Tropical Splendor in the Opal of Bal Harbour

A hidden—yet massive—gem of a modern home shines bright in Bal Harbour


A house dubbed The Opal of Bal Harbour by a seasoned architecture team well-acquainted with top-tier real estate must be something special. The 11,000-square-foot property sits in prestigious proximity to the Intracoastal in a private community that boasts several preeminent features, including a marina, splendid water views from nearly every vantage point, and lush lots thriving with tropical greenery. As if that wasn’t enough, the residence itself is surrounded by full-grown trees and native foliage, and boasts plenty of space where the owners’ kids can roam freely and safely. Special may be an understatement.

“These homeowners came to us because of our reputable dedication to creating amazing tropical, modern architectural design styles and floor plans that truly capture the essence of specific wants and lifestyles,” says architect Stephanie Halfen, the head of SDH Studio Architecture + Design in North Miami Beach. “As a firm, we listen to our clients and understand what drives them, and we love bringing their visions to life.” 

When Halfen sat down with the homeowners, they expressed their desire for warm design inspired by the tropics in a modern Balinese style. In turn, she incorporated a variety of woods paired with bronze-colored steel columns and relied on dark travertine stone to soften the facade. Unique embellishments include bronze metal trim along with the home’s pitched roof and bespoke design elements down to the last detail, even for the border of the garage. “The whole idea was to create a seamless flow that runs inside and out with an inviting palette and natural materials,” she notes.

To capture the tone of the exterior architecture, the clients enlisted the innovative Mexico City-based design team of Gabriel Askenazi and Jack Sulkin to establish a symbiotic relationship between indoors and out. 

“When conceptualizing this project, we wanted to create a multi-sensory experience,” says Askenazi. “We designed the home with a modern Mediterranean style that seeks to showcase the beauty of the materials in their natural state.” 

Distributed in two levels for a large family, the home includes 10 bedrooms and a series of study and rest areas for the owners’ children. Sulkin and Askenazi also considered the importance of natural materials to achieve an atmosphere that visually connects every space to nature. “Upon entering the home, the first focal point that captures the eye is the living and dining rooms, separated by a black wood storage cabinet that visually divides the spaces,” notes Sulkin. “The dining and living areas feature oak ceiling beams, emitting a feeling of being outdoors beneath a garden pergola.”

Notable bespoke elements that speak to the home’s streamlined aesthetic include a custom carbonized-wood dining table the designers fabricated in Mexico, glass-front wine storage incorporated into the black cabinet on the dining room side, and the second-level family room’s wooden box-like reading nook framing spectacular garden vistas. 

“We always learn new things about the project site and visualize spaces in a way we have never done before,” says Askenazi. “For us, each project begins with a blank canvas as we study the clients’ lifestyles, needs, and location before designing a project with a unique essence just for them. The owners love to entertain, so we designed their massive dining table to seat up to 16 people.”

Despite never meeting one another until the end of the project, the architecture and design teams collaborated with a natural flow, flawlessly complementing each other’s work in an exciting, innovative way. “They captured the warmth of the exterior and used gorgeous materials to enhance the architecture,” says Halfen. “When I asked the homeowners how they felt in this house, they said they were completely in love, and every time they woke up, they couldn’t believe where they were. They also told me the kids don’t want to go on vacation because they are so happy enjoying the house, which is truly priceless. That’s the best part of my job—enriching people’s everyday lives and experiences.”

Story Credits:

Architecture by Stephanie Halfen, SDH Studio Architecture + Design, North Miami Beach, FL

Interior Design by Gabriel Askenazi & Jack Sulkin, Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico

Text by Jeanne de Lathouder

Photography by David Hernandez, Miami, FL

Open to see Interior Design Sources:


Dining Area

Table – Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico

Chairs – CB2,

Chandelier – Henge,

Floating wall cabinetry designed by Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico, and fabricated by Emuna Construction, Miami, FL 

Wall art – Caralarga Showroom, Mexico City, Mexico

Ceiling designed by Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico, and fabricated by Emuna Construction, Miami, FL

Living Area

Sofa grouping – Ditre Italia,

Side chairs – Blu Dot, Miami, FL

Cocktail table – Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico

Drink table – Casa Quieta Furniture, Mexico City, Mexico

Floor lamp – CB2,

Art bench – Pirwi, Mexico City, Mexico

Wall art – Covadonga Hernandez, Marqco Gallery, Mexico City, Mexico

Area rug – Nanimarquina, New York, NY

Kitchen & Breakfast Area

Cabinetry and island designed and fabricated by Mia Cucina, Miami, FL

Island stools – RH,

Table – RH,

Chairs – Sovet,

Lighting – Gervasoni,

Family Room

Sofa grouping – RH,

Cocktail table – Blu Dot, Miami, FL

Area rug – Blu Dot, Miami, FL

Primary Bathroom

Cabinetry – Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico

Mirror – Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico

Stool – Blu Dot, Miami, FL

Primary Bedroom

Platform bed, headboard, and bench designed by Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico, and fabricated by Emuna Construction, Miami, FL

Wall designed by Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico, and fabricated by Emuna Construction, Miami, FL

Lighting – Gervasoni,

Drink table – CB2,


Sofa grouping – RH,

Drum tables – CB2,

Decorative side tables – Peca, Guadalajara, Mexico

Ceiling fan – Big Ass Fan,


Builder – Emuna Construction, Miami, FL

Landscape architecture – Ecopacheo, Miami, FL

Millwork designed by Sulkin Askenazi Design Studio, Mexico City, Mexico

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