city, houses

Rodman Primack's home is a global forum of design

Ben Hoffman
design miami The creative duo combine work by local artisans and established artists: in the kitchen, tiles by Guatemalan artist Darío Escobar and bar stools by the international group of artists Assume Vivid Astro Focus (AVAF) instantly catch the eye.

Partners Rodman Primack, the chief creative officer of Design Miami, and Rudy Weissenberg, a real-estate developer, have a home in Guatemala City that revels in a creative clash of cultures and embodies the diverse aspects of their interests and lives. Trevyn McGowan sat down with them to discuss their home – and their world.
design miami Rodman Primack and Rudy Weissenberg relax in their Guatemala City home in vintage Charlotte Perriand chairs on a rug they found at a market.

You have houses in New York and Miami. What brought you to Guatemala? We have lived and worked in so many cities and have never found it easy to settle, but Rudy’s family is here and we have businesses and projects here, so we started to return more regularly. The idea of creating something permanent was enticing. We love the country and are committed to being in Guatemala and contributing to the development of the city’s culture and infrastructure. It is an inspiring, beautiful place with incredible history and craft.
design miami Because the house is positioned in the hills about 300m above the city, it has an abundance of natural light but also gets cold at night, especially in the winter months of November and December. Wooden cladding helps with insulation, and the couple enjoy reclining in front of their fire pit on weekends.

Where and when did you two meet? In New York City. We will celebrate 20 years together in December. Rodman, you are doing such transformative work at Design Miami. Can you both tell us more about your career paths? Rudy: I spent the bulk of my working life producing Spanish telenovelas for Univision and Telemundo, but now that we have a base in Guatemala, I have turned my focus to the family business and real-estate development. I am currently in the planning phase with Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao for a multi-use development in Guatemala City. Rodman: I am the chief creative officer of Design Miami, the international forum for collectible design, and I also lead an interior design and consultancy practice in New York called RP Miller. As a passion, I create and produce a small line of handmade textiles. I was previously the London chairman of Phillips auction house, having started at Christie’s and Gagosian, and there was such an exciting and formative period with architect Peter Marino.
design miami A colourful artwork by Dennis Leder from Sol del Río Gallery of Contemporary Art in Guatemala City stands out in the main bedroom, which includes a rug by local rug maker Mitchell Denburg.

This house feels very distinct, full of contrast and collected treasures, and yet it is calming and harmonious. What were your influences and do you work together or do each of you ‘specialise’ in different areas of resolving your home? We work as a team. Ideas are brought forth and grow organically, although Rudy is more practical. Textiles and colour are more Rodman’s side. We’re drawn to the clean lines and rationality of Mid-Century houses because we both grew up with grandparents who had ‘architect’ homes from the period, and this influences a lot of what we see and like. Art is shared, too, but what is in Guatemala has been driven by Rudy as he has close relationships with the galleries and artists here – he helped establish and co-chairs the acquisition committee for contemporary Latin American art at the Guggenheim Museum.
design miami On the walls in the bathroom is a coin installation by El Salvadoran artist Mauricio Esquivel. Although all the encaustic cement floor tiles in the house are by Darío Escobar and were crafted by a ‘little old man’ in Guatemala, the patterns in which they were laid are Rodman’s designs.

What aspect of being at home gives you the most pleasure? There is so much light in this house. It is high on the hills above Guatemala City and has beautiful views, with gardens and trees all around. Sometimes we are shrouded in clouds and mist, and then the sun breaks through. The air is always fresh, and there are lots of birds. How does a perfect day in the house unfold? We can spend the whole day at home and each have our spots for working, reading and relaxing. We often breakfast with Rudy’s mother, who lives next door, and later we listen to music and work on projects together and separately, before taking our dog Theo for a walk in the afternoon. Hopefully nieces and nephews will come for a visit or lunch, then Rodman will cook dinner. And we like to end the day with a bath.
design miami The guest room features brass beds and linens from Rudy’s grandmother, as well as photographs by Regina José Galindo, (left) and Eny Roland Hernández.

How do you collect your art? It’s immensely personal and site-specific. Art has been part of our lives since we were kids. It’s something we share, talk about and experience every day, and it affects how and where we live. How long have you been collecting design? Like art, design, architecture, fashion and music, it is part of every aspect of our lives. Even in childhood, we both bought objects and had collections.
design miami A work by Darío Escobar hangs above a cantilevered sofa by Johann Wolfschoon/Sketch

When did you realise you were seriously ‘collecting’? We both shy away from considering what we do as ‘collecting’ because it is not strategic – it is emotional and responsive. We just get excited and inspired, and need to have these things in our lives. Who taught you most about design? Both of us had grandmothers with an incredible eye for style. Rudy’s grandmother had a taste for Italian modernism, Finnish ceramics and the ‘new’; Rodman’s grandparents were into all things Japanese and a clean Californian aesthetic. And Peter Marino – with his love and respect for design and furniture, and his desire to have clients collect rather than decorate – had a big impact on Rodman. Any key lessons you’ve learnt from them? Live with and use what you have. Don’t squirrel things away for special occasions – everyday life is special enough. Give attention to everything equally; quality is not about the surface.
design miami Rudy’s late great-uncle was renowned artist Roberto Ossaye, whose painting presides over a small 18-century French vase that the pair picked up in a shop in Paris.

Rodman, tell us about your work in textiles. That grew out of a love of pattern and making things – I have been collecting textiles and papers since I was a kid. We design new textiles for many of our interiors projects, to make something special for the client. Guatemala has a great textile tradition, and being part of that has been an impetus as well. What do you enjoy most about your job with Design Miami? I get placed in the centre of all the things I really love: design, architecture, furniture, innovation, creativity, fashion, people and relationships. It’s a dream job. I love the gallerists and their passion and commitment to their work. I enjoy the challenge of trying to support a developing market. I am also proud of the growth we have seen in the past few years – our attendance increases every year and the visibility of the design market flourishes.
design miami In the sitting room, the twin mirror cubes, lamp and wooden furniture belonged to Rudy’s grandparents, and the scatter cushions have been reupholstered in local fabric. Three ceramic women from Cerámica Gascón in Antigua pose alongside a collection of Mayan vessels and Guatemalan majolica from the 1950s.

Which designers are doing interesting work right now? I’m a big fan of Martino Gamper, Jonathan Muecke, Hella Jongerius, Max Lamb, Misha Kahn and Katie Stout, to name a few. I love innovation and the rethinking of materials. You’ve started collecting and specifying South African design through your interiors practice. What is appealing about it? I’ve been attracted to a lot of work we see from SA. We’ve been lucky that Southern Guild has brought a distinctive voice to Design Miami, and I responded immediately. I love pattern, so I jumped on the Kassena Town range by Dokter and Misses – it felt fresh and clear. What do you think SA design brings to Design Miami? It has an exuberance and joy that I connect with. Even when a work is not immediately, obviously cheerful, there is something unpretentious about it and there’s a directness in its expression that I appreciate.
design miami A bold work by AVAF on a raw concrete wall in the entrance hall complements the bright and graphic tiles that run throughout the house.

design miami A panoramic view of Guatemala City from the house.