Embracing Florida on Allison Island

Creating exciting, domestic architecture in a state that is home to both abundant sunshine and destructive hurricanes can be challenging, to say the least. But there are a handful of firms that give it their all when it comes to designing homes that make sense for Florida and pay attention to their surroundings. One of those firms is Choeff Levy Fischman, who have recently completed a home that is about as open to nature as one can be in South Florida. We recently had the chance to ask partner Ralph Choeff about this commission.

TROPIC: Choeff Levy Fischman are known for everything from high-rise buildings to multi-family to shopping plazas, but in the past few years, your firm has really made a name for itself in the area of single family residential. The firm seems razor-focused on creating contemporary homes that pay close attention to life here in the sub-tropics.  While I understand some of these homes are “spec” creations that will find their first owners after they are built, how would you describe the buyers of your homes? What are they after?

RALPH CHOEFF: While the typical client we design for might be an athlete, celebrity, or a high level CEO, they’re generally interested in not only a home, but a certain luxury lifestyle which includes an indoor outdoor living experience. In the case of this particular home, the client was the developer, Laurent Harari. He purchased a waterfront property on Miami Beach in order to construct a tropical modern home that provides a connection to the water and the outdoors.

While most of your residential designs underscore the indoor/oudoor living aspect of Florida life, this house on Allison Island takes that to the extreme with wall after wall of stacking sliders that just slide away, erasing boundaries… even corners disappear.

Technology is the main factor that drives the ever-changing architectural style of residences. In this case, the development and approval of hurricane impact, tall and vast sliding glass doors, as well as corner-opening sliding glass doors, designed without the utilization of columns allowed us to create the indoor/outdoor feel we wanted, even at corners. This adds to the drama of the interior spaces as they relate to the exterior spaces. The residence has almost a ‘floating’ effect at the corners where these doors were used.

The front entry here is amazing, with steps seeming to float over the surface of a reflecting pool.  Can you tell us your thought process here?

We try to connect the experience of water both at the front and the rear of the residence. After experiencing the feeling of walking over water approaching the front entry, once the front door is open and the person walks inside, they immediately experience the water of the pool and the waterway at the rear of the residence. The reflecting ponds also create a Zen feel to the exterior spaces aw well.

This home has a wonderful, sun-drenched inner courtyard. Why was this made part of the home’s design?

This was designed in order to connect more interior spaces to the exterior rear pool deck and waterway. In the kitchen, as an example, one can view through the atrium, through the lounge and into the waterway and pool deck. When all the sliders of the atrium and lounge are open, the kitchen is fully connected to the outdoors. The atrium has a living wall on two sides and is also used for outdoor lounging and dining, still fully connected to the waterway at the rear. The same concept regarding the views translates to the second floor master suite with the use of this atrium, connecting the master bathrooms and closets to the water at the rear. The atrium also provides abundant natural light to these interior spaces.

The green walls are a marvelous addition to that courtyard, and a great way to reintroduce nature into the home itself. Who was responsible for the design and installation?  

Although planned from the outset, these green walls were the developer’s project. Laurent Harari should receive credit for the final design and installation of those two living walls.

The most astonishing room has to be the master bedroom. Can you speak about that a bit?

The master suite is separated into two areas divided by the central atrium.  There are separate his and hers master bathrooms and walk-in closets with built in closet furniture. Each bathroom has full views of the waterway through the atrium and the master bedroom. The transition between the bedroom and bathrooms has a built-in closet for shoes and handbags, as well as a makeup vanity.

The master bedroom itself has corner-opening sliding glass doors we spoke about earlier.  These really accentuate the indoor/outdoor feel of the space. When those sliders are fully open, it truly gives those in the room the feeling that the space is floating.

For more information, visit Tropic Florida Living & Design