When a young Brazilian couple bought a vacation home on Fisher Island, just minutes from mainland Miami by ferry, a longtime dream became reality. “I used to live in Miami, and I always fantasized of having a place on the island,” the wife says. “I’m a beach lover, and it’s especially pretty here. I love that it’s in Miami but it’s not at the same time.”
With generous balconies for entertaining, the family’s retreat boasts views of swaying palms, sparkling waters and the city beyond. “It makes me feel like I’m on vacation in the caribbean,” the wife says. The interior, however, made her feel transported back to 1989, when the building was constructed. “The previous owner kept it very nice, but he never renovated anything, so it was really outdated,” she says. “My husband and I loved the location, but we knew that we had to change everything inside the apartment.” What they really wanted to create was a beach-house aesthetic with a modern vibe, and they brought in designers and sisters Cristina Souza and Monica Souza to lead the way.
The couple have three young children, so the first order of business was to squeeze in an extra bedroom. “The master was too big and had lots of closets, which they don’t need because this isn’t their primary home, and the other bedroom was a junior master suite,” says Cristina Souza. With N25 Architecture Co. as architect of record, the two bedrooms were converted and the floor plan was changed to yield three suites. And the kids’ rooms got extra beds to accommodate their friends, as well. “I have a sister living in Miami who has children, and all of my friends who vacation in Miami have kids,” the wife says. “So we have a lot of company sleeping over all the time.”
Additionally, the kitchen, which had been enclosed, was opened up to the great room and the dining area, expanding the views and allowing for more socializing. “We wanted to integrate the kitchen with the dining area, so we repeated the pattern from the kitchen cabinetry onto the dining room ceiling,” Cristina Souza says. Back in Brazil, the couple have a chef and staff, so an open kitchen doesn’t work for them there. “But on vacation, I like to cook for the kids, and everything goes on around that space,” the wife says. “I wanted something easier here, without the structure that we have at home.”
Because the couple entertain, a sleek, stylish bar was added in the dining area, with a mirrored wall above that gives the illusion of even more space and helps reflect the island light throughout the living areas. For the color scheme, the homeowners wanted a palette of mostly blue tones to mimic the ocean. “I had a very clear vision in my mind that i wanted something reminiscent of Ralph Lauren—whites and blues,” the wife says. “I love that combination because it’s very beachy. It’s peaceful, and it’s eternal—you never get tired of it.” To that end, the main living spaces are light, bright and joyful, while the bedrooms are more serene, all with walls enveloped in textured grass-cloth wallcoverings. “The living room has white grass cloth, and the girls’ room is light green,” Cristina Souza says. “Then, in the master bedroom, we went a little bit darker with marine blue.” Meanwhile, limestone flooring lends an added gentle beachy touch.
The great room—the home’s prime gathering spot— received big sofas and other comfy seating. “The owner asked me to do a living room that she can have adults in, but where she could also have the children together during the day,” Cristina Souza says. “This is for vacation, when the family spends the most time together, so she didn’t want the kids to be isolated in their bedrooms.” Though the homeowner says she wouldn’t choose to put a television in the main living area at home in Brazil, she was willing to break that rule for the family’s getaway.
Although the apartment was completely transformed, the homeowners say it will continue to evolve. They intend to acquire more art, for example, but slowly and thoughtfully. “I’m an art lover, lover, lover,” the wife says. Until then, she’s thrilled with the reimagined vacation retreat on her dream island. “Each time I walk in the apartment, I notice more details, and when I look out at the ocean, I feel happy,” she says. “But most importantly, it’s the place that my kids love more than anywhere in the world, and that makes me adore it even more.”