Michelle Judd is always on the hunt for that special property that stands out from the rest. But as one of Miami’s premier real estate brokers, and a regular investor in luxury properties throughout the city, Michelle has developed an exacting eye, which makes her hard to impress. Still, when the homeowner encountered an airy highrise apartment overlooking the ocean, she knew she had found a gem. Drawn in by the soaring ceilings and the direct water views, she immediately saw the potential for improving the already stunning space to make it her own. “I like to take a property and make it its best,” says Michelle.
Enter the Miami-based interior designer Deborah Wecselman, with whom Michelle had already collaborated on numerous projects. Over the years, the pair had developed a close working relationship and a shared understanding of great design, making Wecselman the perfect candidate to take Michelle’s new apartment to the next level. “I love fresh colors and new inspiration and Deborah brings both to the table,” says the homeowner. So, what was Michelle’s goal for her latest residence? “When people walk in and see the ocean, they should feel immediately relaxed and never want to leave,” she says.
In that case, the first order of business, according to Wecselman, was to create an architecturally cohesive space that optimized the panoramic views. Working alongside builder Giga Managadze and other vendors, they opened up the kitchen, and made adjustments to the ceilings, panels and millwork throughout, to create a unified feel. “Opening everything up not only made the space more exciting and attractive, it also added versatility,” notes Wecselman. “Now it can hold any kind of furniture, from modern to traditional.”
The foyer, however, presented a challenge to the goal of achieving maximum openness. Shored up by one of the building’s structural walls, it could not be altered. Wecselman devised an inventive solution to bring brightness to the space by removing the front door and replacing it with glass, making the dazzling blue ocean the first thing one sees when stepping off the elevator. Additionally, she added mirror paneling with bronze details to reflect light.
As for the interior design, Wecselman conceptualized a plan based on her client’s lifestyle. “She’s this successful entrepreneurial woman, who needs a little bit of a cocoon, but is also very sophisticated,” says the interior designer. To suit Michelle’s personality, she set out to create a space that was urban and glamorous, yet also warm and comfortable. “I wanted to get away from the traditional beach aesthetic, so no linen slipcovers, wood beadboard paneling or rough-hewn floors,” notes Wecselman, who instead opted for slicker finishes throughout, from the pale limestone floors to the lacquered kitchen cabinets to the spa-like marble master bath.
Wecselman, who knew that Michelle tends to favor whites and silvers, used those tones as a base color and layered creams, grays and taupes throughout. A tasteful sprinkling of mirrors, metallics and occasional pops of bold color, from orange to lilac, add depth and dimension.
The majority of the sleek furnishings are custom-made. “She needed a little bit of romance and for everything not to be so clean and modern,” says Wecselman, who deviated from the angular lines and neutral palette by adding a sculptural gold side table to the main sitting room and a curvy sofa in the master bedroom. In the den, Wecselman decided to add a bit of hipness by “orange-ing this thing out,” which translates into splashes of vivid citrus enlivening the otherwise tan and taupe palette. In a guest bedroom, sheer lilac curtains and wallpaper, along with pockets of deeper purple, create a hint of romance.
A pair of custom-made benches, covered in a mustard velvet, in the entry required some convincing, however. “Blue is so expected at the beach,” says Wecselman. “Michelle wanted city sophistication, so I pushed her away from blue toward yellow, which really has a brightening effect.” A graphic striped rug, in a rainbow of Technicolor hues, pulls the look together with ease.
An array of cutting-edge modern artworks provided the final piece to the puzzle. “Art is an important element to complement design,” says Wecselman. “If you have less than stellar art, it can ruin the whole look.” Luckily, Michelle was able to use her new space to showcase many museum-worthy pieces, including works by such luminaries as William Betts, Damien Hirst and Paul Rousso.
But while turning a great space into an extraordinary space would have been gratifying enough, working together is what made this project rewarding for both designer and client. “Deborah might have to show me 20 chairs before I say, ‘Okay, I like it,’ but ultimately our partnership always works because she knows what I love,” says Michelle. As for Wecselman, she relishes working with Michelle because “she allows me to dream and to do creative things because she believes in good design.