European Inspiration

BY LINDA MARX | PHOTOGRAPHS BY ALEX TARAJANO

Seeking serenity and peace, Maria Alejandra Llamas designed her Coconut Grove home with views of vegetation and special places for private moments.

When designing and building her Coconut Grove home, Maria Alejandra Llamas, a talented designer and author of self-help books, felt an internal impulse to create serenity and harmony.

The design ideas were traditionally American but infused with European touches, like French interiors done in the traditional style. “I wanted to bring peace and coziness into my home, complete with lots of private spaces for wine drinking, playing cards, dining and spending time with my family,” says Llamas, who moved to Miami from Mexico City with her husband, Genaro Diaz, a businessman, and their two children. “When I look out the window I want to see a peaceful resort scene.”

The exterior of the house is white while inside the palette is white and gray. With six bedrooms (including two master suites) and eight baths on a piece of property that spans nearly two acres, the residence is large and luxurious. It’s designed around a long and stately swimming pool with a massage and fitness building located at one end. Flanking the pool are long, open terraces with several seating and dining vignettes, one large enough to accommodate 20 people. “We have four areas that look at the pool,” says Llamas. “It is a Zen pool. The water gives our home energy while the wood-like color scheme gives me peace.” Surrounding views of vegetation are reminiscent of a rainforest. A volleyball court and massive trees shade the entire scene because the couple built their home to save and take advantage of the oaks.

“I like some modern touches inside and designed much of the house with Italian wood flooring and lots of art, antiques and books,” says Llamas, who has listed the nearly $12 million home for sale with One Sotheby’s International Realty because her children are grown. One is off to college in Europe; the other is playing professional tennis. “But our inner gardens are wonderful places to entertain friends, utilize the summer kitchen, enjoy wine and have good conversations. The entire theme of the house was built around making the most of the glorious outdoors.”

Family members enter the house through the interior patio, which has a handmade, Mexican ceramic floor. The sculpted doors continue to open throughout the space until the pool comes into view and the greenery explodes with beauty. “We receive people on the patio, then step into the living areas,” explains Llamas, who hopes to eventually divide her time between a smaller place in Miami and an Aspen retreat. “We like to keep the doors open to take full advantage of the view.”

In the living room, there is a great deal of light and window-doors that open to the pool and spa area, lending an airy vibe. A white sofa dominates the room. Behind it stands a long, marble-topped table and bar stools which are used for breakfast in the morning and to entertain friends at night. “We spend a lot of time in this room. We even have a chess table and piano in there,” says Llamas. “We love it!”

The family also enjoys a separate rec room with a football game machine and ping-pong table arranged around a large white Italian sectional. In the dining room, which is used for formal dinners, a sparkling chandelier sets the stage for conversation by family and friends, and delicious meals prepared by the family cook. A marble table with chairs upholstered in white fabric are arranged around a beautiful work of art. Doors lead to a quiet inner garden for after-dinner drinks.

In still another public room located next to the dining area, the family members play cards, taste wine and chat about the day’s news. A towering gray wall unit showcases a large canvas featuring a ballerina painted by a Mexican artist. “I made the unit intentionally so the work of art would stand out,” Llamas says.

The modern, light-toned, French-inspired kitchen with its wood floor is another masterpiece of craft. Filled with Miele, Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances, the open space has several seating options: a table with chairs in one section and another smaller surface with a pair of tall stools. “We love to relax, dine and drink in this big sitting area,” says Llamas. “It looks like an old-fashioned kitchen, but it’s beautiful and all white. Even though we have a cook to prepare our meals, we all like to spend time in here talking and eating. We savor the eating experience.” In fact, the family enjoys the dining ritual so much that they normally have another meal later at night to capture one more hour of family time. “We really like food and spending quality time together,” says Llamas. “We take advantage of this beautiful room in many ways.”

Llamas also loves her private time during which she can unwind, create, write and catch up on her thoughts after whirlwind days of working, researching, studying and expanding her passion for design. When she created the master suites, Llamas commissioned a sizable sitting room between the two, using a couch from her own collection paired with an antique Asian bench.

For her husband’s bedroom suite, Llama designed it with masculine gray walls and a bed appointed with white linens and a gray throw. Art dominates one wall with wood chairs and tables surrounding the room, and a double door leading to great views outside. His bathroom has a beautiful off/white gray marble tile wall, a wood vanity with marble countertop and Waterworks fixtures. Her bedroom is similar, designed in gray and white yet exhibiting more feminine touches, especially her bed and beveled headboard. Her luxurious bed linens from Restoration Hardware and Spain are a mix-and-match combo of quality material with high thread counts.

What Llamas likes the most about this glorious home is the ability to live in so many different rooms and enjoy spectacular views of the water and enchanted gardens that seem to sweep her away into a dream. “I spend a lot of time in my house,” she says. “I like to design, and I write my books at home, sometimes outside and other times in my office. With the serenity, peacefulness and coziness wrapped around so many wonderful views of our salt swimming pool, I can live inside without going out if I am really busy. I love this house and have made many wonderful memories here.”

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