Today Curbed sits down with David Scott, a New York-based designer who followed long-time clients down to South Florida to design their Miami vacation apartment. The warm, beachy space Scott created out of a cold, modern hotel condominium weaves organic touches with South Beach-inspired deco and a clean palette. Here, the accomplished designer discusses the project, his upcoming book—David Scott: Outside the Box—and his personal philosophy about cohesion and balance.
As a designer based in New York, how did you come to work on this project in Miami?
Well these are long-term clients of mine whom I've known for about 15 years. It was our fifth or sixth project together, so we've done multiple projects, and within the last few years we've done their New York City home, their Hamptons home, and now their Miami vacation residence.
Had you spent some time down in Miami yourself?
Oh yes! I used to have an apartment there. Miami is a place that I have a great feeling for—I love the cosmopolitan, Latin vibe it has. It's a great place, a city by the sea that's all about enjoying and having fun.
How does your design philosophy change when you head down to a warmer climate like South Florida? Does it at all?
Yes, of course it does. First of all, I really take into account what is happening outside and in the environment. My design always reflects what is happening in the environment and in the architecture itself. In this case, this project was going to be a place where the family just wanted to relax, have it be low maintenance, and kind of a ready-to-wear environment. Everything was about that. We chose a lot of outdoor fabrics that were very easy to live with. I chose a very light palette, it was kind of cool—because, you know, it's quite hot outside—so the palette was about the sand and the sea and creating a softness.
So the clients' goals were durability and ease of use?
The apartment is located in a hotel condominium. A person who has chosen that is looking for service and ease of use, ease of life. One of the things we wanted to do was to have something of an urbane, cool style based around our first purchase, that Mike and Doug Starn bamboo artwork—that's the one that was on roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That was the first piece that we bought, and I often like to get clients to either collect, or collect with them, some of the art for the flavor of the apartment.
So you find yourself starting with the art?
Yes, often, or concurrent with the project. I kind of know their palette, but the art, for me, is what creates a truly personal environment and provides a lot of inspiration in subtle ways.
This is a question we just love asking: did the clients end up saying no to any of your proposals?
No, at this point, after all these years, there aren't a lot of nos. Of course, there's always a discussion of, you know, trying to contain the budget. But at this point we really see eye to eye.
Now let's move on to some of the specific design choices you made, starting with the day bed that divides the living room? What inspired you to create that piece?
Well, it's interesting. That day bed?well, both columns couldn't be moved, so it was structural, but I cleaned up the form so that it would be fully symmetrical, and then created that as a transition space between the media room and the main living room. You're left with this great spot that allows you to sit or rest on both sides and also provides storage underneath. It's kind of like the Jefferson bed from Monticello to me, but a more modern version of that.
Another highlight is the similarity between a pair of wooden artworks and the cocktail table in the media room. Where were they sourced?
I love them, because they have this weathered wood look. The [wall pieces] are 1960s French, from a shop called Objectiques in New York. One is concave and one is convex; the wood was cut and then made into that form. The cocktail table is the same technique. We just found things that were similar and spoke to each other. The color of all that is this weathered, "driftwoody"?I used something similar, teak, for the cabinetry in the apartment. So, that's another part of it, keeping that teak-like feeling. That's part of my "man-manipulated organic": I love that, that's one of the things I do a lot of in my work. Just taking things that are quite organic, but manipulated by man, while keeping the honesty of it. In this case, into a cocktail table and wall art, but you always know what it is when you look at it.
Were those of the same vintage?
No, the cocktail table was new. It comes from a place called Jalan Jalan, in Miami, a local source.
We talked about the Starn bamboo work, but did you have an influence over all the art in the space, or were you working around their existing collection?
Everything in this space is new. They did not have a home there, so we collected everything together, or I found things on my own and then presented them to the client. This box (above) is by the Italian designer Gabriella Crespi.
All told, what's your favorite aspect of this project? What are you most proud of?
What I think I'm most proud of is that I brought a cohesive feeling to the space by having these very soft floors throughout the entire apartment that really gave the space a unifying aspect. I'm also really happy that the clients love it, that they feel really comfortable and that people who come in find it a little unexpected. The hotel that it's in is kind of a dark place, not as light and airy as this. So I'm happy I was able to really create this lightness in the apartment and still keep it urbane.
How does it compare to the clients' other two homes?
I think there's definitely a thread that runs through all of them. They're elegant and comfortable, but each one is distinctly different. One is in Manhattan, a more serious apartment. I don't want to say serious, but it's a Manhattan residence. The beach house in Southampton is very much about the architecture. There are similarities in terms of comfort. They love blues and creams, so the visual palette is somewhat similar. Here I think we've made it just a bit more about the sand and the sea, with a little bit of Miami edge to it.
What's up next for you?
Yes, I have a couple of things. I have a book that's launching on May 9th of my work. It's called David Scott: Outside the Box, published by Pointed Leaf Press. It focuses on 11 projects that I've done of the last several years. It will be a large 12x12 coffee table book.
How did you select those 11 projects?
I sat down with the publisher and editor and we went through what we thought was going to tell the most interesting stories. More in the last 10 years?I've been in business for 20. So it was more about looking back on the last 10 years and picking particularly successful projects. So we have the story of my homes, to show how I live, my New York City apartment and my Hamptons home, and then a variety of projects: one in Arizona that was a big project for me, several NYC apartments, a couple more Hamptons residences, a gorgeous home I did in Greenwich, Conn. I kind of wanted to show a range. We went back and rephotographed a lot of it so we would have some fresh photography, so we had to be able to go back to these homes. I did the photography with Antoine Bootz, who also did the photos for this Miami apartment.
One of the really exciting projects—I'm installing today—is a project on Central Park West—it's another hotel apartment actually, at One Central Park West, the Trump International Hotel & Tower. That has gorgeous views. Then I'm doing a beautiful modernist house with the 1100 Architect for long-term clients in Southampton, on the ocean. They'll be moving in on July 4th. That's a 20,000-square-foot house.
Do you get excited with large projects?
I love the challenge of a smaller project. It's something that makes you get even more creative, but the luxury of doing an enormous home that's for a family and has distinct rooms for different activities and has the breadth and scope to embrace the environment like that house in Southampton is a great privilege. You have to understand how to handle the large projects and stay very organized. I'm always looking to keep a thread running through the whole project. I don't like rooms that are really disparate?so let's have a red room here, a green room here?I don't decorate in that way. The way I design is that I want a thread to flow through all of the home. That might be in the style, in the way you use texture, how you're applying pattern. The level of thought that goes into the design has to be very balanced, particularly on the large projects, and I think that's how you create harmony in a space. To me, that's what homes are about. They're about the people who live in them and about supporting their lifestyle. It's about creating a space where people can be comfortable, where there's always a comfortable sofa, where there's always a table nearby for a drink or a book. I'm always thinking about people needing to retreat. I'm always thinking about how to use a space, not just how pretty it is, because beauty is also about function to me.
Your clients must be happy about that as well, not living in a museum.
Yes, fortunately they keep coming back for more projects, so that's the sign of doing your job right. The other thing is that my projects have integrity. I listen. I really listen to my clients and then offer my best solutions to their problems, their desires. Some people want to get up in the morning and be stimulated, others want it to be calm. These are the kinds of things I ask my clients. I ask them, how do you want to feel in the space, what do you want to do in it. How do you live? Are you a neat freak,? Are you a messy person? Just, how do you live? If you can get inside the psyche of the client and get them to talk about how they would like to live. Because there's the reality of how they have lived and they come to you to create a whole new thing. As a designer, you have the opportunity now to impart more to their lives. All of that is what keeps me going every day.
In the end, it is glamorous on a certain level, because what are you doing? You're shopping, you're spending other people's money, but there's a lot of responsibility that goes along with that. There's the balance of being artistic and having fun and the side that has to be very serious and very thoughtful and respect the responsibility you've been given. That's how you build long-term relationships and that's how clients come to trust you. That's my philosophy.