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Photography by Ken Hayden

Some Like It Hot!

by Saxon Henry | Miami magazine | February 22, 2012

Ask the average designer what constitutes perfect interiors for Miami’s romantic tropical setting and the reply is often “less is more.” Robert Brown and Todd Davis, the duo at the helm of Brown Davis Interiors, wouldn’t argue with this caveat, but only if “less” doesn’t leave a space feeling spare and lacking. In fact, the pair has a talent for what reads as “less is more… magnificent!”

When they were asked to express a young couple’s urbane points of view in this home on San Marino Island in Miami Beach, they knew exactly where their inspiration would be found: in fashion, travel and a refined tastefulness reflecting the clients’ fine-tuned sensibilities. “The husband is a financier and the wife is a former international fashion model,” says Brown. “From her travels during her modeling career, she developed a fresh, well-heeled vision; and he approaches life with a sophisticated worldliness as well.”

As with any project, the point of view was far from one-dimensional. The couple has an adored 4-year-old daughter, so the home had to reflect her sense of whimsy while being easily navigable by her tiny frame. “These are strikingly beautiful people,” Davis remarks. “We wanted their home to reflect this, but to have substance. We brought in a variety of finely wrought elements, keeping in mind that their daughter was small, so pieces like the sofa in the living room are low, making them easily approachable for her.”

Their talent for introducing soft texture is evident in this project. Deliciously downy throw pillows dot the home and the carpet in the den is a marvel for adding tone-on-tone depth as well as for tickling toes. There are spots of color in the palette they chose for these interiors, but mainly in the art, which holds the commanding place it should in the highly tailored spaces. Brown and Davis, who also have offices in Washington, D.C., and a fabled project roster that includes two homes for Bill and Hillary Clinton, are quick to point out that this contemporary envelope is a perfect example of the importance of heeding the mandates of classicism, regardless of the style.

“It may appear that our approach for this home has a freewheeling aspect to it but we never shoot from the hip,” explains Brown. “You have to know the rules to be able to break them.” Davis adds, “There is a place for beautifully done classical proportions in any style today. That said, we are being asked to push the envelope more and more these days.” Adding boldness and color are several ways the pair makes broader strokes in their tropical interiors. “We have had a number of people visit us from Los Angeles, London, New York and Paris lately,” Davis continues, “and they tell us they are blown away by the excitement we have brought to the interiors of our own home, which echoes the vitality we are seeing in our overall work at the moment.”

Current projects—including a residence in L.A., an atelier for a fashion designer in London, and a showroom on D.C.’s famed Capitol Hill—illustrate how the duo’s oeuvre escapes the bounds of any one milieu, though they admit to having a protracted love affair with Miami. “Our work in and around Miami tends to be more daring,” says Brown. “Between the art we are finding in the homes of our collector clients to the bolder combinations of the furniture and art we are able to include, we can create remarkable juxtapositions that ultimately relate but are far from predictable.”

Their capriciousness shines in the combinations they seamlessly melded in this home: in the master bedroom, boxy club chairs accompany a curvaceous LC4 chaise covered in pony hide, and clean contemporary photographs hold their own near a playful painting by the lady of the house. Vintage moments in the dining room—a Saarinen table and Milo Baughman chairs—and living room—shapely Karl Springer seating—are deftly mixed with contemporary art from Andy Warhol and Yves Klein. And their bespoke pieces, such as the coffee table in the living room, are brilliantly tucked into the design scheme. An elegant Murano glass light fixture in a corner is an elegant touch, a jewelry-like adornment serving as the perfect nod to the wife’s career in fashion.

“One of the biggest challenges the floor plan presented us was the shape of many of the rooms, which weren’t typical,” remarks Brown. “The living room is a long ‘L’ shape so we separated it into two spaces that relate stylistically but serve separate functions—one a conversational space and the other a media space.” Shells and coral were added sparingly to remind the homeowners that their island address is surrounded by the sparkling waters beckoning beachgoers to their sands.

“There is no denying that Miami brings romance and beauty to mind,” says Davis. “But as with any subject, if depth isn’t brought to bear on the design aspects of a project, a superficial nod to vanity will be the result and it will ring hollow. That’s why we so heavily reinterpret the themes that show themselves when we begin our projects.”

Proving that they not only work their passion but live it, Brown Davis Interiors has just moved its offices to the 1111 Building on Lincoln Road, where working within such a storied structure designed by Herzog and de Meuron is providing them with added inspiration.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time for us given the fact that cultures are intermingling in vibrant ways,” Brown remarks. “Having a solid presence in both the buttoned-up world of D.C. and the hip, hot tropics of Miami means we get to expand our repertoire to a dizzying breadth!” Given that they are tossing L.A. and London into the D.C./Miami mix, we might have to add their ability to heat up the international design scene as one of the causes for global warming in the near future.