Buying or building a house can be one of life’s most stressful events. Purchasing a half-built residence, then, would seem an ideal solution. It was for a young couple who acquired a home in Hallandale Beach, Florida, with a Mediterranean-style exterior and a partially constructed interior that was ready for anything.
Designers Rafaela Simoes, Laila Colvin and Kathy Saldana were enlisted to transform the property. Their efforts yielded a sleek showcase of clean lines and contemporary furnishings that reveals little evidence of the home’s Mediterranean beginnings.
Devising a chic, updated plan to suit the residents’ taste and lifestyle wasn’t without its challenges. Initially, the design trio assumed the structure’s facade would inspire their ideas. But after getting well-acquainted with their clients, they quickly discarded any adherence to barrel tiles, columns and arches. “We realized they liked very modern styles,” Simoes recounts about their 180-degree creative pivot, which affected the home’s exterior as well.
To achieve a much-needed blank canvas, the designers worked with general contractor Gilles Bouchacourt on revising the residence’s interior architecture. Arches and window casings, baseboards, trim and molding were all eliminated, while floating walls and recessed lighting were incorporated among the newly spare spaces. “After that, we were free to do what we wanted,” Simoes says.
That autonomy entailed a bit of mediating, however. The husband, who led the decision-making for his family’s dream home, “wanted it to be very masculine,” Simoes recalls, “but because the house is on the water, we didn’t want it to feel too heavy.” To meet that goal, the team made sure to take the wife’s differing taste into account, which meant spaces would also include feminine accents.
Achieving balance between opposing forces motivated a design concept of contrasting elements that was implemented throughout the home and continued outdoors. From room to room, hard surfaces like pale ceramic flooring and chocolate brown wood accents are softened by lush upholstery and dramatic swaths of linen draperies, imparting a pleasing sense of continuity. Graceful touches appear via furnishings that are weighty yet elegant–such as the living room’s leather-and-metal armchairs and metal-and-mirrored coffee table–and from airy lighting, like the fixture hovering over the dining room’s substantial table.
The disparate features are displayed to dramatic effect in the living room. There, the designers conceived an intricate accent wall composed of walnut and constructed by Robeisy Martinez of Robert Carpentry. Consisting of multiple individual pieces randomly arranged, the 10Â½-foot-tall focal point is stunning–and provides a couple solutions: “We wanted to increase the width of the room,” Simoes explains, so the piece reaches halfway up the wall while the sides are extended, drawing the eye out. It also cleverly conceals the door to a powder room.
Visible from the living room, the patio holds another high-contrast moment. There, a vertical garden by landscape designer Marcio Ferreira of Giardino shows off evergreen perennials, ground orchids, ferns and other species, lending a verdant accent to the home’s neutral palette. “We tried to do a unique feature for every room in the residence,” Colvin says. Walnut repeats as a focal point on the paneled walls and ceilings of the foyer and the dining room. And in the master bathroom, a gorgeous book-matched onyx wall presides over the freestanding tub like artwork. “I think it’s the most beautiful area of the house,” Saldana says. “It’s every woman’s dream to have this bathroom.”
The master bedroom is no exception to the dark-and-light scheme although more emphasis is placed on the light: The upholstered bed, a pair of leather chairs, an area rug and the ceramic tile are all shades of ivory. A highlight in this room is the recessed niche in the espresso-stained oak wall that contains an LED-lit art panel. “An organic photograph can help prevent a modern design from feeling too cold,” Simoes says.
During a two-year period, the team took careful steps to get everything just right for the house, down to the last selection. “The materials are very unique,” Bouchacourt says. For instance, they sourced ipe wood from Bolivia for elements like the front door, garage doors, balcony accents and patio ceilings. “It took six months to get some of the pieces because of their size,” the general contractor says, noting the wood needed to wrap 24-foot-long balconies. “They had to find the right trees.”
Transforming the home’s style inside and out brought its share of surprises for the designers and, especially, the owners: Midway through the process, the couple learned they were expecting a second child. A guest room, formerly planned in gray and navy, was ultimately converted to a warm, soft-pink nursery for the little girl. A generous timetable and creative agility eased the often-arduous process of making a dream home, Colvin says. “We had freedom to create, and we had the time to do it perfectly,” she says. “That made a difference, and it makes this house very special.”