elledecor– When Brazilian designer Juliana Lima Vasconcellos was a child, she dreamed of being a painter. Then, for a time, it was a fashion designer. At age 11, she decided to pursue architecture. No one in her family was an artist, she says, but “I’ve always liked strange pieces of furniture, strange clothes—things that are different and potentially difficult to understand.”
These days, Vasconcellos’s design practice straddles architecture, furniture, and interiors, and that desire to include something almost unknowable in her work often translates to a focus on contemporary art, which she passionately collects. But back in 2009, when she first stumbled upon the Rio de Janeiro apartment that is now one of her homes, Vasconcellos was initially drawn to something that wasn’t mysterious at all. Through a bank of windows stretching the length of the apartment’s eastern facade is a sweeping view of one of the most iconic landmarks in all of Rio: Sugarloaf Mountain, which rises like a thumb at the mouth of Guanabara Bay and colors, quite literally, everything in the apartment depending on the time of day.
The 1940s-era apartment sits on the 14th floor of a late–Art Deco, travertine-clad building in the Flamengo neighborhood of Rio, which is famous for its Roberto Burle Marx–designed park. When Vasconcellos found the apartment, it had excellent bones—original marble floors in the entrance hall and sunroom, delicate ironwork lining the windows, and a beautifully intact Brazilian wood herringbone floor hidden underneath wall-to-wall carpet. She changed the layout, going from three bedrooms to four, to make room for her son and two stepdaughters, adding two bathrooms, and unifying a piecemeal kitchen into a single space. Decor-wise, she kept the walls white and the colors neutral, with an emphasis on warm woods; textures like bouclé, cane, and Kuba cloth (from the Democratic Republic of the Congo); and accents of natural stone.