When gathering inspiration for a sumptuous new home in Fort Lauderdale overlooking the Intracoastal and just a stone’s throw from the beach, designers Ivonne Ronderos and Margaret Smith Logan and their associates found inspiration both close by and far afield. The homeowners, who were actively involved in the design process, wanted a home that was contemporary and elegant, but underscored with a comfortable beachy feel, and that incorporated some aspects of transitional style to achieve a sense of warmth. “They didn’t want a stark modern, all-white look,” explains Ronderos. “We wanted it to be unique, but to have that crossover, to be contemporary but timeless.” At the same time, Ronderos and her team members had been inspired by regular trips to Milan’s annual furniture fair, Salone del Mobile; this prompted a host of elegant Italian furniture selections, as well as the use of warm, colorful accent metals such as brass over colder materials like chrome.
A true collaboration among the designers, architect Carlos A. Martin, and builders Robert (Bob) Mayer and Jay Lefka, the home is teeming with natural light from any given spot. “You’re always walking past the view,” Ronderos says. Several upstairs and downstairs rooms look out at the water, while a series of loggias lies just beyond the glass walls, underneath the awnings. The front of the house overlooks a reflecting pool, and the back features a swimming pool that runs alongside the covered terraces and up to the house, and in combination with the lake itself reflects even more light inside. Massive expanses of glass in back also can disappear altogether as they fold into the perimeter walls. “It was all about bringing the inside and outside together,” says Mayer.
Public areas on the ground floor are part of one large open space, yet the design team took advantage of several distinct interior architectural elements to create definition, such as a slatted-walnut ceiling that hovers above the living room or the wraparound fireplace clad in white powder-coated metal that extends down from it. “It’s very open, but the ceiling and wall treatments give you that delineation of each space,” Mayer says. Other built-in elements add a memorable touch of elegance and casual texture, such as a wall of marble that wraps around the dining room wall, the stacked stone pillars that divide the outdoor rooms, and a stunning wall of agate that enlivens the master bathroom.
At the same time, a repetition of materials was employed to maintain uniformity. Walnut, for example, is used throughout, be it for flooring in the bedrooms or for furniture such as the dining room table. Then to incorporate a sense of coziness and create interesting patterns, colorful rugs were added, especially upstairs in the bedrooms, as were draperies with a sense of lightness and texture. “Fort Lauderdale has more transitional homes rather than contemporary,” Ronderos explains. “This direction helped us to create an elegant feel with a more casual take.”
Throughout the house, the design team also made use of creative groupings of objects and pieces of furniture, such as a quartet of hanging lights over the dining room table, a pair of his-and-hers mirrors layered over a larger mirror in the master bathroom, and a living room coffee table seemingly made from four conjoined pieces. “That’s something we’re seeing a lot more of, including at the Milan fair,” Ronderos says. “The plans used to call for a sofa, two side chairs and a coffee table. “Now, there’s more nesting or clustering.” The team also endeavored to add unexpected groups of furniture, such as the woven casual chairs used at the dining room table. “They boast this sophisticated linen and such elegant weaving, but they’re still playful,” Ronderos adds.
Beyond just the furniture and surfaces, the home’s interior details and built-ins seem to possess a sense of motion or of floating mid-air. Take the small reveals where the walls meet the floor and ceiling, for example, how a built-in entertainment center in the home office or a wall of hidden appliances in the kitchen gently cantilever over the floor, or even the large-screen television that comes out of the ground between the backyard and the pool.
The homeowners divide their time between this Florida home, the East Coast and Europe, but after moving in, the pull of this elegant yet comfortable oasis is strong. “They were so excited,” Ronderos recalls of the moment the clients first walked into the finished home. And she credits their participation, as well as the collaborative nature of the entire design-build team. “When you have people who are eager to build with you, you can have fun,” she says. “You don’t hold back.”
– Brian Libby