Oftentimes home buyers favor a residence that has been renovated with a more modern style. But the features that attracted one couple to a 1920s Miami Beach house happened to be original aspects of the Spanish-inspired structure—a notion that excited interior designers Laila Colvin and Rafaela Simoes. “They’re dream clients who let us be free with our ideas,” Simoes says.
The canal-front residence had undergone an extensive overhaul for a cleaner, more contemporary look. But plenty of 100-year-old charm remained, including arched windows, wood-beam ceilings and— the element that won over the couple—the original open staircase, which sports a traditional wrought- iron railing and colorful ceramic tiles. The owners tasked Colvin and Simoes with capturing a sense of artistry and zeal while bridging the gap between the original and renovated architecture. “They wanted the house to be modern but colorful,” Simoes says. “The wife wanted to keep the Spanish character but more contemporary.” The duo devised a concept for an eclectic bohemian vibe that combines organic, natural elements with streamlined ones. And the staircase, they knew, was the key starting point.
Working with general contractor Leonardo Rescaldani, the duo first made the stairs the focus of the living area by covering the surrounding walls throughout with a textural neutral linen. They then pulled the home’s color palette from the staircase’s Spanish tiles, particularly blues and oranges. The living area’s blue-and-white rug, made of dyed Persian rug remnants, for instance, sets a casual yet graphic backdrop for tailored Brazilian-style furnishings in neutral fabrics. “The sofa is very sleek,” Colvin says, pointing to the off-white track-arm sofa, “but the distressed patchwork rug feels bohemian.” Ottomans and pillows in a sun- bleached orange-red add another boho layer while picking up a second hue from the stairs.
A navy grass cloth covers the wall behind the open shelving in the living area’s custom built-in walnut cabinetry, which has a vertical slatted sliding panel that conceals the television when not in use. “The slatted panel is our signature,” Colvin says, noting she and Simoes incorporated a similar screen in their design studio. “We always use it somehow.” The handcrafted walnut millwork complements the wood ceiling beams, which they refinished for a more refined look.
The staircase’s tiles also informed the residence’s artwork, including a deep orange papier-mâché sculpture on a foyer wall and a pair of abstract paintings in the dining area. There, the interior designers played with opposites in materials: A metal chandelier illuminates a glass-topped table with an organic live-edge wood slab base, while white linen host chairs counter Brazilian wood side chairs with leather seats. “We love the mix of polished and organic elements,” Simoes says. “The balance creates a chic vibe.”
The duo repeated that strategy in the family room, pairing wood side tables with a blue plush velvet sofa and ottoman. “The velvet makes it feel a little fancier,” Colvin says, “but the idea is to be cozy.” Above, lining the wall, is a grouping of the family’s favorite movie posters—a similar scene to the breakfast area, which displays photos by a New Orleans artist over a blue channel-tufted banquette. “We wanted to do a gallery that kind of resembled the staircase, so that was a perfect find,” Simoes says.
Not every artwork is vibrant, though. Echoing the house’s more organic furnishings, mounted driftwood and wooden wall pieces make appearances throughout. The owners fell in love with a wood sculpture Colvin and Simoes placed by a swivel lounge chair in a corner of the primary bedroom. The room’s white linen bed juxtaposes the existing dark wood millwork, which flows into the en-suite bathroom. That space underwent a renovation that involved rearranging the layout to place a freestanding tub in front of a window and install an onyx-like wall. “The floor and most of the walls are concrete tile, so we created a porcelain slab accent wall with veining to break it up,” Colvin says. Overhead, a ceiling window with a sky view casts light on the spa-like milieu.
Just as the home’s original staircase leads to the structure’s next level, the residence itself has taken a step into a colorful new chapter with its history restored in a comforting way. “It was important to have a house that was beautiful, exciting and fun,” Colvin says. “It wasn’t to show off. It’s to enjoy, relax and have fun.”