Step inside 224 Bal Bay Drive: The epitome of Miami Modern architecture

A record-setting residence in Miami Beach is the essence of contemporary tropical living, writes Andrew Conway.

With an estimated 19,924 kilometres of sublime coastline on its doorstep, it’s no surprise America is home to the finest coastal residential architects on the planet.

Beguiling seaside enclaves from Malibu to Maine are lined with classic and contemporary waterfront mansions, all designed to capture and celebrate the windswept grandeur of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

A world away from the traditional shingles of New England and breezy beach vibe of The Hamptons, an exciting and rapidly growing architectural style is sweeping through Florida’s Miami Beach and surrounds, one that lends itself perfectly to Australia’s own coastal climate.

A signature design aesthetic of award-winning architectural firm Choeff Levy Fischman, Tropical Modern is not only turning heads in Miami’s best addresses, but setting new real estate records at the same time.

A standout example is 224 Bal Bay Drive, Bal Harbour, which sold in 2019 for $24 million – the highest sale ever recorded in Bal Harbour for a single-family home – less than five months after it hit the market.

With its clean lines, multiple building materials, seamless indoor-outdoor living spaces and energy-efficient features, this cutting-edge residence is the essence of contemporary coastal living, one that’s visually stunning and environmentally sound, albeit with a substantial price tag.

Originally designed by architects Choeff Levy Fischman and interior designer Deborah Wecselman for Michael Polsky, the CEO of Invenergy – a major global sustainable energy solutions corporation – the home is an architectural masterwork that also stays true to the client’s environmental credentials.

“The indoor-outdoor feel of the architecture and its relationship with the bay makes it very special,” says principal Ralph Choeff.

All of the chic interiors were designed by Wecselman, a leading Miami interior designer. “My goal was to custom design every space by carefully blending proportion, light and natural materials, such as walnut and travertine limestone, to most honestly reflect the way this family wants to live,” she says. “It was about creating a home with a soul.”

The eight-bedroom, nine-bathroom dwelling features an open-concept floor plan, ideal for entertaining on a grand scale, and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows to maximise the indoor-outdoor living experience, the home’s 30-metre water frontage and views of Biscayne Bay.

The driveway leads to a monumental travertine stone wall concealing a two car garage clad in South American Ipe wood on one side, and an eye-catching cube-like second-storey bedroom on the other – creating a stylish geometric effect – while a set of floating steps lead over a reflection pond and cascading water feature to the front entrance.

Downstairs, Wecselman designed a media room, lounge, multi-purpose space, and an office decorated with bespoke millwork, while a spacious kitchen with custom walnut cabinetry and a separate catering kitchen connect to two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms.

A formal dining room and smaller casual dining space are adjacent to the kitchen, separated by vertical walnut beams that swivel. A third bedroom and powder room are also located on this floor.

Upstairs, the master bedroom boasts two terraces – one facing the bay, the other opening to an en suite with an outdoor shower. A second upstairs bedroom opens to a private balcony overlooking the home’s 15-metre infinity pool and the bay beyond.

A 133-square-metre rooftop offers al fresco entertaining featuring an elevated wood deck and custom bar while a covered terrace on the ground floor offers a fire pit, outdoor kitchen and dining area.

The home is fully integrated with lighting, audio visual and drapery controls, and also features an indoor gym, elevator and spiral staircase.

“We maximised the views with open floor plans, lots of glass and sliding glass doors,” says Choeff. “We also incorporated mid-century architectural concepts and materials such as concrete, natural wood and stone to warm up the architecture, while reflection ponds and water elements create a sense of Zen and relaxation,” he adds.

The home’s green credentials are evident in the solar panel-ready rooftop, covered terraces, extensive roof overhangs, and a reflective white-finish roof to minimise solar heat gain and energy consumption.

“Our team is focused on the same design goals as our clients,” says Choeff. “We run our office like a workshop, where everyone gives input and our clients benefit from many minds and complete collaboration.”

Experts in the field of Modern and Tropical Modern architecture, Choeff and his co-principals Raphael Levy and Paul Fischman have elevated the firm’s quality of design to garner the attention of entrepreneurs, star NFL and MLB players, and Hollywood celebrities.

The firm has expanded its work across Florida, California and the mid-Atlantic region and currently has projects in Turks & Caicos and Panama.

Choeff also believes Tropical Modern would be a hit in Australia.

“The climate, lifestyle and natural beauty would make Tropical Modern the ideal architecture style for the country,” he adds. Choeff Levy Fischman Down Under? Watch this space.