Rosa de la Cruz may live in a quintessentially British building—one of the old Victorian mansions of Knightsbridge, some of which have been converted into spacious apartments—but the interiors of her home are far from traditional. “People are taken aback when they walk in,” says the jewelry and interior designer of her gallery-like reception rooms. “London doesn’t tend to have white spaces unless it’s a very modern building, and then to see these huge paintings on the walls, it’s very unexpected here.”
For de la Cruz, who grew up in a family of art collectors, coexisting with colossal, museum-worthy works of art is nothing unusual. Her parents are Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, the Cuban founders of Miami’s de la Cruz Collection, a contemporary art museum in the Design District. Inspired by her art-filled upbringing, de la Cruz began buying pieces on her own before she finished college. Over the past three decades, her collection has grown to include dozens of paintings by the likes of Chris Ofili, Damien Hirst and Laura Owens, artists who at one time or another defined contemporary art’s zeitgeist. In the recently renovated late-1800s apartment she shares with her partner and, intermittently, her children (de la Cruz is the mother of four boys: two teenagers who are at boarding school in the U.K. and two 20-somethings who live in the U.S), these artworks take center stage.
A Thomas Houseago painting of four ghostly figures greets visitors at the entrance. It is nine feet tall and six feet wide, making the vintage Philip Arctander “clam” chairs on either side look almost diminutive. Yes, the scale and visual impact of most of the paintings is outsized, but that doesn’t mean the furniture is an afterthought. In fact, de la Cruz is also a collector of midcentury objects (her focus is on 1950s furnishings by Jean Royère, Charlotte Perriand, Jean Prouvé and other French masters) and she has carefully chosen each purchase in order to create a conversation between art and design. “If you walk through the apartment, every room has a different curation because of the art,” she explains. “My ultimate goal was to make all the elements talk to each other.”
In the sun-flooded family room, a painting by Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes, bursting with circular shapes that are at once psychedelic and romantic, harmonizes with a pair of “Copacabana” lounge chairs by Mathieu Matégot, their curved tubular frames enveloping a round seat. And in the formal dining area, a series of Jean Royère “croisillon” chairs with crisscrossed oak backs are a perfect match for an inkjet-on-canvas work by Wade Guyton depicting two black Xs. These vast rooms, as well as the cozier four bedrooms in the back of the 3,700-square-foot home, will be featured in a Rizzoli book by Alex Eagle titled More Than Just a House: At Home with Collectors and Creators, out in October. The book delves into de la Cruz’s many endeavors, which include an eponymous jewelry line launched with former Harper’s Bazaar fashion director Tierney Horne, a burgeoning design practice, and an ever-growing collection of striking artworks and midcentury furnishings. “People walk into my home and say ‘you’re a minimalist’,” de la Cruz quips. “But I’m not, I’m a collector at heart.”