Like many who move to South Florida, Melina and Randy Starr dreamed of building a house that would allow them and their two children to enjoy the outdoors year-round—something particularly desirable for the family, who had just relocated from Dallas. After a six-month search yielded a bayfront lot with first-rate water views, Melina began putting into motion her plans to design a residence that “didn’t look like it was another glass box,” she describes. “I’m from Fire Island, New York, so I wanted to bring a little bit of that to Miami Beach while still paying homage to the neighborhood.”
To refine her vision, Melina enlisted the help of designers Josh Evan and Michael Edward Moirano—but not without first meticulously laying out her ideas. A capable design enthusiast who was initially tempted to oversee the project herself, she presented the designers with a detailed deck of her vision for the abode, both inside and out. “She wanted the house to be beachy and to have a sandy palette,” Evan says, recalling images of terrazzo and warm wood finishes. “The interior had to have some contemporary but also Art Deco influences as a nod to Miami.”
This inspired the duo, alongside residential designer Sebastian R. Olarte, to devise a tropical modernist structure with midcentury touches. While Evan and Moirano determined aspects of the interior architecture, Olarte took on the challenge of laying out the dwelling within the confines of the property’s narrow, deep lot. “The most important things for the clients were the connection and views between the water and the home’s main spaces,” Olarte says, explaining his decision to frame the south- and west-facing walls with floor-to-ceiling glass. On one side, he positioned a covered terrace in such a way that its roof would not prevent natural light from entering the living areas while allowing for cross-ventilation between the water and terrace. And a pool that wraps around a corner adds another layer to the vistas seen from indoors, creating an effect Melina compares to “floating on water or being on a boat.”
Inside, Evan and Moirano planned spaces such as the white oak kitchen and the cast-concrete staircase to continue the look and feel of the exterior. “We tried to keep the architecture very contemporary,” Moirano says, “but we wanted to take influences from modernism that developed into what contemporary Miami architecture has become.” Two of those details are the main level’s terrazzo flooring and the exterior’s breeze-block screen. And to convey Melina’s sentimentality for the 1970s-era Fire Island of her youth, the team introduced a honey-colored wood finish both indoors—including millwork designed by Evan and Moirano—and outdoors, where Olarte incorporated it on the underside of the home’s eaves.
This modernist streak is also evident in the decor, especially the designers’ choice of midcentury and retro-inspired furniture and lighting. “We love good vintage,” Evan says. “It’s in our firm’s DNA. We try to find high-impact pieces that speak for themselves.” They scoured auctions, dealers across the globe and the internet for pieces that would gel with the abode’s beachy-modern vibe, especially those made of rattan, caning or warm wood. Case in point: the cane backs of the dining area chairs, the primary bedroom’s rattan headboard and the family area’s sliding parchment wall panel fabricated to conceal the television.
The living area in particular is an eclectic mix of 1930s armchairs, an aluminum floor lamp inspired by a Verner Panton design and an angular sofa. “Every piece was so important within the confines of an open floor plan,” Moirano explains. “There was no room for excessive, overabundant furniture.” Yet the most notable feature in this space is a patchwork-like screen Evan and Moirano conceived in collaboration with artist John-Paul Philippe that separates the living area from the foyer while filtering in views of Biscayne Bay.
Environmental factors like the daily shifting sunlight and its relation to the landscaping influenced the jungle-like palette, such as the family area’s sofas—green with flecks of gold—and the dining area’s vintage ceiling fixture, made of amber-toned glass. “The clients’ last name is an astral moment,” Moirano notes. “We chose that color to evoke the yellow light of the sun, in relation to the living area, where the fixture is an astral burst.” It’s details like these that bring the homeowners’ vision to life.