A Timeless Beauty

Who Said That You Can’t Mix-And-Match? That Symmetry Is Required? That Periods Must Align? Whoever Pronounced Those Dictums Of Style, Interior Designer Robert Rionda And His Clients Weren’t Listening

Story Credits

Interior Design:
Robert Rionda with Nina Ewing, Robert Rionda Interiors, Miami, FL
Photography:
Troy Campbell, Miami, FL
Architecture:
Jorge Hernandez, JLH Architects, Coral Gables, FL
Coordinating Architect:
Ana Alvarez, Martinez & Alvarez, Miami, FL
Builder:
Oscar Hidalgo, Hidalgo Construction Company, Inc., Coral Gables, FL
Text by:
Marina Brown
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From the start, interior designer Robert Rionda and his collaborating team set out to diversify furniture origin and balance in what was to become a 15,000-square-foot family home of comfort and traditional lineage. On a sprawling double lot overlooking Miami’s beautiful Biscayne Bay, homeowners Scott and Sarah Zdanis demolished the existing house and had watched the exterior shell of a new home come into being. “I knew exactly what I wanted inside,” Sarah says. “I wanted a timeless home for our family.” And also a place for Scott’s car museum of Ferraris and Porsches, and Sarah’s gym and studio where the former kickboxing athlete turned artist could continue her pursuits.

“Much of the ‘Old World’ look is authentic,” Rionda says. And over two years, scouring antique shops from New York to Los Angeles, the home came alive — from the dining room, where a reclaimed wood table, an antique Jacobean server and Italian candleholders all reside peacefully together, to the adjacent living room with the wife’s portrait by artist Tracy Sharp hanging above the 17th-century, Italian carved-stone fireplace. “Because the exterior layout of the house is very symmetrical, inside the opposite became perfect,” the designer says.

Inside the solid mahogany front door, gray limestone “Royal Oyster” flooring flows from the stairway hall, where a wrought iron railing is decorously proper, to the living room with its classic sofa that pairs perfectly with a Louis XIII reclining armchair on one side and a contemporary chair on the other. The hidden storage in the archway was the homeowner’s passion.

“I am obsessed with storage and niches,” Sarah says. And in the kitchen, she got both. Sliding reclaimed barn doors open up to traditional light-gray cabinetry that offers ample storage. Arched seating is tucked into the walls for reading time. Through French doors, the kitchen overlooks a small courtyard where the children can play.

But grown-ups must play too. In separate buildings, but connected to the main house, Scott and Sarah indulge their respective passions. On one side, Scott’s study and his nine-plus-car museum overlook Biscayne Bay. On the far side, a full workout gym and its loft art studio are for Sarah.

“I learned a lot doing this project,” Rionda says. The punching and speed bags in the gym needed extra support overhead. Special rubber flooring was put down, and of course, cage-lights were a requirement. While Sarah selected the steel spiral stairway to her art studio, in keeping with the no-nonsense look of the gym, the room is connected to the main house motif through the antique French bricks lining the back wall.

“I also learned that supercar engines can be really noisy,” the designer says. An acoustical consultant was required for the added noise insulation between the museum below and Scott’s study overhead, where no-nonsense business can be conducted. With wide-plank oak flooring, favorite antiques at hand, and a view that spans the bay, work can take place in an atmosphere conducive to success.

And when the owners are ready to retreat at day’s end, the master suite offers luxurious privacy. “The tub was the first item I specified for this home,” says Rionda of the master bath. Like a star at a gala, the copper and pewter vessel from Herbeau commands attention. More subtly, a Swedish period table seems happily understated across from a French vanity table and its rolled-back chair embellished in a floral pattern.

In the adjoining master bedroom, the designer and the homeowners remained committed to the dissimilarity of line that sparks interest elsewhere. Period pieces mix with eclectic furnishings to shape the private space. Even the variety of mounted sketches above the bed pulls unity from diversity.

Outside, a Juliette balcony opens onto the poolside galleries. On a backsplash wall of hand-painted terracotta tiles, the outdoor kitchen is ready to serve family and friends in the three-part gallery. Inside and out, the end result of this very traditional, yet utterly contemporary home is a peaceful élan meant to last.