Upon crossing the double-door threshold of this home, with its stunning organic-modern frank Lloyd Wright-esque facade and detailing, it might be hard to believe—or even imagine—that it was ever a blocky 1970s stucco structure the color of mud. But indeed it was, and if it hadn’t been for the keen eye of interior designer Fanny Haim and architect Cesar Molina, it might have stayed that way.
Homeowners Michael and Michelle Klinger had originally commissioned Molina to design a neoclassical Spanish-style home from scratch in Golden Beach, a tony town north of Miami Beach that bans the kind of high-rise developments for which the area is known. When that plan fell through, the idea of remodeling a fixer-upper in the same enchanting neighborhood became quite attractive, though it took some serious persuasion to win over the lady of the house, who wasn’t impressed with the home upon first inspection.
Despite its fabulous location on the water, the original residence was dark, with inadequate windows and closed-in rooms that didn’t take advantage of the five-star views. Both Haim and Molina easily saw past those limitations and envisioned the sleek temple filled with light and natural finishes—such as walnut and stacked slate—that it would become. “The location of the house was a no-brainer,” says Haim, whose team was rounded out with senior designer Carolina Gutierrez and interior architect Susana Stolear. “If we could maximize exposure to the outdoors, everything else could be achieved.”
The windows were expanded and the blueprint dramatically reconfigured, opening up the downstairs living space to amplify the vistas. The new floor plan, though airy and modern, is warmed up by defining spaces, such as the casual family room enveloped with partial walls lined in a rich walnut. “They wanted openness, but they didn’t want it to feel out of proportion or cold,” Molina says of his clients. “Intimate spaces were still desired.” Tying all the first-floor compartments together, the same walnut wrapping the fractional walls was employed overhead in a series of slats that draw the eye from space to space yet distinctly define each room.
To balance the warmth of the wood and the edginess of the stacked- slate wall of the staircase—which leads to an overhauled second floor complete with a master suite and a room for each of the couple’s three children, all with individual terraces overlooking the water—Haim selected a soft palette of natural tones accented by steel blue and apricot-colored leathers. She then added carefully curated de´cor that includes an array of vintage accessories, as well as art from the Klingers’ personal collection, giving the home an element of unpredictability and preventing it from becoming too overtly modern.
Sconces that throw light up and down add “jewelry” to the walls, Haim says. A blown-glass chandelier with tendrils as long as 12 feet, which the designer and her team discovered in New York, appears custom made for the expanded two-story foyer. Another New York find was a pair of steel and acrylic fixtures from the ’70s that now hang above the dining table. “In every project of mine, I like to include things of diverse provenance, because that’s what gives a home individuality and timelessness,” Haim says. “I like ambiguity and the surprise of finding the right piece that may seem out of character but somehow works in the space against all odds. It’s part of my design philosophy.”
Haim’s talent for blending disparate elements into a cohesive whole also produced her clients’ dream kitchen. Michelle had always wanted a white kitchen, but it needed visual thread to bind it to the wood walls that were now part of the open living space. So Haim accented the snowy cabinetry with dark walnut paneling and dressed the counter- tops and backsplash with gold Calacatta marble.
“Using modern elements with things of the past makes it cozy and classical, but it still feels novel and current,” she notes. “The intention for this house was to be casual. Instead of having a formal anything, it is all usable. There isn’t a single room you can’t touch or live in.”
And, thanks to the new and clever orientation of the home by both Haim and Molina, each of those casually chic, livable rooms are crowned by the winning water views that sold the design team first and then, more important, the Klingers.