAN CARLOS MORENO.
CUSTOM RUG (ENTRY): CREATIVE MATTERS. CHAIRS: THROUGH EBAY. CHAIR UPHOLSTERING (ENTRY), CUSTOM CURTAINS: NELSY INTERIORS. TRACK LIGHTING (ENTRY), CEILING FIXTURE (HALL), PENDANT FIXTURE (KITCHEN): LUXE. LAMPS (ENTRY, GUEST ROOM), GEAR MOLDS (LIVING AREA, HALL): THROUGH ORION. CHAIR, OTTOMAN (LIVING AREA): MOROSO. SIDE TABLE: THROUGH BEATRIX NIENKAMPER FURNISHINGS. VASE: ARCADE. RUGS (LIVING, DINING AREAS): POTTERY BARN. SOFAS (LIVING AREA, GUEST ROOM): MERIDIANI. TABLE, CHAIRS (DINING AREA): THROUGH GALLERY AUBERY. PENDANT FIXTURES: INGO MAURER. CANDLESTICKS: THROUGH GLO. CUSTOM DIPTYCH TILES: MIO COMPANY. SHELVING (HALL): PASTOE. CUPS, BOWLS: THROUGH CASA CURUBA. CABINETRY (KITCHEN): POGGENPOHL. DISHWASHER, RANGE, MICROWAVE: GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY. SINK FITTINGS (KITCHEN, POWDER ROOM): KOHLER CO. SINK, TOILET (POWDER ROOM): TOTO. GLASSWORK: VITRO GLASS. CUSTOM TOILET PAPER: JUSTTOILETPAPER.COM. PAINT: BENJAMIN MOORE & CO. MILLWORK: ROM CARPENTRY. LIGHTING CONSULTANT: EXCEL-O. DRYWALL INSTALLATION: MERCED.