Creative Contrasts Up the Intrigue in South Beach

A South Beach penthouse goes to extremes with a classic black and white palette

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“It was like: ‘Eureka!’” says  interior designer Michael Dawkins about his client and their meeting of the minds. “We both have a passion and an appreciation for a subtle, quiet, monochromatic environment. We wanted to do a clean and modern [design] but not cold. It had to be very sophisticated.” 

Dawkins was originally slated to redesign only the master bedroom and closet of this 4,500-square-foot South Beach penthouse. But once the homeowners saw his potential and vision, Dawkins was soon gutting the entire space and adjusting the floor plan for a more cohesive flow and better symmetry. 

Dawkins met the client several years ago in his New York showroom. But recently, they decided it was time to call on Dawkins to breathe new life into their South Beach penthouse. “It’s a slightly older building, and I feel it has character. It would be equivalent of a pre-war building in New York City. It has great architectural bones,” says Dawkins. “It was by any standards already a beautiful penthouse, with these magnificent views. But it had a very warm and cozy feeling that the client was ready to depart from.” Completed in 2021, the project took eight months and now boasts a serene, monochromatic vibe. 

Dawkins studied interior design and architecture, but for many in-the-know, his name is synonymous with jewelry design—having sold his collections at the likes of  Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and even QVC. This influence—especially in the use of metal—is on display throughout the penthouse. “The reflective quality [of the metals we used] balances very nicely to the textures such as in the fabrics and the raw wood floor,” Dawkins says. “It’s a fine balancing act—just enough of each element, pulled together.”

The ambience of the modern monochromatic interior is amplified by the lighting sources Dawkins chose. Although understated, the lighting plan creates depth and mystery. Most of the rooms feature trimless fixtures that can be rotated to spotlight different vignettes or create distinct moods. “I lay it out to highlight the individual pieces of art and furniture, leaving a good combination of dark or dead space while illuminating spots,” says Dawkins. 

Also playing a key role in Dawkins’ design was the client’s personal art collection. Dawkins helped the homeowners select artwork best suited for the space, and then he built the design around the statement pieces they selected. The artwork is further elevated by the use of a sleek reglet instead of a traditional baseboard. “We lifted all of the walls, and this [divide] provides a clean, gallery feeling,” he says.  

In the main living area, Dawkins designed a symmetrical layout with three distinct seating areas—allowing the couple to have an intimate feel when it’s just the two of them. When they entertain, there’s ample space for them to spread out with their guests. The furniture pieces used throughout the penthouse—like the two shelter sofas in the living room—are from Dawkins’ own furniture collection, custom-made in Miami and upholstered in performance fabric. 

While the penthouse’s terraces are not all connected, the space has 360-degree views. The separate terraces each offer distinct views: ocean, city, and bay. In addition, most of the windows are floor-to-ceiling—making the outdoors part of the room and offering a sea of blues and greens against the black and white design. “To me, that view, plus people and flowers, and you’ve got enough color and pattern for each room.” 

Story Credits:

Interior Design by Michael Dawkins, Michael Dawkins Home, Miami, FL

Text by Lola Thélin

Photography by Craig Denis, Miami, FL

Open to see Interior Design Sources:

Sources

Items listed below available at DAWKINS, New York, NY, and Michael Dawkins Home, Miami, FL unless otherwise noted.

Living Room

Club chairs and ottoman – Louise 

Round side tables – Miles 

Sofa – Ester 

Sofa console – Libby  

Root cocktail table – Blackened 

Black accent tables – London 

Dancing people artwork – Robert Longo

Double circle sculpture 

Artistic lighting tripod – Mariano Fortuny

Area rug – Criss Cross 

Vignette

B/W wing chairs – Quilted Arabica 

Wall shelves – Cubed 

Bar/Entertainment Area

Sectional and ottoman – Model One 

Twin side table – Miles 

Bar stools – Skram

Accessories – Chrome Tangle

Artwork – Venet Bernar

Area rug 

Dining Room Vignette

Host chairs – Sophia 

Side chairs – Fabienne

Chandelier – Bomma

Plus-sign artwork – Scott Kilgour

Abstract artwork – Tom Wesselmann

Master Closet

Cabinetry designed by Boffi, Miami, FL 

Fabricated by Molteni & C, Miami, FL

Round table – Ralph Lauren, Miami, FL

Master Bedroom

Bed – Claridge

Sofa – Claridge

Console – Miles 

Nightstand – Ted 

Accessories – Lasso On Stand

Throughout

Glass panel doors designed by Michael Dawkins Home, Miami, FL

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