Renovating a small space takes precision, imagination and a little bit of magic. Fortunately, when it came to remodeling a modest 1970s Brickell condo, interior designer Sandra Diaz-Velasco and her husband, general contractor Jose Andres Velasco, had plenty of tricks up their sleeves. The owners wanted a super-functional home with more living space, two full bathrooms, a den and a bigger walk-in closet. “We love to travel, and we wanted a residence that would reflect our personality and everything we have found and collected through the years,” the wife says. “But most of all, we wanted comfort and to have a place we could manage from afar.”
Having that ease, solace and space would require a gut renovation. Diaz-Velasco and Velasco began by clearing out the entire apartment and accounting for every inch in the one-bedroom condo. “It was a very careful and detailed design phase,” the interior designer says. Only one side of the unit featured windows, so they also needed to find ways to bring natural light into the rest of the home. Curving walls helped solve the challenge, allowing the design team to optimize the square footage and soften spatial transitions. “The organic forms gave us excellent natural and artificial light reflection,” the general contractor says. “The entire area looks softer.” They also reclaimed space from the balcony and created a corner view in the primary bedroom, which now looks out onto the pool and Biscayne Bay.
The waterway served as inspiration for the primary bathroom, an interior space that lacks windows. The duo installed a wavy soffit to conceal the plumbing systems, wrapped the room in a blue ombre waterproof wallpaper and added linear LED lighting to mimic a skylight. “We also used mirrors to make the room feel deeper than it really is,” Velasco says. “You never get the sensation you are in the darkest part of the unit.” In the second bathroom, Diaz-Velasco used black and white to fool the eye, covering the shower area in an ebony hue. “It feels like a powder room when you see it at first, and you don’t realize there’s a huge shower right next to it,” she says.
The pair had full creative freedom on the project, which allowed them think outside the box to give each area multipurpose elements in clever ways. Most of the kitchen is concealed behind Italian cabinetry, while other items are hidden in plain sight. For instance, the dining table is also the cooktop—and that eye- catching chandelier? It’s actually the hood. “The kitchen is the perfect combination of form and function,” Velasco observes. “The kitchen works as a kitchen—and works in a different way when everything is closed.”
Secret conveniences abound, from the combination den-laundry room tucked behind the kitchen to the hidden bar and coffee station in the primary bedroom. Bulky mechanics were replaced with state-of-the-art lighting, sound and home automation systems seamlessly integrated into the architecture. “A huge part of the work was perfectly coordinating what the eye doesn’t see,” Diaz-Velasco explains. Sustainability was as important as functionality, and the couple utilized recycled materials throughout the design, including the wood flooring and the primary bedroom’s three-dimensional wallcovering.
The interior designer complemented the architectural elements with versatile, eclectic furnishings, mixing Latin American and European styles as a nod to the owners’ jet-setting lifestyle. A 1960s Jørgen Høvelskov Harp chair functions as a sculpture and a comfortable perch, while a twisted bench can relocate from the conversation spot in the living area to extra seating at the dining table. “It was important that whatever we had was beautiful but also had a use,” Diaz-Velasco says.
Natural accents and an abundance of plants balance the sleek and sculptural features, bringing the outdoors in. Greenery is incorporated everywhere, from adorning a living wall to abutting linear LED light fixtures. Diaz-Velasco also used warm woods and soft textures throughout the unit, while touches of vivid blue in the kitchen’s cabinetry and the primary bathroom connect the bay to even the farthest corners of the apartment.
All of the innovative sleights of hand continue to delight the owners, who now have the functional, spacious home they desired. “You find surprises, and every corner you see has a lot of detail,” the wife says. “Every space has a hidden treasure.”