The Ultimate Tastemaker
“Darling, you don’t want alligator. What you want is goatskin!” This guidance is what clients of Nicola Fontanella, one of the world’s most in-demand interior designers, should expect to receive in rapid-fire fashion, adorned with a luscious British accent, when they ask for home style advice. Even if the bristly coat of a farm animal would seem a somehow less glamorous wallcovering than that of a reptile, it behooves homeowners, developers and others to listen to the expert in au courant finishes, as Fontanella traverses the globe regularly for her polished clientele and is well-versed in all matters of extravagance. “Until you’ve driven a Bentley, you don’t know that experience,” she explains. In other words: She knows what she’s talking about, so sit back and listen.
Even prior to founding her firm, Argent Design, in London 20 years ago, Fontanella’s international client roster already comprised exclusively high-net-worth individuals, celebrities and royals—many with multiple estates, yachts, private planes and multifamily realty investments. She opened a second office in Monaco in 2005 and, just last month, a third in South Beach’s Sunset Harbour area. “We’ve been in Miami for eight years, but we haven’t had a proper base,” she says. “Basically, we can work 24 hours a day now. It’s all very exciting!”
Five years ago, Fontanella took up residence in Miami Beach, smitten by the thought of being at arm’s length from the Art Deco architecture she loves so much and near her clients’ manses on La Gorce and Sunset Islands, and North Bay Road, where she recently completed an 11,000-square-foot spec home. Unlike many of her peers, Fontanella’s work lacks a signature look of any kind. “I like mixing the old with new,” she explains. “The dressing is very theatrical.” Travels to Asia, South America and beyond allow her to unearth and design proprietary products, although she is just as prone to sourcing antiques as she is to purchasing Christofle candelabras. Every project emerges entirely or nearly turnkey. “You can literally walk in with suitcases and just move in,” she says.
Along with her Miami-based projects, Fontanella is also currently working on the most expensive tower block in Beijing and apartments built in the remains of Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre in London. Next up might be a furniture line, potentially destined for what she calls “Americanization” following its 2017 debut in Europe. After that, perhaps she’ll find a moment to lounge in the sand and dream up even more fabulousness. 1800 Sunset Harbour Drive, Ste. P, Miami Beach, 786.393.6223
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