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Runway Designer

20.11.19

Over the course of her celebrated career as a supermodel, wellness warrior, entrepreneur, and mother of two, Elle Macpherson has orchestrated the design and construction of numerous houses in the U.S. and abroad, often in collaboration with some of the world’s foremost interior-design talents. For her latest home in Florida, the Australian-born beauty decided to take a far different approach than her previous efforts. “This time, it wasn’t about developing a million different schemes, with lots of custom-built furniture or profound investments, and then deciding which one to pursue,” she explains. “This feels more modern, adopting a sustainable approach to design—taking the best of what you already have and repurposing it for a new life.” Fortunately for Macpherson, that criterion—the best of what she has—applies to a trove of artworks by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Prince, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, and other titans of 20th- and 21st-century art; a photography collection, assembled over many years with the help of Hamiltons Gallery in London, which includes works by Irving Penn, Horst P. Horst, Richard Avedon, and Robert Mapplethorpe; and an ensemble of furnishings with a concentration of exemplary pieces by Jean Royère, Studio Job, and Marc Newson. All in all, not a bad place to start.

“Our job was to create a look and lifestyle that recognized the family’s history of living in London for 17 years along with the boys’ French heritage and their mother’s Australian irreverence. Elle wanted a nimble, pragmatic, and no-fuss experience without compromising style. To achieve this within our allotted two months, we were required to make efficient but solid decisions with her,” explains Brian Sawyer of the New York City–based AD100 architecture, interiors, and landscape firm Sawyer | Berson. “Luckily for all of us, she picked a great house, so there was no need for major structural work. We focused on highlighting the best aspects of the architecture together with the abundant natural light to craft beautiful rooms with a youthful, modern spirit.”

Originally, Macpherson had set her sights on finding a classic midcentury single-story home, “something very Miami,” she says. But her search eventually led her to this Normandy-inspired house designed by architect Chad Oppenheim on two verdant acres featuring massive live oaks together with lemon, orange, and mango trees and an organic vegetable garden. “This place is so different from what I had in mind, but I believe in being openhearted and open-minded in life, and this space and location just felt right,” she says.

When it came to arranging the rooms, the disposition of Macpherson’s estimable art collection was naturally top of mind. “I was fortunate because I grew up in the 1980s in New York City after leaving home in Oz in 1982, when I was 18 years old. I’ve had a passion for art since I was a student, and I met everyone from Warhol to Joseph Kosuth to Keith Haring and Tracey Emin. Someone wise once told me that when it comes to acquiring art, you should buy your contemporaries because they speak your cultural language. And that’s what I did,” Macpherson says. She also credits Tony Shafrazi, the charismatic dealer and artist, as an early mentor and cicerone through the labyrinthine art market. “He gave me the courage to take risks with investments because I loved, and was educated about, the artists and their work,” she recalls.

“Elle considers her artwork family. Though she is a passionate collector, she was adamant that we avoid creating the austere or expected look of a gallery. From past experience she has an inherent sense of which pieces would make good neighbors,” says Sawyer | Berson director of interior design Matt McKay. Those decisions were not made lightly. “I wanted the house to feel effortless, eclectic, and fun, with no pretension. But it still had to feel considered. Less is more, but it can also be more challenging. It requires discipline and editing,” Macpherson says of the decorative balancing act.

While white walls and unlined sheer white curtains provide an appropriately breezy backdrop for the artworks and objets de vertu in the living room, splashes of color emerge in the marigold curtains that envelop the dining room, the deep celadon velvet of the media room, and the teal walls and upholstery in the boys’ lounge, which is adorned with a series of artworks by John Wesley. The spruce lounge fits the bill for Macpherson’s two sons—Flynn, 21, and Cy, 16—who requested “something cool and modern but not too contrived,” their mom says. “I love that the sofas can convert into one huge bed or individual beds so we can accommodate all their friends. I often find myself cooking breakfast for eight to 10 leftover boys, which is a switch from the black-tie entertaining I used to do regularly when we lived in London.”

As well as it functions for a gaggle of teenage boys, the vibe Macpherson has conjured in her Florida domain—chic yet casual, tailored but free-spirited—would be equally suitable to any style of entertaining: high, low, and everywhere in between. It’s a testament to the fresh, laid-back sensibility that guided the design of the house as well as the power of the important artworks and furnishings it contains. “I’ve found that quality always trumps quantity,” Macpherson says of her tightly curated home. “In the long run, quality stands the test of time.”

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