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Tropical glam, coastal luxury: Coconut Grove by Stephanie Barba Mendoza

Explore Miami's tropical beauty and distinct interior design with Barba Mendoza's luxury project.

miami interior design
Coconut Grove project by Stephanie Barba Mendoza. Photography by Claudia Uribe Touri.
Tropical glam, coastal luxury: Coconut Grove by Stephanie Barba Mendoza
Clara Carlino de Paz
July 26, 2023

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It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and despite the on-and-off gusts of heat waves, winds, rains and the like, the vibes are high and our eyes are set on the vibrant palettes of the coast. In our quest for fresh interior design inspiration, we found Stephanie Barba Mendoza’s incredibly rich Coconut Grove project in Miami. We couldn’t resist asking some questions about the colour scheme, patterns and structure of the home, and Stephanie obliged with some thoughtful insider intel.

If you’re on the hunt for interior design content, you can find exclusive interviews and deep-dives on Portaire and our YouTube channel

Hi Stephanie, thank you so much for chatting with us today. Could you introduce yourself and your studio?

My name is Stephanie Barba Mendoza and I am the founder and creative director of Stephanie Barba Mendoza! We are an international interior design studio with projects across the world. We specialise in residential and commercial work and are made up of six designers, working from our studio in North West London. 

How do you define your brand's vision and identity?

We design exciting projects that inspire and resonate with our clients. Each project conveys an expressive personality and has a lasting meaning. We believe in working closely with the clients in order to create something uniquely personal to them.  

Stephanie Barba Mendoza at Coconut Grove
Stephanie Barba Mendoza at Coconut Grove. Photography by Claudia Uribe Touri.

Today, we'd like to dive deep into your latest Coconut Grove project in Miami. What was the brief, and how did you work with your clients to put it into action?

Our client has a European background and has grown up inspired by the classical and neo classical style that Europe is so well regarded for. Her husband is a Miami native, growing up surrounded by mid century modern architecture, vivid colour and a modernist aesthetic. Our brief was to design a home that seamlessly blended both design languages and create a synergy that accommodated both personalities. With this in mind, we tried to introduce classical elements but with a modern twist. For example, a lot of the furniture is modern but we have contrasted this with neoclassical antiques to create a fine balance between the two periods. Additionally, the architectural shell of the house is contemporary with a statement full-height glazed window to the side of the property. We were able to soften this look with a more classically-inspired dressing. The blue patterned Austrian blinds soften the look and provide a frothy ambience. 

Dining area at Coconut Grove
Dining area at Coconut Grove. Photography by Claudia Uribe Touri.

Working with international clientele is an art form within itself. What was the process and execution of the project like?

This project came just at the start of the COVID 19 Pandemic and so the whole design process was totally unique. I didn't actually visit the site until most of the design work had been done and we were at the fit-out stage. It was also at a time when my studio was smaller and I was working on my own. With travel restrictions in place I set to work from my home in London and was lucky to be able to use all the architectural drawings and photographs from my client to get everything in order. In fact, with today's technology, it was a relatively smooth process as I could FaceTime my clients frequently. I am also familiar with working with international clients and so the distance did not phase me. In fact, this is often the way that I work and seeing as I am Mexican myself, I often work remotely whilst travelling. So whilst it was a very unique set of circumstances, it wasn't something that I was phase by. I was just excited to be working on a fun project in Miami!

If I had to describe the project, I'd say it's eclectic, fun and chic. How do you see this project reflecting the essence of Miami's tropical energy, while maintaining a sense of timeless elegance?

There is such a special light in Miami and a tropical energy which is palpable and so I wanted to imbue this within the interiors. This came through our colour palette, which is actually changeable depending on the time of day and the kind of light of that moment. Our outdoor living area is perhaps the best way in which we reflected the very essence of Miami. An indoor/outdoor living area with a seamless transition was really important to achieve as this area not only doubles up as an additional room, but it can also be used throughout the year as the weather is so perfect. I worked with a landscape designer to ensure the wall of planting around the pool complemented our interior scheme. We used native planting to root the project to its location and I selected materials which would work well for outdoor life; durable but also comfortable to the skin, especially if you’re wearing swimsuits etc. The interaction of antique pieces, both inside and out brought a sense of elegance and balanced an old and new aesthetic.

Outside pool area at Coconut Grove. Photography by Claudia Uribe Touri.

The colour palette of blues and whites is contrasted with bold red-striped armchairs and curving surfaces in a magnificent way. What motivated you to incorporate these contrasting elements? 

When I started looking into the scheme I pulled out lots of samples , seeing what would look good in a Miami setting. I also looked to see what colours have I inherited from the property. This mainly came from the terrazzo and verdant greenery from outside. When choosing colours I had to look at the vibrant blue of Miami - the water and the sky - and, being mindful of the Miami heat, I thought whites and creams would work well. They also balance nicely against the rich blue tones. To contrast these colours I wanted to introduce pops of red, which is a colour I love to mix with blue, so this felt intuitive to me and right. 

An interesting aspect of this project is that the pool deck area is designed to function as a living space as much as the indoors. How do you create a seamless feel between the two?

The layout and your spatial planning is important for areas like this. You want to create a seamless transition however, you have to consider materials - which will be different because one area faces the elements and the other doesn’t - but they have to work in harmony and look cohesive.

Outdoor pool area at Coconut Grove. Photography by Claudia Uribe Touri.

The architecture of the home has a mid-century-inspired style. How did you work with this architectural framework to create a home that works from daytime to nighttime?

Lighting is key for something to work from day to night. I love to use table lights, floor lamps and wall sconces to create a mood and ambience and this is exactly what we did here. During the day, the house is flooded with beautiful natural light from the Miami sun but at night, we were keen to provide a place that would work for entertaining or a quiet night in. This is where low-level lighting comes in and is key to a successful atmosphere.

The fully-glazed side dressed with a boldly patterned Austrian-style swagging blind, the glamorous Murano-glass chandeliers, the luscious pool terrace… They scream "luxury". What was your vision behind these design choices? How do they contribute to the overall grandeur and ambiance of the space?

The house already had incredible height, thanks to its architectural bones, and so this hugely helped with portraying this sense of European classical grandeur. I wanted to help fill the space though and make it feel warmer and so I lowered the sense of the ceiling with a statement pendant light - which is Murano glass - and I introduced the swagging Austrian blinds. The combination helps to make the main living room and adjoining dining space feel more intimate and welcoming. 

Living area at Coconut Grove
Living area at Coconut Grove. Photography by Claudia Uribe Touri.

It was so great to chat. How can our readers stay in touch with you and your work? @stephaniebarbamendoza over on Instagram! 

Outdoor eating area at Coconut Grove
Outdoor eating area at Coconut Grove. Photography by Claudia Uribe Touri.

 If you enjoy designer interviews, you’ll love the following articles: “Sustainability, Heritage And Family-Focused Design: Studio Caché's Tadmarton Grange Project”, “Soft Minimalism And Human-Centred Design With Norm Architects” and “In Conversation With Béton Brut: London's Trailblazing Design Gallery, Prop House And Consultancy”.