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Drew Limsky | Photo: John Stillman | November 15, 2013
Thirty-three floors above the ocean, this ultramodern residence seems to float in the tropical air.
Back in the ’80s, when the owner of this 3,200-square-foot oceanfront condominium lived in New York, he was one of the original owner-residents in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. Today, he makes his home in a different Trump Tower—2,800 miles due south, in Sunny Isles Beach. Whereas his previous residence was very much of its time, today he occupies a place both timeless and seemingly weightless. His two-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom apartment in the sky is as close to a pure expression of modernism as one can find these days, a fiercely minimalist home that magically manages to be luscious as well as stark.
Many of the pieces came from the owner’s former life in New York, though some of them look quite different today. “I see it as an evolution of what I had before,” he says with utter contentedness. As time went on, this accomplished man—he happens to be an interior design attorney who, at one point, even penned his own column in Interior Design magazine—refined his palette. His New York stories are full of nostalgia, but his Florida home has no room for it. There is no license for clutter, no seams, no distractions.
For what the owner only half-jokingly regards as his final abode—he can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else—he enlisted the estimable Troy Dean Interiors. It was an easy call, as the firm had designed the man’s previous home in the adjacent building. “Three years ago, we designed his residence in Trump Tower II,” remembers Miami native Troy Dean Ippolito, the president and creative director of his eponymous design firm (which encompasses Trend Design + Build). “After meeting with other firms, he was comfortable only with us taking on the project as a whole, because we had the construction division, the design division and the millwork division,” he says, noting the firm’s 20,000-square-foot millhouse, which came in especially handy here.
Though the client loved his unit in Trump Tower II, he’d always wanted a direct ocean view and, this time around, a grander statement. So when he purchased his current apartment in Trump Tower III, Troy Dean Interiors once again rolled up its sleeves. The choice of designer was an apt one, as the apartment would need extensive remodeling (for example, a third bedroom would need to be converted into a dining room), and in the owner’s view, “Troy has a natural gift in terms of proportion. You can’t teach that. This apartment was supposed to be impossible to renovate, but he knew how to do it.”
“He’s very exacting,” Ippolito says of his client. “And through our previous experience with him, we knew his design sense as well as he did—very minimalist, nothing on the walls. He wanted the architecture and the furniture to deliver the decoration.”
The view does its part to deliver the decoration as well. It’s ubiquitous. The glass-edged apartment, which occupies the entire width of the building, is flanked by a curved terrace; it stretches from the far corner of the master bedroom to the edge of the kitchen, and makes one feel as if the apartment is about to take flight over the Atlantic—or already has. Virtually every room in the home boasts an ocean view; the aforementioned architecture and furnishings work in concert with that prized vista to achieve a space in which everything, every solid object—nearly all of them are white—appears to float in the foreground.
The eye is consistently directed to the turquoise sea beyond. As Ippolito says, “Everything we did and all the materials we chose were intended to take advantage of the views, reflect the views and make everything seem suspended in air.” The selections included the floating white lacquered ceilings and white glass floors that literally reflect the sea and sky. The grey cedar millwork that recurs throughout the residence, concealing adjacent rooms and vast closets, serves to make the white interiors even more airy. (As a rule, none of the millwork “doors,” by the way, have pulls or handles—that would be too much fuss for the owner. You just press on them and they open. One exception: the 8-foot-long custom Elmes handles on the bedroom’s double doors. But even they are designed to be seamless: Once the doors slide into the open position, the hardware goes flush with the walls so the handles seem subtly decorative rather than functional.)
Now, to those seemingly weightless pieces. The living room is dominated by a pale, L-shaped B&B Italia sofa, which, a few decades ago, was actually green. “We reupholstered it and modernized it,” Ippolito explains. Today, wrapped in white linen, its modernist bones are readily apparent, lending the piece an of-the-moment quality. “This is a tribute to B&B Italia, a company that was ahead of its time,” the designer says admiringly. Because the sofa’s rear panels almost—but don’t quite—meet, they, too, appear to defy gravity, and even Troy Dean Interiors’ addition of discreet legs makes the substantial piece appear weightless.
In the master bedroom, the white Tufty bed, designed by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia, has been given the kind of authoritative placement that the sofa commands in the living room. Accessible from all sides, the cloud-like European king-size bed stands alone in the center of the room, as if on display. Ippolito points out that the bed is tilted southeast to take advantage of the 270-degree views—and toward the 55-inch TV, which seems to float in front of a structural corner column, but, of course, is actually anchored to it. (Another corner is home to a Rodin sculpture which rests on a white lacquer pedestal.)
Similarly, the master bathroom features a vanity that is suspended from the structural wall so as to appear weightless, but this 9-foot-long custom quartz piece actually required a team of six to achieve its transfer into the apartment. What looks like a dual vanity is really a trough design with a removable floating bridge in the middle. And the Philippe Starck faucets weigh in at 7 pounds each: “We had to reinforce the backsplash to support them,” Ippolito says, laughing, a tacit admission that all that weightlessness occasionally demands some heavy lifting.