United Inspiration

This Expansive Waterfront Estate On South Beach Evolves Into A Latin Casita With A Rustic Beach Feel And A Touch Of Asian Serenity

Story Credits

Interior Design:
Bjorn Bjornsson, Bjorn Bjornsson Interior Design, Miami Beach, FL, and New York, NY
Felipe Ariano, Pembroke Pines, FL
Ralph Choeff, Choeff Levy Fischman, Miami, FL
Peter Fine, Atlantic Development Group, New York, NY
Zachary Carpenter, To Better Days Construction, Miami Beach, FL
Landscape Architecture:
Enea Garden Design, Inc., Miami, FL
Text by:
Marina Brown
(View full image and details by clicking on picture)


If nothing else, this new, 12,000-square-foot home on Miami’s South Beach proves that the world is very small — filled with input and influences from every corner. When interior designer Bjorn Bjornsson was asked to create the interiors for a developer’s planned estate, it was to include an office, maid’s quarters and a pool house — in the style of a rustic beach cottage with Latin influences. But the Iceland-born designer was dubious. “This is an elegant part of Miami, big stars from Matt Damon to Ricky Martin have homes here. I wondered how a casita would fit in,” he says. The collaboration between designer, architect, developer and builder would begin there. With Bjornsson’s input and design ideas, a rustic casita would morph into an expansive and sophisticated residence where the new owners would feel right at home.

From the entry, the breathtaking view of Biscayne Bay is not wasted. The visual telescope is defined by a rectangular floating ceiling above the living room’s expansive seating area. Bjornsson and architect Ralph Choeff wanted windows everywhere to take in the sumptuous views. But that meant walls of glass — something that structurally and climatically, would be a challenge. Their solution, aesthetically and practically brilliant, took the home’s design in a slightly different direction.

“We used bronze mullions,” Bjornsson says. “The glass doors slide right into the walls and the hurricane glass is supported by a metal grid.” This series of mullioned panels also suggest the feel of an Asian Minka, a Japanese house with sliding doors and touches of wood that offer warmth and familiarity.

In the living room, irregular Italian brushed-walnut panels flank a megalithic marble slab above the fireplace. Positioned to take in a cold night’s fire, a plush sofa clad in sumptuous blue-gray velvet forms a hearthside seating arrangement with a pair of armchairs edged with gold nailheads and a chaise lounge wrapped in suede.

The living room was nearly finished thanks to Bjornsson’s Scandinavian sensibilities. The golden statuary and Buddhas on a sofa table resonate with the Asian-inspired window panels, while a pale palette of gray and beige suggests New York chic. But the designer also wanted to add in a vibrant Latin feel. So, he chose a massive painting titled Herald by artist Frank Owen that is alive with color.

Seemingly wrapped by a bamboo garden, the dining room, like the living room, features a dropped ceiling brushed with metallics. Layered with silver and gold, the panel glows above Y-Lighting’s sparkling chandelier. A table of rare java wood from Christopher Guy is supported by a base of silvered forms, and surrounded by linen and faux-bone chairs from Bernhardt.

Sleek white cabinetry in the kitchen gives way to a sophisticated breakfast area that offers contrast with its dark wood table and six cane side chairs. When walking through a new house, Bjornsson sometimes notices things that need to be changed. “Between the coffers, the gray-toned ceiling in the kitchen just wasn’t right,” the designer says. So, he had the panels repainted in a shade of blue that reflects the colors of the pool and the Bay.

The relative simplicity of the lady’s bath has a French feel. Striated Italian walnut surrounds the vanity, but the vintage-style Gallic tub is a showstopper lined in porcelain and seated on sparkling stainless steel feet. Taking in Miami’s skyline from the master bedroom might keep one happily in bed all day. With Bjornsson’s signature metallic overhead ceiling panel in sky blue, the cached lighting chooses not to compete with the horizon. A blue-velvet upholstered headboard adds to the outdoor feel on a distressed and washed wood bed from Vanguard. Along with a charming chenille loveseat, it gives the room an Old World patina.

Outdoors, the home appears to expand even more. On the downstairs lanai, pillars are wrapped in travertine and brushed Caribbean coral flooring flows generously. The teak English trestle table is meant for lingering meals prepared on the Spanish grill. The pool area offers an invitation to relax near a freestanding pool house accented with a sultry faded blue wall.

Thanks to the vision of the designer, the Latin casita shifts its personality, becoming at once an Asian-touched estate dotted with Italian woods and brimming with American bravura. It is a small world … but one where everything is united.