by Juliet Johnson // photos by Agnes Lopez
“If it ain’t Baroque…”
Of all the interior decorating styles we see in Jacksonville, Baroque Modern makes only infrequent appearances. Most of us are unfamiliar with its opulence and scale. What is intended as bold can seem loud through our beige-tinted Pottery Barn glasses. What feels extravagant and discordant is the deliberate counterpoint between the opulent ornamentation of Baroque, broken up and lightened by sleek contemporary materials and lines of today’s vernacular designs. It takes courage and a sophisticated artistry to pull off Baroque Modern. It’s “all in” or nothing. Not far from the suburbian mecca of St. Johns Town Center is an extraordinary home, impressive, startling and stunning. That the exuberantly styled residence is owned, designed and decorated by two gentle and kindhearted souls is irony at its best.
Once dermatologist, Dr. Josep Genebriera and his husband, realtor Nicholas Eklund, knew that starting a family was an exciting reality, they began looking for a child-friendly community, convenient to everything in town. Pablo Creek Reserve fit the bill beautifully, with its 4.5 acre central park and lively children’s playground. The community only allows certain building styles. While Josep might have preferred a Contemporary, he and Nick chose French from the options permissible. They called in friend and architect Pol Carrera to design a home that would meet the needs of a growing family, with plenty of space for the couple’s art and ceramic collections. The result is a five-bedroom, eight-bathroom, 7,630-square-foot homage to the ornate.
Many rooms are dual-purpose—the laundry room is also the “wrapping room,” the garage doubles as a ballroom (what else would you call a large, open entertaining space intended for when the weather keeps company from being comfortable outside?)—and both the game room and the theater upstairs can become bedrooms when needed.
Josep is from Barcelona, Spain, and has studied all over the world. Nick is from rural Minnesota and attended St. Johns University in New York where he studied music, art and theology. One can see the influence of both backgrounds in their shared taste and congruent style. They love the classics and high tech. They love texture and tactile contrasts. They both enjoy the highly ornate solidity of Baroque furniture: the traditional gold and marble, the tufted velvet, gilt mirrors and figurative elements. Equally, they enjoy the work of Philippe Starcke, deploying his Louis Ghost chairs in the dining room to contrast the massive ebony and oak Brussels pedestal table, for example.
But where Baroque interiors were intended to express power and glory, here it is a joyful celebration of color and contrast, a festive showcase of progress and modernity.
The great room, with its six-and-a-half-foot Schonbeck chandelier, has fireplaces at each end, but its focal point is a black grand piano that once belonged to Julie Andrews. The piano was built for her Los Angeles home. Josep bought it as a surprise for Nick as a thank you for handling the daily construction challenges on the house that took two years to build, and more than one contractor.
Many of the stunning furniture pieces were custom-made by Shine by S.H.O in Los Angeles. Owner and principal designer Susan Ortiz is a friend of the couple. Her Mila console with gold-leafed octagons and white lacquered top ground the formal seating area where a pair of Venetian Blackamoor Torchères frame sumptuously soft silk-velvet tufted sofas and the Halston coffee table with Carrara marble top. Ortiz’s Dauphine media cabinet in gold and teal hides the TV and transitions to the less formal side of the room where a round sofa (the Colette Banquette) and a pair of St. Tropez chairs are clad in more creamy European velvet, this time in teal and gray.
The great room is open to the dining room on the left and Nick’s office on the right. Multiple French doors lead to the backyard where a 70-foot lap pool with central spa adds a river of blue shimmer to the vibrant backyard filled with bright yellow Luigi armchairs by Polart, bright white steer sculptures and seating for many. You can see the influence of several luxury hotels from the couple’s extensive travels.
Compared to the rest of the home, the master bedroom appears like a typical adult bedroom, with a fireplace, white marble stack, walls of curtains inspired by Frank Gehry’s hotels and another Susan Ortiz console under a vast gilt mirror. A sheepskin rug brought back from Iceland sits in front of the fireplace with a fun zippered tuffet and tray. Around the corner, gold mosaic tile glints dramatically against two Zenith black Baccarat-inspired chandeliers serving as bedside lights. Susan Ortiz Recamier dressers in white lacquer and gold leaf are the nightstands. And the bed is hooded, velvet-tasseled nirvana. Piles of pillows, some with intricate beaded embroidery, others sequined, and a pair of leather neckrolls add to the luxurious retreat.
Sybaritic fun continues in the master bath where the infinity edge tub is filled from a spout mounted in the ceiling. Nick’s closet is enclosed in white Macassar wood veneer and lit by another Zenith black chandelier. Josep hangs a few shirts there, too.
Glass fronted storage in the eat-in side of the kitchen enables one to see stored things one rarely uses, and the dining area comfortably accomodates eight to ten, thanks to banquette seating on both sides. The kitchen island is covered in a black marbled quartzite sourced from South Florida.
A 2 AM drive to Miami to pick four slabs that were bookended to waterfall over the edges adds to the entertaining folklore of the home. The larder holds a backup oven, while a second fridge is tucked next to a rounded set of cookbook shelves crafted by River City Custom Cabinetry.
Wide black and white stripes wrap the walls and ceiling of the garage so that it looks like the inside of a jewelry box. Matte tile
prevents the floors from being slippery. The three vivid yellow chandeliers hang in strong contrast and naturally divide the space in thirds—for three tables, for dancing, sitting and a DJ, for whatever entertaining needs one might have. It must be a magical space for Disney princess-loving daughter Isabella—it’s easy to imagine an Alice in Wonderland tea party here.
Up a stately glass staircase, is another children’s bedroom, a theater, a guest room for in-laws who come to stay for a month at a time and a game room. The game room is dominated by a large billiard table, a gold-sprayed antler chandelier and white birch wallpaper—the same as in the mayor’s office on the ABC drama Once Upon A Time. Also on the wall are various portraits of the couple’s miniature bull terrier, Tasha, depicted as a Tudor queen.
“We started this process trying to decide if we were building for resale or for ourselves,” says Nick. “What we would up with is, we’ve been told, a showstopper for entertaining and luxury living. It is our sanctuary.”
Baroque Modern. Not for everyone, but fresh, original and exciting in its bold celebratory, joy-filled abundance.