Phyllis carried the basket-weave theme into the bedroom with drawer pulls wrapped in wicker and a woven abacus seagrass bed that anchors the space. In the living room, she covered the walls with porcelain tiles and cleverly concealed a television set behind a sliding screen fashioned from recycled Coca-Cola cans. Below, an ethanol fireplace creates a warm glow on chilly days yet is efficient and safe for apartment use. During football season, it becomes the perfect setting for Shalala to host gatherings of enthusiastic Miami Hurricanes fans.
The penthouse also serves as display space for Shalala’s diverse collections, ranging from an assortment of colorful tribal rugs she acquired in Iran during a Peace Corps stint in the 1960s to cherished photographs with dignitaries such as the Dalai Lama, heads of state, and various U.S. presidents. Not surprisingly, each space is filled with books that are part and parcel of her role as an academic and a citizen of the world. And the powder room offers a bit of amusement with walls covered in a collection of political cartoons that serve as lively conversation starters.
Phyllis highlighted these unique elements throughout the home with splashes of bright red that her client ardently adores. This is particularly evident in the tomato-soup-red breakfast alcove that showcases Shalala’s portrait surrounded by a mounted arrangement of teapots. Nearby are four Japanese chairs that Phyllis painted red and then upholstered in fluffy acrylic plush, just for fun. “They shouldn’t be taken seriously,” she says.