Bayside Bravado

In Miami Beach, Palm Island, says architect Ralph Choeff, was once lost in time. A quiet, established neighborhood with easy access to South Beach and surrounded by Biscayne Bay, the area was rediscovered some ten years ago and has been a hotbed of redevelopment since, boasting new, luxurious residences.

Choeff, a member of AIA, and fellow architect Raphael Levy—both principals of Choeff Levy Fischman Architecture + Design—recently completed a spec home that, at 13,700 square feet and an asking price of $29.5 million, is no doubt the only ultra-luxury home built to date on Palm Island.

The two-story, eight-bedroom home was designed in what Choeff and Levy call a “tropical-modern” style that blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces, created at the behest of developer Aquablue Group, known for building sumptuous waterfront villas throughout South Florida. “The developer came to us because he liked our approach to modern design,” recalls Choeff. “He had a wish list of elements and amenities he wanted in the house, and we delivered.”

With a crisp elevation inspired by Mid-century modernism, Levy and Choeff used white stucco, limestone cladding and ipe wood details on the exterior to give the home a coolly organic appearance. Generous bands of windows and floor-to-ceiling glass walls—many of which slide open—add drama to the house and connect it to the surrounding garden spaces.

Visitors approach the house via a granite-paved motor court, softened by strips of grass, walking past a carved limestone waterfall and over a reflecting pond to reach the front door. Inside, a two-story entry reveals a sculptural, cantilevered staircase that leads to the second floor and the roof deck. Linked by honed limestone flooring, dark wood accents and views of the lush garden spaces, the first floor also includes the voluminous living room, dining room, the kitchen and breakfast area, bar and home theater.

Upstairs, the master suite opens onto a balcony with a spa that overlooks the back yard and bay, while a secondary, “mini master” is elegant enough to pamper VIP houseguests. Four other bedrooms and a family room are also located on the second floor.

Choeff and Levy worked in numerous elements and amenities to create the ultimate home. Window walls pocket and disappear completely. The custom, state-of-the-art kitchen includes mirrored cabinetry and a mirrored hood. Behind the kitchen, a full catering kitchen, two maid’s bedrooms and the laundry make up a service wing off the garage that’s tucked out of sight. An elevator whooshes residents between floors and the roof deck. An illuminated onyx bar and a two-story, bronze-clad fireplace in the living room add bold elements to the interior.

The developer collaborated with Dunagan Diverio Design Group to handle the interiors, as the house was being furnished. Working with a neutral palette, the interior design team chose sleek furnishings with clean forms that matched the scale of the house, using pieces by Poliform, Minotti and other lines.

Outdoors, the architects teamed with landscape designer Mauricio Del Valle to create plein air living spaces cooled by water features and lush vegetation. A negative-edge pool anchors the back yard and links it to the bay, while a series of smaller reflecting pools angle up to the edge of the house. Several limestone-paved terraces provide space for furniture groupings. Next to the bay, a cabana includes an outdoor kitchen, a bathroom and a dining area. Stairs lead up to the cabana’s roof deck, which offers a higher perspective of bay views.

“The great thing about this house is that you can’t always tell if you’re inside or out,” says Choeff. “That’s how people like to live here. Basically, when you come home to this house, you feel like you’re coming into an exclusive resort.”

And, someone really did love the resort lifestyle that the house afforded. It was sold not long after it was completed.