Set against the lush backdrop of Key Biscayne, a sculptural house pops against the tropical surroundings—its interlocking white rectangular forms epitomizing Miami modern architecture. Resplendent with a diverse array of contemporary art and vintage furniture, the house has a sense of festivity that begins as soon as one enters its colorful fusion of indoor and outdoor spaces. “Living here is a dream come true,” says Maria Virginia Zambrano, the design-savvy owner who calls this place home along with her husband, Eddy Saade, and their children.
“I was immediately struck by her passion and excitement,” recalls designer Robert Rionda, who worked in close collaboration with Maria to outfit the interiors. “She came to our first dinner together with an inspiration book like I’ve never seen before. It was overflowing with ideas ranging from pictures of pop stars to jewelry, colors and furniture—it was eclectic in the best way.”
To begin, architect Bruno Elias Ramos made the more uncommon decision to place the swimming pool in the front of the house, behind a tree-lined garden wall by landscape designer Michael Thiel, as opposed to the back. This allowed the entire ground floor—be it the living and dining rooms at the home’s entrance or the open kitchen and family room in back—to wrap around the pool, making it a focal point. The family often congregates around its infinity edge and an adjacent barbecue area. “There are sliding glass doors all around the pool, so you can see it from each of the public rooms,” says Ramos, who specified the interior layouts and served as the home’s builder. Equally striking is a rooftop deck with even more picturesque vistas. “Outside, the downstairs areas are the more active spaces, while the upstairs is more passive,” Ramos says. “On the rooftop terrace, you can watch the sunset with a cocktail and enjoy views of Key Biscayne’s treetops, Biscayne Bay and the downtown skyline.”
Because the house has wide-open spaces and an abundance of windows looking out onto nature, Rionda wanted to infuse the interiors with a wealth of color. “The use of rich and vibrant tones, as opposed to a neutral palette, allows the eye to focus on the art and furnishings that we curated while still appreciating the architecture and views of the landscape,” Rionda says.
But there was also an extra challenge: The two homeowners didn’t see eye to eye stylistically. Maria liked modern furnishings while her husband preferred traditional. “I’d say, ‘I love this chair,’” she remembers, “and he’d say, ‘Are you crazy?’ It was a long journey, but he trusted me and he trusted Robert. Then, after we moved in, my husband said, ‘This is my taste now, too.’”
In the double-height living room, the focal point is a large 10-by-7-foot photograph the couple had commissioned before the home was completed. It depicts the mountainous Venezuelan capital of Caracas, from which they emigrated. The photo, titled Blue Caracas by Vicente Diez, is broken down into a multi-square grid; its pattern is picked up in a Don Harvey Bones screen, found at John Salibello, separating the living and dining rooms. The tones of the sky in the photo also inspired the selection of Clarence House’s blue velvet to reupholster the living room’s classic midcentury Vladimir Kagan Floating Curve sofa.
The nearby dining room was designed to accommodate formal dinner parties without feeling too formal. Thus, it elegantly pairs vintage Italian Venini chandeliers with clean-lined and classic furniture. Yet the conversation piece among guests invariably becomes a bronze sculpture that Maria received as a gift and then covered entirely in colorful balloons. Originally it was located in a play area for the kids, but Rionda—appreciating its blend of old-world tradition and Pop art fun—suggested a prominent place beside the dining table. Around the corner is the family room, a more casual area with a large sofa where the entire family can gather, yet the space still seems grown-up because it’s filled with eye-catching art and worldly objects, such as a chrome coffee table and a vintage English rug in bold reds and blues.
If most of the house is stocked with colorful and stylish furniture and art, then the kitchen exhibits a simpler, more functional elegance with high-gloss white cabinets, white quartzite countertops and an island topped in stainless steel. “Not many of my clients ask for stainless steel, but Maria is a classically trained chef, so for her it was important for the kitchen to be not only beautiful but also functional,” recalls Jorge Rodriguez, who, along with business partner Juan Carlos Quijano, worked with Maria to bring to life her dream kitchen that suits the family’s needs and lifestyle.
Upstairs ck, the master bedroom serves as a respite from vivacious family life, with room for a chic sofa and a globe-shaped ottoman for watching television, as well as a small floating desk. Mitch McGee’s Pop art piece of a woman’s face overlooks the space, along with artwork Maria made, titled My Heart is Yours (Handle with Care), using wood, paint and stickers that read “fragile.”
Indeed, although the house is full of signature furniture and art, it’s the passions of both clients and designers that make the house sing. “For me, creating this home was amazing,” Maria says. “I loved showing my kids that there are so many ways to be creative. But it also comes down to Robert and the rest of the team: They knew what we wanted even better than we did.”