TV viewers in the 1980s were treated to two visions of Miami architecture: The Art Deco and neon grit in the cop drama Miami Vice and the midcentury-modern ranch situated amid the palm trees in the sunny sitcom The Golden Girls. But when production designer Knut Loewe set out to recreate the Florida homes of that era for the limited series Griselda, he decided to aim for a different aesthetic. “We didn’t want to use the stereotypical Florida elements like all the pink and rose,” he tells Architectural Digest. “We wanted to create our own look.”
Griselda Blanco, after all, was singular. As played with ferocious intensity by Modern Family Emmy nominee Sofía Vergara, the Colombian mother of three used her tenacity and savvy to create one of the most profitable drug cartels in history. (Even kingpin Pablo Escobar once said he feared her.) The six-part Netflix drama chronicles her story, from escaping an abusive husband in Medellin and landing in Miami in the late 1970s to growing her business into such an empire that she was known as “The Queen of Cocaine.”
Her rise to the top is charted through three incrementally sized homes. “We need to showcase a progression of power and wealth. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that she’s experienced financial success and has the ability to hire interior designers to reflect what she feels she deserves,” explains set decorator Kimberly Leonard.
The production team referenced homes in Coral Gables and other Miami suburbs, although the series was actually filmed in Southern California. “There are a lot of family dwellings built in the 1920s and ’30s [there],” he says. Loewe also looked to his personal stack of vintage Architectural Digest magazines. “I brought a bag of 1970s and ’80s American issues with me because we wanted to recreate the interiors in those styles,” he says. “They were very helpful!”