In a contemporary showcase in one of St. Petersburg's most traditional neighborhoods, designer Jovica Milic has created a subtle tension and balancing act that is deliberate.
An Italian dining-room light fixture was chosen as much as for the tangled shadows it casts as for its illumination. A console radio around which a family might have gathered to listen to Fibber McGee and Molly is placed near a glass and cast-aluminum table and leather and cast-stainless steel dining chairs. A World War II-era refrigerator stands juxtaposed against a multicolored geometric assemblage.
"If I had everything in here contemporary, it would look cold," Milic says. "It's not buying things from one generation. It's seeing how different generations blend with each other."
The transformation from an early 20th century structure took nearly a year to complete. He broke ground on the project in 1999 and finished much of the re-creation in 2001. He and his father, Zoran Milic, did much of the work themselves. It has been his home, but Milic says it also has been his "portfolio house," a place to showcase his work and invite potential clients. Early on, some found his style daunting.
These days, however, are exhilarating for the 40-year-old Milic, who has architecture degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Pennsylvania.
He is working on a steel and glass house along the St. Petersburg waterfront that is designed to withstand catastrophic Category 5 hurricane conditions. Through Jovica Milic Inc. (www.jovicamilic.com) he was the lead designer for De Santo Latin American Bistro and Push Ultra Lounge, which opened in December in downtown St. Petersburg. Through MoxBox (www.moxbox.com) he designs and manufactures furniture. And he soon will launch MESH, a St. Petersburg showroom he describes as "a resource that allows you to connect to a design firm." It also will offer custom building and high-end furniture, lighting and accessories.
"We've been researching and traveling the United States and the world, looking for vendors offering unique products," he says, "products that all speak the same language."
Milic uses terms typical of other artistic disciplines when he talks about the elements that are intertwined in the house, where poetry, music and other art forms seem appropriate metaphors.
"It's a dance," he says. "I like to layer things and colors. Beauty is a big part of how we see things. Design is all around us. The consumer doesn't necessarily see the connectivity, but whether you know it or not, you're attracted to it."
Intense colors are repeated on walls, in fabric and in art works collected and commissioned for Milic's residence. A Nancy Cervenka installation featuring her trademark conical film sculptures hangs from the second-floor ceiling.
"It makes the house feel like it's spinning," he says.
Downstairs, a resin countertop resembles vintage Bakelite. "At night, it glows."
The kitchen cabinets are constructed of medium-density fiberboard with opaque resin fronts. The staircase seems to be suspended by cables.
On the lofty residence's second floor, which houses the master suite, a second bath and two smaller rooms, there are no hallways or dead ends. "Upstairs is connected all the way around," Milic says. "All the spaces are used to offer synergy."
Outdoors, in the space behind the home, Milic planted six varieties of bamboo about four years ago. Along with the trees, the tall reeds provide intense shade.
"The house is 2,900 square feet, and my highest power bill last summer was $110," Milic says. "It's shocking how much cooler it is in the summer."
In addition, all of the plantings are drought-tolerant, a boon in now-parched Pinellas.
"I don't like cutting grass," he says. "I don't like watering the lawn. Everything you see here will survive."