Lee Schrager’s Coral Gables Home is a Showcase for His Objets d’Art and His Collection of 100+ Photographs
By J.P. Faber//Photography by Jon Braeley
Lee Brian Schrager is best known today as the founder and director of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which he launched 19 years ago on South Beach. Thirteen years ago, he added another feather to his culinary cap with the New York Wine & Food Festival. More importantly for Coral Gables, he moved to the City Beautiful five years ago with the purchase of a home in the French Country Village neighborhood, one of the seven villages that city father George Merrick envisioned when he founded the Gables in the 1920s.
Since the acquisition of the property, Schrager and partner Ricardo Restrepo have transformed it, adding a large swimming pool, a raised keystone pergola for entertaining, and a handsome Italian fountain
to the courtyard. While Schrager has been the collector of the couple, Restrepo did the landscaping, planting a stunning array of flowering trees and bushes. “I am the gardener,” says Restrepo. “I have planted the garden so that different parts will bloom at different times, so that we can enjoy them all year.”
As for the eclectic interior of the Schrager manse, it is filled with a fascinating collection of objects that have caught Schrager’s eye over the years. Dominating the interior is his world-class collection of photography (he does not collect paintings) which adorn the walls of every room – ranging from the works of Diane Arbus and Frank Majore to Vik Muniz and Robert Mapplethorpe. He has also collected a cache of sculpture, from Incan statuary to an armadillo of Peruvian silver. “I don’t collect as much [as I used to]. Obviously, you slow down at some point,” says Schrager. “But when I see something extraordinary, I get it.”
In addition to his work on the two Wine & Food Festivals he founded, Schrager is also the senior vice president of communications and social responsibility for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirit of America, the largest wine and spirits distributor in the country, which is based in Miami. Before joining Glazer’s, Schrager worked for InterContinental Hotels Group for 17 years, where he became the vice president of food and beverage. He was initially hired by Glazer’s in 2000 to improve a wine tasting event and raise funds for FIU’s hospitality school; that event, which still supports FIU, became the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
THE LIVING ROOM
Painted in buff grey with a sky-blue ceiling, the living room faces the courtyard. Above the working fireplace hangs the photo of a diamond dust skull by renowned British artist Damien Hirst. On the table is a skull that mimics the photo. “That is purely coincidental,” says Schrager. “The skull is not Damien Hirst.” Also of note is the sandstone Deco sculpture of a Greek god in the fireplace, which Schrager bought at an estate sale. “I know nothing about it,” he admits. The twin metal sculptures with the M.C. Escher reminiscent stars were from an Yves Saint Laurent fashion show
THE FAMILY ROOM
Tucked in the back of the home, the family room shows Schrager’s sense of playfulness, with everything from a giant leather hand chair to a vintage Cocoa-Cola machine. The informal space is dominated by a large photograph of a mannequin by Matthew Rolston. Other photos in the room are by Larry Sultan and Cindy Sherman
THE DINING ROOM
The formal dining room is framed by a large armoire that Schrager and Restrepo bought in Paris. The chandelier was also purchased in Paris, where Schrager travels twice yearly. The large photograph of the Boy Scout is by the Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf, whose works have been shown in numerous museums and galleries. The Art Deco bar cart beneath the Olaf photograph sports a silver octopus dish for serving seafood
THE MASTER BEDROOM
The master bedroom is dramatic with a high, angular ceiling, made possible by the arched, tile covered roof of Schrager’s French country-style house. The bed is a Mitchell Gold, the settee is a Florence Knoll and the table lamps are Baccarat crystal. The wrought iron chandelier was purchased from 1stdibs.com. The square patterned Armani rug plays off the deliberately muted and soothing grey and beige tones of the room