Some homeowners just know what they want—especially if they come from backgrounds that instilled a love of architecture, design and art. Such was the case for one Bay Harbor Islands couple—the wife, a graphic designer and daughter of a gallerist; the husband, the son of an architect—who were looking to reinterpret their midcentury abode. “I am very big on research,” the wife says. “I looked at a lot of homes abroad. I love modern European architecture.”
To bring their vision to life, the couple turned to architect Alain R. Bartroli, asking him to enact a thoughtful renovation that maintained the original charm, natural light and high ceilings of the 1955 ranch-style structure while expanding the space and incorporating sustainable features, such as lighting and air-conditioning control systems and high-performance windows. “They looked to the barn houses in Scandinavia,” Bartroli says, pointing to the clients’ desire for dark exterior cladding and a standing-seam metal roof. “They wanted to create something different than what is typical in Miami.”
At the top of the priority list was making the space livable for every member in the family of five. With help from general contractor Gabriel Boano of Art + Tec Development, Bartroli expanded the foyer, family room and kitchen to incorporate a breakfast area and an office as well as added the husband’s dream two-story garage, decorated on the walls with the work of a local graffiti artist. To capitalize on the pool and views, the team enlarged and rearranged the main bedroom suite.
Perhaps most notable, however, is how Bartroli addressed the children’s spaces. “We took a different approach than we do when we typically design houses,” he says of the new double-height children’s wing that allows for a loft in each bedroom (which are all, ironically, larger than the main bedroom). “The clients are very family oriented. A big percentage of the home is devoted to the children.”
The youngest residents impacted other design decisions as well, including material choices— such as the porcelain tile flooring that runs throughout the structure. “I have a 14-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 5-and-a-half-year-old,” says the wife, who worked side-by-side with Bartroli on every aspect of the interior design. “How do you make the house easy to maintain?” Once again, she did a deep dive, researching materials that, while simple and natural, aren’t pristine—like the metal vanity in the powder room, the dining chairs with walnut legs and the faux-concrete statement headboard wall in the main bedroom. “There’s concrete. There’s metal. There’s wood,” the wife notes. “The house has very raw, prime materials, which goes back to that Scandinavian aesthetic.”
The natural materials serve a second purpose that is just as important as withstanding normal family life: They provide a monochromatic backdrop that allows the owners’ extensive art collection to serve as the star of the show. “The punch of color comes from the art,” the wife says of the bold colors—from fluorescent green to royal purple and hot pink—that proliferate the interiors. “It’s not from the furniture or materials—we did that in our prior house, and we outgrew it. We needed something more timeless.”
Bartroli and the wife used the art itself as the guiding force in the interiors. “The owners shared with me the pieces they wanted to feature,” he says, pointing to how lighting (including carefully considered window shading to protect from ultraviolet rays), room size and layout all needed to be considered. “For instance, the moment you walk into the foyer, you’re greeted by two popsicles,” the architect adds, in reference to artwork by Tim Berg and Rebekah Myers. “We set the foyer back a bit, so the pieces aren’t right in your face, but when you walk in, it has a playful feeling.”
“Playful” is the key word here, because, even with such a tremendous art collection, the clients knew they didn’t want their residence to feel like a gallery. “It took a lot of effort to make sure the art complemented the home and the home complemented the art without being too homey or too artsy,” Bartroli says.
The trick, he explains, was scaling the furniture to the rooms, sourcing comfortable furnishings and “making sure the family is present in every space.” Whether gathered around the custom Italian dining table made of 48,000-year-old wood or lounging on the low-profile couch in the family room, there is a sense of balance between sophisticated and livable. “By making the spaces usable and placing the different art pieces within those spaces,” the architect says, “it sends the message that this is a house for both a family and artwork.”