Schuyler Samperton's 650-square-foot Miami Beach getaway is her "mood elevator" — a tropi-cool retreat packed with a riot of candy colors, fabulous florals and boho flair.
David A. Keeps: This Art Deco apartment in Miami Beach is 650 square feet. How do you make the most of a small space?
Schuyler Samperton: This one-bedroom rental is a getaway for me, my boyfriend and his daughter, so it had to be functional, comfortable and relaxed, but also colorful and bright to reflect the setting and my bohemian aesthetic. I live in 900 square feet in Los Angeles and often stay in New York, where my boyfriend, Marc Lazard, is a filmmaker. We bounce around to our places in Miami Beach and Maine. I prefer having a few small homes to one huge place.
What was the appeal of this one?
It had character — tall ceilings, large windows and textured white plaster walls that I didn't have to paint. White is a good balancing element in small spaces: It gives breathing room to saturated color and detailed patterns.
You really know how to make an entrance.
The foyer is not only the first thing you see when you enter, it's also a helpful spot where we keep everything from keys to shoes to beach towels. That Chinese console is a vibrant blast of green in such a tiny zone, but the slim shape makes it work. I hung a large painting above it to add impact.
Speaking of impact, what made you go with a massive floral mural in the dining area?
That might seem like a giant commitment, but actually it's just that cost around $220. A mural was a good solution for a small space that needed something major — it acts as a focal point and eliminates the need to hang art. Plus, from our window we have a view of palm trees and wild parrots, so it feels like an extension of the outside.
What was the plan for the living room?
We needed a sleeper sofa for guests. I chose a white one to reduce visual bulk. The coffee table had to be movable for the sofa bed to open, and this one has a relatively lightweight open-frame metal base. Throughout the apartment, I tried to minimize the bulk of the solid pieces to make the rooms look larger. The dining room's cage-style pendant is see-through, so it doesn't block the mural.
Does that explain the understated window treatments?
There was enough going on with the patterned rugs and pillows. Matchstick blinds let in the light and are easy to open, which is great because I love fresh air. Organic, woven things, like those blinds and the rope hammock chair in the bedroom, never feel like they're taking up too much room.
You are clearly a rug aficionado.
They are perfect for making spaces feel more defined. I had quite a few from the Georgetown flea market in Washington, D.C.; I used them to delineate distinct zones. In the bedroom, I layered several rugs on the floor and hung one on the wall over the bed. It looks wonderful and is practical, since a real headboard would have projected too far into the room.
What's your philosophy on space planning?
It's crucial in a small home. I fell in love with a large wooden armoire and shipped it across the country to put it in the bedroom. But I forgot that the bedroom ceiling drops, so that piece now lives in the living room. It actually blocks a closet, so I set the armoire on plastic furniture sliders. It can easily be moved when we need access to the closet.
Was there a jumping-off point for your home's groovy vibe?
The decorating began with the accessories — tropical paintings and ethnic pillows and rugs I've collected for years. Then I added affordable contemporary furniture, an Anglo-Indian dresser, antiques and a vintage dining set. In a small apartment, I like to give people a lot to look at — a mix of periods and styles and quirky touches like hanging shell necklaces on the living room's mirror. All of these elements are distinct yet compatible. This isn't a one-note Golden Girls or Miami Vice apartment.
But it is a seaside home. Where is all the blue?
I avoided it. I aimed for a color scheme that didn't scream beach. I wanted something more electric and alive: pinks, oranges and greens. Close quarters doesn't mean shying away from bright colors, but they do need to remain consistent from room to room. The palette is a mood elevator, cheerful and energizing. It's like walking into a candy store.
This story originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of CQ.