When all the culinary wonders of South Beach lay below your feet, a question quickly arises: who needs a kitchen? That thought led internationally-acclaimed designer Charles Allem to transform the former kitchen of this penthouse apartment high atop the W South Beach into a stunning backlit bar made from glistening brown agate. “The kitchen was a B movie, so we elevated it to an exquisite bar,” explains the South African-born Allem, who likes to think of his projects as movies for his clients’ lives.
His clients here couldn’t be happier with their assigned roles. “We’re empty nesters,” says the husband, “and the truth is, I’m not interested in a home-cooked dinner every night. With some of the country’s best restaurants within a two-mile radius, we’d be negligent if we didn’t go out and explore them.” And for that rare night in? The hotel’s room service is just a phone call away.
But the kitchen-to-bar metamorphosis was only the starting point for Allem. He completely tailored this three-bedroom aerie to his clients’ cosmopolitan lifestyle. “They wanted something slightly urban, but not the ubiquitous ‘South Beach white’ look,” says Allem. To that end, he replaced the ivory ceramic tiled floors with sensual ebony-stained wood and upholstered the walls of the open-plan living area in sumptuous linen from Flamant. “This is about maintaining the sophistication of the W, but taking it to a higher level,” he says.
Visitors reach that higher level the moment they walk in the front door. The entry’s intricate Murano glass walls are lit to create a dramatic tone. “I like an entrance to provoke you,” Allem admits. “I want you to walk in and have it hit you. Pow!”
And the pows keep coming: In the living room, the eye-popping views get plenty of competition from custom cabinetry inset with textural resin panels from Kinon, while a stunning Charles Allem rug for Stark warms the floor with its captivating graphic presence. “The rug unifies the living and dining rooms, and then the rectangular detail on the dining room ceiling delineates that space as its own entity,” the designer notes. To top it off, Allem installed a smoky glass-mirrored wall he says conveys a wonderful cocktail party mood in the evening: “You see the reflection of the city in the mirror and it’s all offset by the sparkle of the backlit bar.”
Cocktails in hand, guests might think to wander up to the spectacular rooftop deck in order to take a breath and recover, only to be hit by yet another pow. Not just from the panorama of Miami and the blue Atlantic, which Allem describes as “positively paralyzing,” but also because he enlisted rock star landscape architect Raymond Jungles to help him recreate the outdoor space. Allem says he decided to pull in the water as an element by referencing the deck of a yacht—preferably a stylish Italian one—and, like any good naval architect, he felt strongly that the look needed to be contiguous. To accomplish that, he used a waterproof decking material called Resysta that’s the color of sand, and, not coincidentally, the same color as the linen walls in the living room, literally pulling the apartment’s palette up onto the roof.
Jungles says he especially likes the way the planters seem to simply sprout from the decking. “Charles and I both like to minimize materials and connections. This is very minimal but very dynamic.”
Allem has an even clearer vision of how his clients should be enjoying their new home—he sees a movie that opens with a scene at the glowing jewel-box bar. “It’s midnight and my clients have just come in from dinner. They pour themselves a nightcap and head right for that beautiful terrace off the master bedroom. And then they just sit, sip their cognacs and listen to the sea.”