A Waterfront Key Biscayne Condo With a Warm Palette


As icy winter arrived in the Midwest, a Chicago couple would escape to their oceanfront condo on Key Biscayne and its remarkably turquoise waters. But in time, they realized that their sprawling 6,000-square-foot winter abode was more home than they needed. So they sold it and relocated to a smaller condo on a higher floor, gaining not only intimacy but also better ocean views.

The couple’s previous condo was more regal in feel, with its grand foyer and formal dining room, but they wanted their new home to have a more casual effect while radiating a feeling of warmth. Up to the task was the late Cecile Peeples, who had designed their previous condo, and her son, Robert Rionda. “They have a couple of older children and grandchildren, so they wanted it to be a winter family home,” says Rionda. “The idea was to make it feel peaceful and serene. They had sold all of their furnishings with the other residence, so they were starting from scratch, and they really gave us carte blanche.”

The condo was organized a bit like a railroad apartment, with a series of rooms connecting one behind the other. To reimagine the layout, Peeples brought in a longtime collaborator, interior architectural designer Joseph Bartoszek. “One of the challenges was to rework the space to make it feel like it wasn’t so linear from front to back,” he says. Bartoszek drew up plans that would open the kitchen to the family room, giving the home some much-needed air. Also, the couple didn’t need formal dining, so he integrated that room’s square footage into the family room. With the floor plan revamped, the team began lending some character to the interior spaces, with a focus on careful craftsmanship.

Bartoszek designed special moldings, wainscoting and other woodwork detailing, all by hand—no computers—which he says helps him get the proportions just right. That millwork was executed by builder Jan Hanak and his team. “I was a tool and die maker in Europe, and I’ve been carrying on with that European look,” Hanak says. “Joseph throws us all of this challenging work, which is wonderful. Certain doors have disappearing hinges, so you don’t even know if it’s a door or closet. You press the wall, and it opens.”

To complement the woodwork and further imbue the interiors with warmth, Peeples and Rionda chose an inviting palette of caramels with accents of blues and greens. They incorporated punches of white through upholstered pieces and injected glintzes of gold for a touch of tradition and urban luster. To further enhance the feeling of warmth, they created a tactile experience by using wallcoverings throughout the home. “The owners weren’t into flowers and botanical prints, so we really focused on textures,” Rionda says. “The office has a jute-and-linen wallpaper, the entrance foyer has a textured grass cloth, and the master bedroom has soft pastel stripes. The woodwork is a crisp contrast against these other materials.”

When selecting furnishings, Rionda and Peeples opted for low-key elegance. “We used a lot of custom pieces, some vintage finds and a few antiques,” Rionda says. “A good chunk of the furnishings came from showrooms here in Florida. My mom and I also took a couple of fun little shopping trips to the antiques stores in West Palm Beach, Miami and Los Angeles. The project brings back some great memories, because it was the last one my mom and I worked on together.”

In the end, the team was able to strike the perfect balance between Florida style—with its bright whites and cool ocean backdrop—and the homeowners’ desire for rich details and a homey feel. “We didn’t want the unit to seem cold, so the biggest challenge was to make this feel more like a house—to give it that ambience,” Bartoszek says. “There’s enough detail that every room has its own character, and it comes across as a sort of warmth that embraces you.”