Five years ago, Gany Lalo Bernal found her happy place. She and her husband Jimmie found it by chance in an unlikely place: marshland in South Florida turned lush horse country. Never mind that she grew up in Miami with the ocean as her playground. Or that Jimmie’s a Chicago transplant with the city as his former backyard. Neither of them knew a lick about horses. But when they saw the quirky ‘60s ranch house and 10 acres of land that needed lots of love, they saw a chance for a lifestyle change and took it.
Gany has long had a thing for farm life and animals. As a teenager, she begged her parents to let her live on a kibbutz in Israel so she could learn about working the land and taking care of animals. That summer on a dairy farm helped shape her dreamscape. And though life was hectic enough—she’s a creative director for Invicta watches and mother to four kids between the ages of 10 and 19— this was her chance to live out her fantasy and loop her kids into it as well. “I wanted to share something special with my kids,” says Gany. “Everyone here is hands-on—and we all love it. They would be different people if they spent weekends at the mall instead of here taking care of the animals.”
Now they’ve turned the little hacienda wannabe into a kind of Eden. The menagerie includes seven horses, six dogs, eighty chickens, three cats, two miniature Zebu cows and a pot-bellied pig—not to mention five humans including daughters Shana, Hanna and Misha (her 19-year-old son, Benjamin, is away at college). The animals help fertilize a large organic garden that the whole family tends. Everyone seems to get along famously here—dogs share the paddock with chickens, the pot-bellied pig free ranges and humans hang out with horses in a barn that they remodeled to include a living area and thatched patio along with the horse stalls. “We want to live close to the land,” says Gany, “and to really share the space with the animals. There are few boundaries here.”
The farm is not only a family aff air, it’s a family business as well—Blue Stallion Farm. After becoming certifi ed in the natural methods of “horse whisperer” fame, Jimmie trains, breeds, and shows Arabian horses. The girls gather the dozens of eggs their hens produce each week to take to the local Yellow Green Farmer’s Market to sell, with all proceeds going to the Medical Mission, a charity that provides healthcare to children in Ecuador. The farm itself is a sought-after location for photo shoots and events.
“ This is our sanctuary. We want to live close to the land and to really share the space with the animals.” – Gany Lalo Bernal
While the grounds are buzzing with life, the inside of the traditional one-story ranch house is its own quiet riot of color and personality. “The interiors were dark and dated when we bought it,” she says. “So we did cosmetic things little by little. The decorating goal was entirely about selfexpression. We wanted it to feel like an everyday retreat.” Gany also values salvaging and repurposing whenever possible. “I’m not the type that goes to the store and buys a lot of matching furniture,” she says. “Unless it’s a sofa—I’m kind of a fanatic about having nice places to sit.”
Many surfaces and furniture pieces were reimagined with paint. Eyepopping paint. The vivid colors reflect the family’s spirit, and also celebrate Gany’s rich ancestry—she was born in Panama to an Israeli-born father and a mother whose Russian-Romanian family survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Columbia. When grounded by the home’s rustic beams, Saltillo tile floors and stone features, the interiors take on an earthy-boho vibe when spiced with all the bright hues, plus a happy jumble of patterns and global accessories gathered on family travels. “I always bring an extra duffle bag with me that’s big enough to stuff a few pillows into!” Gany says.
The home’s open kitchen is where everything seems to come together… the family, the organic garden’s bounty, the ancestry. Here, Gany engages in another passion—creating and sharing signature dishes from her family’s rich gumbo of traditions. A culinary school graduate, Gany is in the process of preserving the handwritten recipes into a cookbook that celebrates both her roots and the rootedness of life on her funky Florida farm. “People who come here instantly plug into the happiness and passion,” she says. “I want to share the richness of it in case it inspires other people to take a leap of faith into the life they’re dreaming about.”
Gany gave us a sneak peek into her big, beautiful life. We think you’ll want to come along for the ride.
For more information on Blue Stallion Farm, go to bluestallionfarm.com.
Gany and her daughters care for multiple varieties of laying hens (and a few roosters) in the “chicken garden.” The property hadn’t been a working farm for 10 years, until the family rebuilt it, complete with training ring. The name “Blue Stallion Farm” was inspired by the work of graffiti artist Erni Vales.
The Bernals worked with designers/artisans Curtis and Ani Spoerlein to reimagine the dated kitchen. They saved the cabinet frames, but swapped out cupboard doors for new ones crafted from Western cedar, which has a grain strong enough to stand up to existing stonework. Open shelving keeps ingredients and cookware within reach for Gany, whose passion is cooking traditional foods that celebrate her multi-culti ethnic roots.
Once dark brown and imposing, built-in cabinetry in the living room got a whitewash that allows some of the wood to show through for a rustic look. Global accents add pops of color.
Daughter Shana is up at dawn to care for her show horse, Revolution. “She drives a tractor and pulls a 32-foot-horse trailer,” says Gany. “The farm has made her an independent person.”
On the headboard wall, sliding barn doors painted a vivid blue block out the sun when shut to keep things cool. A yellow nightstand was designed by Studio/C for fun and function.
Decades-old banyan trees offer shade for the animals and young Misha. They get their dramatic (and kind of spooky) looks from aerial roots that drop from limbs.
STYLE WITH A BIG HEARTH
Gany wasn’t crazy about the commanding stone hearth in the living room. “But I stayed true to it,” she says, selecting colors and materials that help it blend in. The two replaced damaged wood floors with humidity-proof tile that mimics rustic wood. “When I tell people it’s tile they bend down to touch it to see if that’s true!” Gany laughs.
Bright colors energize the office in the renovated horse barn. When the leather sofa/canine resting spot became soiled Gany painted it with leather paint. “it’s held up well,” she says.
BLUE STALLION STATS
RESIDENTS: Gany Lalo Bernal and Jimmie Bernal, their children Benjamin, Shana, Hanna, and Misha, 6 dogs, several cats, 1 pig, 11 horses, 3 Zebu cows, and 80 chickens.
LOCATION: A boho-equestrian community called Southwest Ranches, Florida
HOUSE SIZE: 3,000 square feet GANY’S DESIGN CREDO: “I value salvaging and repurposing—and I wanted to blend the family’s desire for a back-to-our-roots lifestyle with my love for color, ethnicity and variety.”
DESIGN SOURCES: The Bernals worked with friends Curtis and Ani Spoerlein of Studio/C to rethink spaces and create custom furniture. “They have an artsy, natural approach,” says Gany. “Their talent is evident in every corner here.”
SHOPPING HAUNTS: Anthropologie, Restoration Hardware, global markets
Gany’s Beef Sancocho
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 large yellow onions, quartered
- 3 carrots peeled and cut up into 3-inch pieces
- 2 lbs beef flanken ribs cut into large pieces, with bone.
- 3 ½ cups chopped cilantro (3 for cooking and ½ for serving)
- 14 cups chicken broth, homemade or use bouillon cubes and combine with water to create a broth base for the soup.
- 4-5 small red or white potatoes peeled and diced (large)
- 1 or 2 small sweet potatoes diced
- 1 ½ lbs small red or white potatoes peeled and quartered
- 3 cups pumpkin or butternut squash, diced (large)
- 8 (3-inch long) pieces of fresh or frozen yuca (you can find it in the Latin section of frozen food at the supermarket)
- 2 ripe plantains cut into 3-inch-long pieces (we like to keep the peel on to keep the plantain from falling apart when cooking)
- 4 ears of corn husked and quartered Cooked white rice for serving
- 1 medium avocado, peeled and sliced for serving
- 1. In a large stock pot heat the oil over medium heat.
- 2. Add the garlic and stir with a wooden spoon, cook for 2 minutes to extract flavor.
- 3. Add the onion and stir for about 5 minutes, until transparent.
- 4. Add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.
- 5. Add the beef ribs and cook for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
- 6. Add the cilantro.
- 7. Add the chicken stock little by little, stirring and loosening the sticky, flavorful garlic and onion on the bottom of the pot. Add more stock and stir until all is used.
- 8. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes.
- 9. Add all the potatoes (regular and sweet), pumpkin or squash, corn, yuca and plantains, simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 35-45 minutes.
- 10. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you feel you need more flavor you can always add a bouillon cube or bouillon powder to season the soup.
- 11. You can cook it faster on higher heat until all vegetables are tender, but the Sancocho is best when simmered in low heat for a longer period of time. I like to let the Sancocho cook and simmer on low heat for about 2 hours then let it rest and reheat it when ready for serving. Don’t be afraid to add more liquid if you lose too much while simmering. This is not a recipe that can go wrong; it does not have to be exact measurements and you don’t have to use all the root vegetables. Some people prefer no potato and more yuca; others don’t like sweet potato and only use regular potato. You can make it with beef or chicken. Feel free to play around with it.
- 12. The soup is served in large bowls. At our house what usually happens is that everyone goes to the pot and serves themselves because they like to dig into the pot and look for the vegetable they want—some want more yuca than others, some don’t want potatoes, others don’t like to eat the cooked carrots. It becomes a pick and choose fest! We all like to sprinkle the fresh cilantro in our bowls.
- 13. We serve white rice on the side, sliced avocado and some spicy ahi. Some also like to add lemon.
Sancocho is a traditional Latin American soup. I was born in Panama and my mother is Colombian. I grew up eating Sancocho and so are my children. I prefer a more orange tone to the soup with lots of the butternut squash, some sweet potato and less of the regular potato. It is a little lighter but at the same time the squash thickens the soup as it falls apart. This recipe is for 6 servings, I usually double it because somebody always wants Sancocho leftovers the following day. Sancocho is a rustic country dish—nothing is evenly chopped, nothing is formal. It is comforting, hearty, tasty and filling. We have Sancocho at home at least once a week. – GANY BERNAL