Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vizcaya.....James Deering's Florida Villa

Named for the mythical explorer "Bel Vizcaya", and with the Spanish caravel (a boat associated with past explorers as it's emblem), Vizcaya was the winter residence of James Deering, industrialist executive in the family Deering Harvester Company and subsequent International Harvester, a socialite, and an antiquities collector.

It was built between 1914 and 1922 in the Coconut Grove area of Miami and was entirely surrounded by subtropical forest, during a time that the area was predominantly rural and unspoiled and Vizcaya was literally located at the "end of the world". 
Vizcaya was conceived as a tropical interpretation of an eighteenth-century Italian villa, in particular the country estates of the Veneto region of northern Italy. Deering wanted the look of an antique Italian estate, and he and Vizcaya's designer    travelled throughout Europe to obtain both ideas and materials for the home. The architecture is primarily Mediterranean Revival, with Baroque elements.

Deering wanted Vizcaya to be approached and seen from the sea, and the east façade on the bay is the most monumental and the only symmetrical one. It opens onto a wide terrace that descends toward the waters of Biscayne Bay.The main house consists of 34 decorated rooms organized around a central courtyard. The more public spaces—such as the library, living room and dining room—are on the ground floor, while above are the bedrooms. All of the interiors are extremely creative, combining historic art and furnishings that Deering bought in Europe with those made especially for the estate.

James Deering

Vizcaya was the first major commission for architect Burrall Hoffman, left. Designer and artistic director, Paul Chalfin, right. Chalfin was an expert in Italian furniture and interiors, and the rooms in the Main House reflect his interest in different periods of history. The eighteenth century was the main inspiration for Vizcaya, ranging from the asymmetrical and highly inventive Rococo to the more linear and austere Neoclassical style.

Enjoy the music as you tour the Villa

Vizcaya could of course be reached by automobile.

However, the grandest entrance and the one Mr. Deering preferred guests use, was through the waters of Biscayne Bay

Can you imagine how it felt to see your guests arrive this way. It was like living on the Grand Canal in Venice.

The stone barge was a planted floating garden and used for entertaining. 

The Entrance Loggia with it's 3 blue curtain lined arches. It has a  groin vaulted ceiling and patterned marble floor.

The Entrance Hall where James Deering's guests would have waited for their host to greet them.

Vizcaya’s Main House and gardens are furnished with a collection that represents many cultures and periods of art including ancient Roman sculptures, Renaissance tapestries and architectural elements, seventeenth and eighteenth century statues and garden decorations, Chinese ceramics, Rococo and Neoclassical furniture and early twentieth-century sculptures and paintings.

The Tea Room (or Enclosed Loggia as it was originally known)  is decorated in an early Neoclassical style from the 18th century.

source -Cristina Lei Rodriguez

The fabulous stained glass doors look out onto the garden.

The Courtyard

The East Loggia overlooking Biscayne Bay. The highlight of the space is a 5' long model of a Spanish caravel. This ship was Vizcaya's emblem.

The marble floors at Vizcaya in East Loggia are of the best quality.

The Living Room at Vizcaya. On the right is an Italian altarpiece that conceals the pipes of Deering's Weltemignon player organ. The ceilings are imported from a 16th century Venetian Palazzo but are modified to fit the room.

The Living Room's French Renaissance fireplace chimney of Caen stone from theChateau de Regneville.  This is the most expensive item bought for the house at $12,000. Keep in mind these are 1915 dollars! 

The Library

The great majority of Vizcaya’s collection was acquired in Italy between 1912 and 1914, while the estate was still being planned.

The Music Room

The interiors of Vizcaya were meant to suggest the passing of time and the layered accumulation of artifacts and memories. The rooms were designed around objects acquired in Italy and assembled into new compositions by Chalfin.

Reception Room

French Rococo styled salon featuring a bust of Marie Antoinette on the mantle.

Breakfast Room

Decorated in Chinosiserie style, this room features 18th century French wall paintings depicting harbor scenes. Also of interest are the four corner chandeliers as opposed to the traditional center of the room installation.

The Chinoisere fireplace in the Breakfast Room

The Banquet Hall was used for formal dining at Vizcaya. James Deering preferred to entertain guests at lunchtime.

An angle that shows off the lovely tapestries.

Regardless of its Baroque appearance, Vizcaya was a very modern house. Many are surprised to learn that it was built largely of reinforced concrete, with the latest technology of the period, such as generators and a water filtration system. Vizcaya was also equipped with heating and ventilation, two elevators, a dumbwaiter, a central vacuum-cleaning system and a partly automated laundry room.

Mr. Deering's private upstairs Sitting Room

Mr. Deering's Bedroom

The bedroom of the owner himself stands at the center of the museum’s east side, and is complete with lavish oriental carpet, French-inspired green silk wallpaper, and a wonderful Adams fireplace. According to Chalfin, the bed came from Chateau de Malmaison and belonged to Maria Louisa, Napoleon's second wife.

Mr. Deering's Bath. He could take in the view of his kingdom as he shaved every morning. The tented ceiling was draped in embroidered linen.

Each guest bedroom at Vizcaya is named for a famous person, style, or place that its design evokes. Vizcaya's Cathay Bedroom is inspired by China, and is famous for once having housed silent movie star Lilian Gish.

The regal “Espagnolette” room, named for a decorative motif derived from ladies’ fancy lace collars.

The Galleon Guest Suite

The Grotto byampangmarin on Flickr

The Grotto is an example of the character of fantasy that so distinguishes Vizcaya from all other houses.

The Gazebo

Diego Suarez pictured  at Vizcaya in 1969, designed the house's main gardens.
Vizcaya’s European-inspired gardens are among the most elaborate in the United States. Reminiscent of gardens created in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italy and France, the overall landscape design is conceived as a series of rooms.

The Main House and the formal gardens  appeared as a dreamlike vision in the midst of the jungle on the shores of Biscayne Bay. T

The Casino on Vizcaya's south side

Interior of the Casino


The gardens are characterized by an abundance of architectural structures and details, elaborate fountains, and antique and commissioned sculptures.

Most images via Pinterest and Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

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