New York– and Miami–based artist Christopher “Flore” Florentino reveals how his picturesque midcentury in Central Florida inspires his life and work.
On a suburban street in Winter Haven, Florida, two things stand out: its newest resident, Christopher “Flore” Florentino, and his rather old house.
Florentino, a contemporary fine artist and interior designer from Brooklyn, doesn’t exactly blend in with his new town. “It’s like a very quiet town, you know,” he says. “When I leave my house, people look at me like I’m crazy. I’m this tall guy, covered in tattoos.”
The house he bought this summer is also the strange kid on the block. “It looks like a spaceship,” he says. “In the whole neighborhood, it’s the only one that is this original midcentury modern house.”
Built by Gene Leedy, a founding member of the Sarasota School of Architecture, the concrete-and-glass ranch is nestled between typical, Floridian, peach stucco homes and located one block from a Baptist church. It’s one of 25 homes in the sleepy city designed by the celebrated architect, who lived and worked here for many years.
For Florentino, a midcentury devotee since middle school, being in this town—and particularly in this house—is the culmination of a lifelong dream. His work as a painter is a quest to merge art with life, to blur the boundaries between paint and personality. In this 1960s home he bought off an Instagram post and filled with his personal collection of midcentury modern furniture, Florentino is living in a museum while creating art for the modern world.
It’s easy to believe that Leedy, who once said, “Architecture is a religion. It is an art…My architecture is a celebration of life,” would agree. We sat down with Florentino to talk about just this—art, architecture, and life.
Why are you so passionate about midcentury design?
I’m just in love with the furniture. It makes me feel good. I like the function of it. I like something that’s functional, that’s comfortable and nice, but also is so aesthetically pleasing. I think that combination is great.
To me, the idea of living in a beautiful house is great. But living in a beautiful piece of architecture—a piece of artwork that somebody actually sat down and thought of it more than “Oh, this is just a roof over my head.”
How have you incorporated your own art into the house?
I don’t hang my own art. I have my art here, I have a studio here, but everything I’ve hung is by artists I admire and that went with the decor. Some of it is much newer than midcentury modern, but they’re just such amazing work that they go. I have a huge Basquiat head in the living room, but the piece is timeless. I also have a Picasso Guernica that’s obviously not midcentury modern. But it’s, you know, it’s close enough.
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