Under the bright sun of central Florida, among a tropical landscape of palm trees, banana trees, magnolias, ferns and green lawns, just a few yards from the banks of a beautiful artificial lake, in Orlando, there is a residence that preserves some of the salty fragrance of the Aegean Sea.
The owner, Joel Joshua Garrick, has had a strong bond with Greece and its history for many years now. A worshipper of the classical period and a keen student of ancient Greek art and civilisation, he visits Greece every year. As an adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, he accompanies his students on an educational tour of the most representative ancient monuments to initiate them into the architecture, sculpture, painting and other expressions of the spirit of ancient Greece. His in-depth knowledge and eloquence appeal not only to his students but also to all those who have had the opportunity to watch him work. It was due to his expertise that the Ephorate of Antiquities granted him the unique privilege of access to the Parthenon during the restoration works so that he could photograph his favourite marble constructions.
The artist’s pictures have travelled around the world, appearing in exhibitions of photography and in the pages of the most famous magazines. They were used for an Olympic Airlines advertising campaign and some of them adorn the walls of his house.
A specialist in arts administration, an artistic consultant for Millennia Fine Arts Gallery, and Managing Editor of Lifestyle Publications, he is constantly in touch with all new movements in art, with artists on the American and the international scene, and with anything that brings a touch of quality and joie de vivre into our everyday lives.
All these aspects of Joel Joshua Garrick are, inevitably, reflected in his home. The house is organised around an axis that starts from the main entrance, goes through the central sitting-room and ends at the swimming pool, optically escaping in the waters of the lake. The owner’s personal space, which includes the master bedroom, his study and their ensuite bathrooms, extends to the right of the axis. On the left, the dining room, the ‘winter’ living room with its incorporated kitchen, the guest rooms and utility areas, with access to the garage, offer his guests both autonomy and harmonious cohabitation with their host, along the lines of traditional Greek hospitality.
Josh’s exuberant personality, his curiosity about everything new, special and different, combined with his gift for communication, make him one of the most active collectors of art and of other things too. His collections are scattered around the walls, shelves, and mantelpieces and, as well as works of art, they include utensils, books, souvenirs from trips and gifts from people he loves.
It takes days to take in all these aesthetic stimuli, assembled on the basis of good taste and an excellent sense of humour that puts Tsarouhi’s ‘Love against War’ together with gadgets from Universal Studios, abstract paintings face-to-face with Heroes from the 1821 Greek War of Independence, museum reproductions of sculptures of youths flirting with Pop Art figures under the gaze of the twelve Olympian deities!
It is a world awash with colour, with very specific designs for the walls by decorator Richard Keller, combined with matching fabrics and an ergonomic furniture arrangement, all of which emphasise the works of art and ensure the functionality of the different areas of the house.
Thus, the auburn stucco antico in the dining room emanates warmth while the touches of cobalt blue in various objects complement the calm atmosphere which prevails during the meals with a sense of ‘archaic’ finesse. The same space expands into the main sitting-room, where the reddish pink ochre embraces a ‘wallpaper’ of modern works of art that are reflected like pieces of a puzzle on the facing wall, which is completely covered with mirrors in frames of different artistic styles and periods.
In the ‘Greek room’, the deep red at the back, which playfully reminds us of Knossos’s without trying to copy it, is the perfect background for the collection of objects and books concerning Greece and ties in beautifully with the other decorative elements.
A wave of freshness, rising from the light shades of lime in the kitchen, evaporates when we reach the fireplace area, relinquishing the leading role to the colours of nature as they emerge framed by the windows that look out onto the garden. It is worth mentioning here that most of the house faces the water and has big windows so that the view can be enjoyed to the full. Comfortable leather couches and bergères around the coffee table are the main lure beckoning those who want to relax or entertain themselves throughout the day.
The marble bas-reliefs, the black-figure vases, and the Corinthian columns in the bathroom remind us of ancient Greek baths. The light goes through the glass bricks and, as it is reflected on the shiny ceramic surfaces or fades into the dark fabrics, it brings to mind some of Baudelaire’s verses: […] There, all is order and beauty, luxury, peace and pleasure […]. The master bedroom, with luxurious shades of blue and gold on the walls and in the fabrics, emanates a Greco-Roman sensualism, enhanced by the trompe l’ oeil created by the mirrors that are cleverly inlaid into the pieces of furniture.
The blue and white stripes of the cushions lying on the stone benches, and the wrought iron furniture by the pool, take us back to the Mediterranean of the ‘60s. White sun beds on the plain cement floor, dotted with small flower beds, a stone Cupid and a huge arch made of wire mesh, a shield against insects, intensify this illusion, which is, however, fleeting.
Nothing can surpass the impressiveness of the surrounding watery landscape, with the swampy banks of the lake, whose surface takes colour from the depths and whose fleshy water-lilies make swimming difficult for the ducks, while a forest of reeds guarantees a safe sanctuary for the frogs as they wait to emerge for their night-time forays.