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Drew Limsky | Photo: Robin Hill | July 7, 2014
With the help of hometown designers, a well-heeled Atlanta couple renovates a Miami house meant for entertaining.
Almost more than in any other service-related field, interior designers have to be client-whisperers. They talk of channeling their clients, of being armchair therapists. But in the case of a Hibiscus Island house in Miami—designed by Jennifer Reiner and Robert White of the Atlanta-based Reiner White Design Studio—having a personal relationship with the client is not hyperbole.
The owner is Reiner’s relative and an executive at a major airline. He shares his primary home in Atlanta with his partner. He leans toward traditional and midcentury style; while his partner, who grew up in South Beach, is edgy and forward. The two had polar-opposite ideas of what the house should look like, and though they bought the waterfront midcentury home six years ago, the couple didn’t enlist Reiner and White at the outset.
“They went through a series of renovations that they tried to manage themselves,” White says. At this point, the cutely voluble Reiner and White, who exude the affectionate chemistry of a comedy team, execute identical don’t-try-to-renovate-it-yourself expressions. When the pair was finally called in, they had firsthand knowledge of how the couple lives. And, oh, how they live.
The project was an offer Reiner and White couldn’t refuse. “We were busy at the time, contracting with the city of Atlanta and other jobs, but we saw this as an opportunity to get a foothold in Miami,” White recalls. “Creatively, having a fresh aesthetic to work with is really important.” The pair was struck by how the Miami design community embraced them. “[They embrace] the ‘new guard’ here,’” Reiner says. “I go into a showroom here to meet with a vendor, and I get a hug, like at ModShop in the Design District. They did all our custom pieces.”
Reiner explains that this vacation home is “an entertainment house—their weekend crash pad.” LED lights in rotating colors are set into the recesses of the ceilings, and there’s an extensive outdoor sound system around the pool. “Every time they come down, there’s usually between a large group at the house. It’s used and abused, and it still looks great.”
In terms of the structure of the home, Reiner and White got rid of the varying levels and pits on the first floor, knowing that steps don’t mix well with wet feet and red wine (this move also improved sightlines). After that, the watchword became durability; there’s a lot of faux-leather and outdoor fabrics. “We design for a lot of clients with kids, and they want durability above all else,” Reiner notes. In this case, resilience was required for less wholesome purposes.
The durability factor is nowhere more apparent than in the canal-front living area. The custom-made striped rug was inspired by Paul Smith, but it needed to be big—30 feet. “This is a bamboo silk rug,” Reiner says, “so it’s going to take a beating—people will come right in, wet from the pool.” Likewise, the white leather sectional is grouped and perfect for entertaining large parties. Not only do the 10 separate pieces allow for different groupings, but White explains that the leather is nearly commercial grade, a thick dyed-through-hide that’s not going to scratch or flake. The window treatments are similarly hardy: “The draperies are all commercial grade,” White says. “They’re on double master tracks so they can be moved easily from side to side, and they’re made to withstand a lot of use and exposure to the sun—they’re not going to fade [or] yellow.”
Reiner says that despite the presence of high-end items such as Jonathan Adler chairs, an Artefacto dining room set and Swarovski crystal lighting, a heavily used home cannot be filled with costly items—no matter how flush the clients. “It’s value engineering,” she says. “I have no problem having a rug made for $20,000 and then $800 chairs bought right off the selling floor at Farrey’s that look like they cost thousands.”
Upstairs, the master bedroom features custom-made blackout draperies for late sleepers and an ample tufted vinyl sofa from ModShop at the foot of the bed for lounging. The bedding and bed wall—with its 10 deco-inspired vertical channels—lend an extreme lushness to the room that’s almost as sultry as those famous Miami nights.