Alex Rodriguez’s Tropical Modern Miami Retreat

Considered one of the best Major League Baseball players of all time, Alex Rodriguez is now a media personality having served as a broadcaster for FOX Sports, a cast member of ABC’s Shark Tank and his recent jaunt as the host of CNBC’s show Back in the Game, where he helps former athletes make a comeback in their personal lives. And he shows no signs of slowing down.

Intrinsically charismatic and surprisingly down to earth, the sports legend known as A-Rod imbues a certain masculine touch to his seamless, 11,877-square-foot “tropical modern” retreat set on 1.5 acres in the exclusive Ponce-Davis enclave of Miami. “Splitting my time between Miami and LA, I really wanted a peaceful, relaxing place to enjoy time with my daughters,” he says.

Enter architects Ralph Choeff and Paul Fischman, who not only designed Rodriguez’ home but also became personal friends with the sports icon. “We designed his residence on North Bay Road in Miami Beach,” Choeff says. “So, when he sold that house and purchased this property, we immediately joined the team … and this process is truly a collaboration of what we call the ‘Team.’” With a game plan to carry on this work to future projects, this design-build dream team — comprised of CLF Architects, interior designer Briggs Edward Solomon, and Newport Property Construction launched by Rodriguez with his friends José Gomez and Jose Moré — has no problem hitting it out of the park.

To experience the home’s wide-open spans is to blur boundaries and find that walls are ephemeral and meant to disappear. “To give warmth to the pod-style architecture, we combined midcentury modern elements with tactile materials — ebonized wood, natural exposed concrete and stone that transverse inside and out,” Fischman says. “One can go from room to room either by the interior of the home or by the exterior.” With its linear planes and striking overhangs, the home’s horizontal exterior expanses only serve to frame the outdoor spaces. “That’s what we wanted,” Choeff says. “A view to wow from the first step inside.”

And having designed several of Rodriguez’ homes, Solomon knew just how to set the stage. “Alex’s desire for this home was to keep the interiors simple, stark and spare … like a gallery really,” the designer says. Indeed, numerous Blue Chip works from the 1980s, Warhols and other contemporary finds add color and drama. “Alex loves art, so the idea was for each room to showcase a painting, a sculpture or an installation,” Moré says. “In fact, the entire home is a work of art, as the team selected all finishes down to the last piece of furniture before the job even started.”   

Step through a blackened steel door with handles covered in black snakeskin, where a monochromatic palette combines concrete expanses with reclaimed barnwood flooring set in a herringbone pattern that moves freely throughout the home and accentuates carefully curated furnishings. The art-filled entry and gallery hall immediately capture the imagination, while the walls of glass lining the entire rear of the house pull the mind’s eye to the outdoors. “We wanted clear views everywhere you look,” Choeff says. “Inside and out, this home’s open spaces put no restrictions on flow.” 

The living and dining areas are combined, with the latter having a higher ceiling that incorporates clerestory glass for optimal light. When glass walls slide open, they disappear completely on two sides, connecting the living room to an outdoor terrace. When fully open, it appears as if the roof is floating and gives the impression that the main living areas are outside. “Those cantilevered roof slabs posed an interesting challenge,” Moré says. “The home has a post tension roof slab in order to achieve these large clear spans.”    

With two young daughters to consider, the design team combined the kitchen with an informal dining area and family media room that strategically opens to a courtyard seamlessly connecting the girls’ private alcove and Alex’s home office. And when it’s time for family and friends to come together, the fun quickly transfers to ideal social spaces that include a screening room and lounge. Although it may take a special person to appreciate the indoor basketball court, when those walls of glass open, the sprawling, manicured grounds — complete with a wet-edge swimming pool, a freestanding bar pavilion and, of course, an in-ground trampoline — appeal to everyone.  

As the poolside parties wind down and the outdoor kitchen and bar closes, it is  in the tranquility of the master suite, with its hot spa and private courtyard, that one might rejuvenate. It seems a place of the mind and spirit, where active bodies take a break. But not for long, as Alex lives to entertain.      

“Architecture should provide a series of moments and varying experiences,” Choeff says. And this design coup achieves many moments that are all different and very interesting … in an art-filled dream home that A-Rod built to enjoy with family.

Story Credits: 

Architecture by Ralph Choeff and Paul Fischman, Choeff Levy Fischman, Miami, FL

Interior Design by Briggs Edward Solomon, Miami, FL

Builder Jose Gomez and Jose Moré, Newport Property Construction, Coral Gables, FL

Landscape Architecture by Christopher Cawley, Christopher Cawley Landscape Architecture, Miami, FL

Text by Kim Mosley

Photography Jerry Rabinowitz, Green Acres, FL

Art Beckons in Modern South Palm Beach Home

A love affair with the sun and the sea, a geometric “tropical modern” home, faced in glass and Ipe wood at the ocean’s edge in South Palm Beach, captures the senses. At its entry, a cascading waterfall flows into a glass-lined pond where “floating” wood platforms lead past the glass and porcelain three-story stairway to the mahogany front door. “I’m a real estate artist … I create 3D art on a sundrenched canvas,” developer Frank McKinney says. “The waterfall is a piece of art. It’s like a movie screen, constantly moving, and the tiles are almost iridescent. Walking to the front door over the pond, I want guests to be in a bit of
sensory overload.”

Of course, the dramatic vista provides a backdrop for the 7,850-total-square-foot home, designed by architect Ralph Choeff. Every room is oriented toward the Atlantic Ocean, a spectacular canvas of nature. Huge expanses of glass completely retract and disappear, creating the feeling of tropical indoor-outdoor living. “When my husband described his intent for this home to me, he said he wants people driving up to be instantly curious, to be completely  infatuated by the time they reach the front door,” interior designer Nilsa McKinney says. “Frank wants them to fall in love in the living room, be in love in the master bedroom and blissfully married by the time they return downstairs.”

Inside, the home echoes the elemental power of its environment with its contemporary vibe softened through the combination of transitional-style furniture, a seaside-inspired color palette and exotic materials, always in keeping with an artistic flair. To capture the imagination (yet provide a Zenlike experience) in the living room, Frank designed what he calls a “Jellyfish Sphere,” a huge globe-like aquarium that holds dozens of slowly undulating jellyfish that change color with the LED lighting as they move through a gentle current of water. “Why not have the first impression when walking into the home be about art?” he says. “Guests are greeted by the ocean before they even look through the glass doors at the Atlantic beyond.”

Smart home technology allows the lighting within the sphere to be changed, modulated and synchronized, casting similar hues over the glass stones in the ribbon fireplace, as well as the surfaces in the glass-fronted wine room and bar. With the romantic mood set, an intimate seating area comprises comfy custom sofas, upholstered in a silky cotton textile the color of soft silver, placed around a marble-topped cocktail table with a nickel base. Echoing the ocean in a muted tone, large porcelain-tile flooring the color of seafoam with a subtle leather texture flows throughout the main living areas.

Beyond a glass-enclosed wine room housing an expansive curated collection, the dining area impresses with a mahogany dining table surrounded by chairs varnished in a darker ebony stain for contrast. And the highlight, so to speak, is a Schonbek chrome and crystal chandelier. “It’s soft and playful with a personality of its own, something you don’t usually see in a dining room,” Nilsa says. In ode to the ocean, the family room’s statement sofa is covered in a posh blue blend of velvet and cotton and circles a stainless-and-glass cocktail table. “I wanted to get away from hard edges to create softness,” Nilsa says. “Customized to fit the room, it mimics a breaking wave.” Nearby. the kitchen is sleek and angular in champagne-hued Neff cabinetry, multi-layered with a glossy varnish to reflect the ocean. While eye-catching as well as functional and high tech, the countertops steal the show. “They are slabs of 11,000-year-old natural lava from Auvergne, France. Because they were glazed and fired in a giant kiln, they have this rich blue color that pulls the eye through to the ocean beyond,” Frank says.

All about outdoor living and sheer enjoyment of the ocean, as well as gracious entertaining, an alfresco kitchen and grill are on a large deck that stretches along the exterior of the main floor. Here, the 50-foot-long infinity edge lap pool runs the expanse in soothing complement to the ocean.

And finally, a word about the elevator, a moving piece of art which also has an ocean view as it ascends three floors. Frank tells its story: “Fifty years ago in July 1969, the Apollo 11 lunar module landed on the moon. So, in the elevator, I had an artist depict the inside of the module, with buttons, levers, controls  and screens.” Frank, ever the showman, is painted in prominently as the astronaut manning the controls, specifically pushing a button labeled “Buy.” The bottom of the elevator is a faux-painted cosmic black hole, overlooking earth and pinpointing Florida. “I’m also flying outside the capsule. The Milky Way is here and Nilsa has her own galaxy,” Frank says. “I don’t know why they would, but the new owners can paint in a face of their own,” he quips about his image, adding that the “Buy” button can be changed at that point to read “Sold.”

Story Credits: 

Developer Frank McKinney, South Palm Beach, FL

Interior Designer Nilsa McKinney, Nilsa Design Services, Inc., Delray Beach, FL

Architecture by Ralph Choeff, Choeff, Levy, Fischman, Architecture + Design, Miami, FL

Builder Robert Burrage, RWB Construction Management, Boynton Beach, FL

Landscape Architecture by Mark Valant, Green Edge Landscaping, Loxahatchee, FL,
and Fay Landscape Architect, Hope Sound, FL

Text by Christine Davis

Photography by Randy Tanner, Green Acres, FL

Natural Elements Temper Modern Miami Beach Home

When homeowner Mathieu Massa began to build his dream home, he wanted to integrate the structure into the natural landscape. Since the property is located directly on a wide canal in Miami Beach with western exposure and beautiful sunsets, he made sure the residence would have open views of both the water and natural Florida greenery.

He hired architect Ralph Choeff, and designers Charlotte Dunagan and Thomas Diverio to create the 6,875-square-foot interior because he admired their modernist work. “I picked this team because of their attention to detail and modern vision,” says Massa, who is newly married and co-owns restaurants in Miami. “I wanted to differentiate from other homes and I needed to create a warm feeling which is a challenge with modern architecture.”

Up to the challenge, Choeff accepted Massa’s invitation to design his home, which would be his primary residence. The builder-owner spends his summers in the South of France where he was raised. “We experienced some frustration because this is a two-property site used as one and we needed to do a tear-down,” Choeff says. “The lot for this house was narrow, making it more difficult to design an interesting home.”

But Choeff and the designers know the genius of good architecture and design is to identify the dreams of the client and then to bring them to reality. This was achieved through open communication and experience. “Mathieu is hands on yet he gave us a good reign,” Choeff says. “I created his home like a Caribbean hotel where it is designed under one roof but partially outside.”

Massa also worked closely with the designers Dunagan and Diverio to select the furnishings throughout. The designers used neutral tones like taupe, pale gray, cream and off white along with light Italian porcelain flooring that resembles limestone. Innovative Apure halogen lighting from Porsche Design Studio was selected for its clean and streamlined look. “Together, the home’s clean lines, stone, wood and louvered panels create a tropical modern style,” Dunagan says. The designers brought in layers of texture with grasscloth wall covering and other neutral tones, and let the furnishings and accessories, mostly all from Anima Domus, provide the pops of color. “It is always fascinating working with Charlotte and seeing how she can convert the vision of each unique client into a beautiful reality,” says Marconi Naziazeni, President and co-founder of Anima Domus with his wife Silvia.

In the exterior entry, a large window lends a view of the living room fashioned with a custom rift cut oak media center. Inside, a contemporary stairway with brushed stainless steel railings and matching oak handrails is elegant yet practical. Close by, a quaint sitting alcove is perfect for reading or listening to music.

Beyond, in the living area, a large white sofa from Anima Domus accessorized with neutral accent pillows lends a great view of the garden courtyard through expansive floor-to-ceiling windows. Above, silver trough lighting is unique and functional. Just steps into the dining area, is a versatile glass-topped table that rests on a sculptural powder-coated metal base. “This table can be used either for dining or as a space to display flowers,” Diverio says.

The kitchen area is a favorite of Massa’s because he loves to cook and entertain. In the breakfast area, swivel chairs wrapped in linen and finished with walnut circle a porcelain-topped table. The kitchen’s breakfast bar, comprised of wood slab oak, mirrors the look of the other furnishings, while leather-clad barstools with a dark-chocolate frame match the color of the window frames. “We like the consistent look and feel of the flooring, furnishings and millwork,” Diverio says. “We try not to use the same materials but we do repeat the tone.”

Since the owner entertains as many as 100 guests per month, he wanted a kitchen extension that would spill outside. Through glass sliding doors, a dining ensemble and a tranquil seating vignette arranged with loveseats and chaise lounges overlook the pool and tropical vegetation. “This winter kitchen is a large extension of the indoor living area which Mathieu uses a great deal,” Diverio says.

The architect and design team agree that Massa’s dream home is not over the top. Modern but not cold, the design is cozy, elegant and built for entertaining. “They are a young couple who want a space that is warm, welcoming and simple, yet tastefully designed,” Dunagan says.