French interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot is a big fan of Miami. “I love the mix of people—from pensioners to the local drag queens,” he says. “It’s such an uninhibited city. Everyone does what they want when they want.” He’s also a great admirer of midcentury modern houses. But his first project in the city, a home renovated for an Internet entrepreneur, is a bit of an anomaly for the area. Built in 1951 by the architect Robert M. Nordin, the single-story structure is located on Indian Creek near South Beach, yet looks like it could be in the Hollywood Hills. By the time Deniot, 42, saw it, the 4,600-square-foot, four-bedroom residence had seen better days. “It was a kind of Sleeping Beauty,” he says. It hadn’t been painted since its construction. There was a two-inch-thick brown carpet, floral wallpapers, and a corridor with a ceiling height of less than seven feet. The last, he asserts, “was like a bowling alley but without the bowls and Skittles.”
A Paris native, Deniot received his first commissions while still a student at the local École Camondo and has since made his mark with a style rooted in the French tradition, updated with vintage 20th-century elements, layered textiles, and a contemporary concern for comfort. His standout projects include a Delhi residence that resembles a mini-Versailles and an apartment on Paris’s exclusive Avenue Foch for a Saudi princess.
Here, he gutted the interior to give it a distinctly Miami vibe. He chose to use terrazzo for the flooring, largely influenced by A Walk on the Beach, an installation by artist and Miami native Michele Oka Doner in the North Terminal of the city’s airport that features bronze shells, seaweed, and other marine forms set in a dark-gray epoxy terrazzo. For Deniot, it has the added advantage of being wonderfully conducive to barefoot Florida living.
Deniot did, however, steer away from the white look so often associated with the city. Instead he decided to incorporate touches of blue to relate to the ocean.“In the Hamptons it’s a navy, in Tangiers a petrol blue,” he says. “I always associate Miami with Yves Klein blue.”
The rest of the layered furnishings range from Moroccan rugs and African fabrics to a 16-foot suspended sofa in the living room. There is also a smattering of pieces from his new collection for Baker. More than anything, he wanted to endow the house with a relaxed and racy atmosphere. “If you bring a date back here and nothing happens,” he quips, “then you know you have a problem.”