Jean Deniot Colombia Apartment

With its sumptuous custom-made furnishings, glittering artworks, and accents of exotic hides, the handbag designer’s home base in South America is one of a kind. Nancy Gonzalez’s capacious handbags and slender clutches—made of lime-green crocodile, lavender python, orange ostrich, and other brilliantly dyed exotic skins—are sartorial beacons for chic women around the globe. The celebrities who carry them are just as head-turning, from the glamorous Sofía Vergara of ABC’s Modern Family to the bohemian Olsen twins. Gonzalez’s breezy duplex apartment in western Colombia, on the other hand, speaks of her luxurious style in something close to a whisper.  

In the layout Jean Deniot developed, enormous pocket doors allow the rooms to blend into one another in loft like fashion, though he defined individual spaces with inset ceilings that recall the sculptured soffits of Art Moderne interiors. Further enhancing the expansive atmosphere are glass exterior walls, some more than 20 feet long. Most of these slide or pivot open, so the main level of the apartment—which contains the entrance hall, living area, dining area, and kitchen—becomes one with the wraparound terrace. For a seamless transition between indoors and out, the same French limestone paves the interior floors and the terrace. The combined effect is dematerialization, as Deniot’s fuss-free architecture seems to evaporate into sun and sky, transforming the residence into an open-air pavilion.

The designer  clad some of the pocket doors in parchment and upholstered the television room’s walls in horsehair. The crocodile hides that are Gonzalez’s signature handbag material make an appearance, too. White crocodile covers two ottomans in a sitting area that is set against a vertical garden of lemon-yellow cymbidium orchids. Deniot also recycled crocodile scraps from Gonzalez’s factory into a jazzy leather mosaic that sheathes the interior walls of the dwelling’s private elevator.  

Gold is another of Gonzalez’s signatures, and the metal warms the apartment’s restrained palette of sand, gray, and creamy whites. In the living area, pre-Columbian gold artifacts rest atop a pair of Yves Klein cocktail tables—the classic pigment-filled Table Bleue and, beside it, the Table d’Or, whose glass-and-acrylic vitrine is filled with crumpled squares of gold leaf. A wall-size tapestry of gilded fabric created by Gonzalez’s friend Olga de Amaral, the Colombian textile artist, gleams behind a swoopy high-backed armchair designed by Deniot, while spherical gold knobs grace the front doors and a brass C. Jeré sunburst wall sculpture adds a radiant note to the master bedroom.

In the center of the living area stands one of Gonzalez’s favorite gold-accented objects: a large Empire daybed that Deniot found in Paris’s Clignan court flea market. Its presence, the designer explains, is meant to bridge the chronological and stylistic gaps between the room’s Spanish Colonial painting of the Virgin Mary and its more modern furnishings. But for Gonzalez the piece embodies everything she wanted the apartment to be—stylish, comfortable, and familial. As her son says, “Everybody ends up there after dinner, drinks in hand, talking and looking out at the sky.” 

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