JOHN BARMAN, ONE OF NEW YORK’S TOP INTERIOR DESIGNERS, GOT SOME FUN IN THE SOUTH FLORIDA SUN AS HE MIXED THE OLD WITH THE NEW TO TURN A 1500 SQUARE FOOT OFFICE SPACE INTO A FULL-FLEDGED OCEANFRONT CONDO WITH BREATHTAKING VIEWS.
By Linda Marx | Photography by Blue Ocean
Even though New York City based designer John Barman seeks to fulfill his clients’ requests, he makes suggestions if he feels strongly about improving a space. So when he was hired last year to renovate a 1500-square-foot property in a South Beach residential building, he felt it needed a major change. The space was formerly an office, and the New York snowbirds who bought the unit as their winter home were eager to hear his ideas on how to open it up and capture the magnificent ocean views.
“I thought it felt strange to have high ceilings with small rooms,” explains Barman, who is known for his sophisticated style and clever ideas, “So I suggested we open the living room and make it larger.” This would also help the New Yorkers take advantage of the sweeping water views which seem to run forever from their floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
Barman suggested they remove a wall so the guest room, when not in use, could become part of the expansive living room with its beautiful vista. He added a sliding glass door to separate the rooms so the change could be made easily when guests arrive.
The designer also thought the kitchen was too large and that it protruded into the living room, so he downsized it to be more appropriate for the condo. Now it has become a wall of a kitchen and doesn’t get in the way. “We basically moved the kitchen back to be on a wall,” explains Barman, and he adds, “It is big enough to suit their needs, and by reducing the size of the kitchen to add to the living room, we have created a wonderful open space.” The large living room with balcony is now clean and light, and it has opened the entire two-bedroom, two-bath condo. With floors designed in 32-inch white ceramic tile and walls of pure white, the living room is punctuated with Barman’s trademark pops of vivid color, which reflect his vision of sunny Florida. He should know, as he also has a get-away place of his own in Miami.
With an aqua sofa, pink chairs, vibrant canvases of contemporary art, yellow throw pillows and a yellow portion of the 20-foot sliding glass door—when the door is closed, the wall is three quarters yellow—he brings the outdoors in with powerful simplicity. While rarely shying away from a strong use of color, he does not overpower. “I love to design with clean pops of color,” he says. “Instead of leaving the space totally white, I wanted to intersperse Florida brights.”
Barman is also known for infusing contemporary glamour into traditional detail, mixing and matching period decor and antiques with modern furnishings. He likes an edge, but it’s usually subtle. Therefore, many of the living room pieces are vintage, but they look modern and hip because of the classy, clear-cut style and brilliant use of color. “I like vintage because it has character and interest, and it can be more one-of-a-kind than some of the newer pieces,” he says.
During the renovation, Barman also recreated the master bath, reconfiguring it to be all white with a larger shower and glass enclosure more open to the view. He also suggested they install a smaller tub. Since the ceiling had been dropped earlier, he raised it. The owners also desired more storage space, so the designer removed an existing bidet to accommodate their needs.
The adjoining master bedroom with balcony was easier. It already allowed the owners to have views of the water and the city of Miami with no added construction. So Barman designed the room in white with bursts of blue, green and yellow furnishings and art. His minimalist approach also combined the old with the new in his choice of a splashy contemporary canvas with a vintage bureau and rug.
All of these changes took about a year to complete. The owners were very happy with the end result, Barman says, because their winter home “looks fabulous.”
Even though Barman designs all over the U.S.—a recent barn in Connecticut or a home in California—he loves to work in Miami. Being a classicist and a modernist with the educated ability to design a room around a single piece of art, he loves to use his skills with the interesting and well-traveled people who buy homes in South Florida.