Anyone who’s ever found themselves knee-deep in a pile of outdated clothes knows how satisfying it can feel to purge your closet—and your life—of unwanted apparel. But what about the architectural equivalent: What happens when an entire room no longer sparks joy? Even before Miami architects Marlene and Sergio Artigues became empty nesters, they were beginning to tire of the scale and aesthetic of the French-style family home they built more than 15 years ago. “As you grow up, your tastes change,” Sergio acknowledges. So when a tear-down around the block went up for sale—a property Marlene passed every day while walking their dogs—they knew the time was right to channel all their ideas about downsizing into a new residence that would be a departure from everything they had built to that point.
“Our previous home was very formal,” Marlene recalls. Sergio adds, “We used our dining room maybe a handful of times; the second family room was a playroom, but our sons are older now.” Just like discarding clothes that haven’t been worn in a while, “we did that with rooms,” Marlene says.
The couple conceived a contemporary loft-style structure driven as much by efficiency of space as the tropical modernism of a vacation villa in Bali. Only four areas fill the first floor: the kitchen, great room, laundry room and powder room. There is no dining room, no den, no hidden office tucked away in a back corner. Rather, the latter exists as an extension of the primary suite on the second level, its only partition being a Mondrian-inspired bookcase that maintains privacy for the primary bathroom while underscoring the house’s angular geometry. “We realized we really love informality,” observes Sergio, who designed the spaces to flow into each other, eschewing doors to enhance flexibility and a sense of connection. “We went outside the box and thought of what we really use, and that dictated the style.”
Sergio’s interest in gravity-defying volumes guided the rest. The main bedroom is an ambitious cantilevered space delineated by large swaths of exposed concrete inside and burnished porcelain slabs outside that resemble cold-rolled steel—an engineering feat that is as complicated as it is beautiful. The structure rests amid a riot of tropical and native greenery, including ferns and palms, stands of bamboo, sea grape bushes and gumbo limbo trees. Steel-reinforced, floor-to-ceiling storefront glass windows allow for the seamless interplay of landscaping and interiors while keeping the worst of South Florida’s steamy weather at bay.
The combination of those competing volumes and the rough-hewn mix of materials creates a series of liminal spaces that blur the lines between interior and exterior environments. Like the tropical flora that’s always in the background, French oak flooring softens the sleek kitchen island’s richly veined Calacatta Gold marble as well as the rustic striations of the great room’s exposed concrete wall. Sergio designed the staircase—an engineering marvel done in one seemingly miraculous cement pour—to provide transparency and create a sculptural architectural element that is “a focal point of the great room as well as the pool and pool deck beyond,” he explains. Low-slung furnishings in earthy tones and simple forms, such as the living area’s black sectional and the primary bedroom’s cream-colored bed, keep the focus always on the greenery outside. And a pair of walnut wood screens offers privacy from the main rooms on the first floor, while floor-to-ceiling windows in the main bedroom give the space the look of a canopy-top aerie. “It feels like you’re floating in a tree house,” Marlene muses.
The outdoor spaces are designed with a similarly imperceptible sense of connection between the interiors and nature. Inspired by Balinese architecture, the patio and pool area feels worlds away. “We’re homebodies, but we love to travel,” Marlene says. Beneath the overhang created by the cantilevered primary suite, a ceiling of ipe wood paneling and a wall of burnished porcelain act as grounding forces for an outdoor living room nestled among the verdant vegetation. The pool— a heated spa and cold plunge tank separated by tile divider—serves as a reflecting pool when viewed from the house’s entrance.
The overlapping versatility makes it easy to forget all of these features are packed into a lot that’s less than one-fifth of an acre. “We wanted to take advantage of every space,” Sergio says. “We kept only our most prized pieces and bought what we truly loved for this home. It is highly curated.” It’s also sure to spark joy for years to come.