Sara Bengur Creates a Sky-High Pied-à-Terre for an Art-Collecting Couple in Florida
An art appraiser's chic Hollywood Beach escape features artworks by Héctor Zamora, Sam Falls, and Fabrice Gygi
When art-collecting couples fly to South Florida in early December, typically paintings and sculptures are on their shopping lists. But when former New York gallerist and art appraiser Lynda Greig visited Miami with her husband, financier Nigel Greig, for a recent edition of Art Basel, he found the area’s real estate market more appealing than the fair. Soon the couple was browsing luxury buildings for a warm-weather pied-à-terre.
However, beachfront residences in Miami proper didn’t have the space they were looking for to host family gatherings, so they ventured north, to Hollywood Beach, where they were able to find a 17th-floor apartment in a newly constructed tower with sweeping views. “Walking into that master bedroom just did it for me,” Lynda says of visiting the floor-through residence, which overlooks both the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway.
To transform the cookie-cutter white box into a chic family home, the Greigs reached out to New York designer Sara Bengur, a longtime friend who had previously worked alongside Nigel at a brokerage firm in London. When Bengur switched careers from finance to interiors, he was one of her first clients. “Anything by the sea is a great treat to work on,” says Bengur, who subsequently designed the couple’s Manhattan apartment. “For each client I work with, I really tune into what they want, and with Lynda it was so much about the art. She wanted to incorporate color and have it be a playful refuge where she could relax with Nigel and his kids. It evolved from there.”
Initially they painted all the walls Benjamin Moore’s Glacier White and installed honed marble tiles throughout to give the aerie a cloud-like airiness that offers a clean canvas for the Greigs’ extensive collection of art. The baths got small tweaks, while the kitchen was enhanced with beautiful mosaics. One of Lynda’s first purchases for the space was a Molteni bookshelf, installed in the dining room, that offers a geometric frame for her extensive trove of art books and ceramics. “I love that bookshelf,” says Greig. “It kind of reminds me of a Mondrian painting.”
Determined to avoid the ultramodern aesthetic popular in South Florida, Bengur and Lynda wanted to infuse the interior with items that were exotic and unique without being cliché. “I look for ways to use the patterns and colors that I grew up with in a way that works with our Western lifestyle or incorporates contemporary features,” says Bengur, who was raised in Turkey. To that end, she commissioned handwoven rugs for the living room and bedroom from an all-women Turkish collective and transformed colorful textiles into accent pillows and custom drapery.
Bengur hand-picked all of the furnishings for the residence, methodically mixing contemporary pieces from Cassina, Ligne Roset, Molteni, and Janus et Cie with vintage finds. “We shopped for a long time for these pieces, and I wanted Lynda to fall in love with each one,” she says. “We knew at the beginning we weren’t going to fill it up with too many things, so each piece had to have its own integrity, its own statement.”
Some of the most dramatic additions include a circa-1970s triangle cocktail table with Lucite legs found at Red Modern Furniture and a sweeping vintage Arco lamp that Lynda discovered in an appraisal project she was working on in Manhattan. “The family opened the door to their parents’ home and said, Welcome to 1960,” she laughs at the discovery.
Like many other areas of the home, the main bedroom was designed around pieces from the couple’s art collection, predominantly a yellow work by Swiss artist Fabrice Gygi that Lynda came across when she was in Paris for the FIAC art fair. “I’ve always gravitated to his work, but I’ve never seen this unique yellow stripe,” she says of the piece, a continuous brushstroke that drifts from one heavily pigmented side to sunny color wash on the other, that reminds her of the third chakra of the solar plexus. “It’s very uplifting.”
To balance the room’s spirited artworks—which include a lyrical canvas by Navid Nuur, who Greig was introduced to at Frieze New York, and an amber Tristano Robilant glass sculpture—light textural linen was used for the bed covering and custom headboard, while a delicate Murano glass chandelier hangs overhead. “People always feel that fixtures need to be so big, but they really don’t have to be in order to function well and look good,” says Bengur. “I like slightly smaller-scale fixtures in a bedroom–it just feels lighter. I also like to hang them close to the ceiling.”
One of the last spaces to come together was a noticeably underused section of the apartment. “You have this intense light that comes from either side but the middle space can get kind of dark,” says Lynda. Now the family area, the room sports a cozy sofa and dynamic yellow chairs by Cassina, cobalt-blue Five Pouf ottomans, a custom Aleman/Moore rug, and graphic pillows that echo the patterned wallpaper in the hallway beyond. “I wanted to create something that was inviting and fun,” she adds. “The great thing is this space now gets used. It’s almost like a cozy little cave in the middle of the apartment.”
Art, too, played an integral role in the room’s design, courtesy of a tropical Sam Falls work on one wall and an eye-catching Héctor Zamora photograph on the other. “That was the main event in this room,” says Bengur of the photo, which captures the architecture of a Colombian building, one floor of which has been filled with decaying plantains. “I never, ever want to match interiors to art, but I couldn’t help getting inspired by this piece and somehow wanted the furniture in this room to acknowledge and talk to the art.”
Another standout of the family space is a sculptural lighting fixture that makes a statement without shouting. “Being a child of the ’60s and ’70s, I had a sentimental feeling for it. I love it because its retro but not over the top,” Lynda says of the vintage chandelier. “All the light fixtures are like jewelry to me.”
Vintage turquoise lamps in the main bedroom, which Bengur rewired, speak to the couple’s cache of ceramics, while luminescent artworks such as the two-panel piece by French artist Veronique Jourmand in the living room add to the airiness and complement the oceanfront setting without being literal. “A lot of things that might apply to other residences or interiors didn’t apply here,” says Bengur. “This is very much a space unto its own and needed to be treated as such.”