A Brazilian-based couple wanted a Miami pied-à-terre that matched their casual lifestyle: He plays golf to unwind, she loves to hop on her bike and ride along the coast, and they are both drawn to sunshine and seaside views. So when they discovered a modern waterfront condo on Allison Island graced with big windows overlooking the Indian Creek Waterway, they didn’t hesitate to act.
The couple also didn’t hesitate to bring in their trusted designer Cristiana Mascarenhas, who designed two previous homes for them in their shared native country. “Most Brazilians, especially people from Rio, where we have a lot of sun and beach, like bright colors,” says Mascarenhas, whose generous use of energetic sky blues, lively sunshine yellows and pulsating hot pinks imbues her projects with a touch of Carnival festival air. With that same concept in mind, she immediately set about creating interior spaces with a cool, modern vibe and splashes of vibrant color.
Hoping to enhance the condo’s interior flow, Mascarenhas began by collaborating with builder Ronny Camilo on a gut remodel of the entire apartment. “We opened the kitchen up to integrate the living room and to make it one large space,” explains Camilo, who removed a dividing wall to make that happen. The resulting open area is more spacious and takes advantage of the beautiful sunset views.
The kitchen layout was then altered for maximum functionality and the couple’s casual lifestyle, which includes very little cooking. “They order out, and when they do cook, it’s pretty simple, so we kept the space fairly minimal,” says Mascarenhas. This included introducing white-lacquer cabinets and oak-back panels by Ornare, an eco-friendly Brazilian cabinetmaker, into the design.
To integrate the now open floor plan, Mascarenhas repeated the same white lacquer and oak panels in the bathroom and further unified the spaces by utilizing the same large porcelain-tile flooring throughout the house. “It’s a product called Neolith, and we applied it right over the existing marble floors,” says Camilo. “The thickness of the product is 4 millimeters, but believe it or not, it’s extremely durable.”
With the backdrop in place, Mascarenhas got busy seeking furnishings and artwork to establish comfortable, pared-down interiors. “The owners are very laid-back and wanted everything to be minimal and low-maintenance,” says the designer, who selected several midcentury modern pieces for their unfussy good looks. Items such as a pair of Saarinen reproduction Womb chairs in the living room, for example, and a dining room table by the same designer provided the desired effect.
Furnishings also needed to meld comfort and style, so when a recliner appeared on the homeowners’ must-have list, Mascarenhas searched for “a recliner that doesn’t look like a recliner,” ultimately settling on a sleek, stylish leather model. The upholstered dining room chairs that surround the Saarinen table also meet the comfy-chic criteria. “They swivel so you can get out easily, and you can stay there talking forever as well,” she says.
The bedroom areas were also reconfigured to better fit the homeowners’ needs. “They didn’t want a tub, and the master bathroom was unnecessarily large,” says Mascarenhas. As a result, she turned the bathing area into a big shower with a bench, enlarged the closet and turned the original shower space into a powder room. Similarly, in the second bedroom, space was borrowed from the original square footage to expand the closet.
Traveling back and forth between New York and Miami, Mascarenhas found items such as the painting by Manuel Esnoz that now hangs above the living room sofa. The large abstract is the perfect complement to the home’s lively palette, which includes jolts of blue in furnishings, bedding and—by the husband’s special request—in the turquoise living room rug. The designer had originally created a similar floor covering for the husband’s sister, and he loved it so much that he insisted on one for this condo. “It’s a patchwork rug designed in big squares, and we worked to get the dye perfect so it was the right tone for him—a happy blue,” Mascarenhas says. For her part, the wife asked for a pink flamingo to inject a touch of whimsy into the space. “She said if she was going to be in Miami, she had to have a flamingo,” says Mascarenhas, who contacted a neon company in New York to create one to her specifications.
Fully settled, the homeowners adore their pied-à-terre with a view, often enjoying breakfast on the sunny terrace. And as much as they delight in golfing and cycling on their island paradise, they often prefer simply to stay home. “They love it,” Mascarenhas says. “Whenever clients tell me they don’t ever want to go out, I know they are happy in their place.”