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By Shayne Benowitz | Photo: by Carlos Fernandez | Interiors by J&R Design | April 12, 2017
When designer Ryan Smaldone created an exquisite tropical modern house, it sold itself.
For Ryan Smaldone, principal of Miami’s J&R Design, the key to a successful spec home is in understanding the needs of a potential client who wants a turnkey product. His successful operation also depends upon his longstanding relationship with developer Todd Glaser, a mind-meld that allows the duo to complete move-in-ready projects from the ground up in about seven months. “We do everything,” Smaldone says. “In the spec houses, we design the interiors, finishes, lighting and furnishing. All the buyer has to do is move in with bedsheets.”
The process starts with the architectural design, and then Smaldone conceptualizes the interiors. Next, he and Glaser build the home. “As both the interior designer and the builder, I know all the ins and outs of a project, so it’s an incredibly streamlined process,” Smaldone explains. “And the fact that the same tradesmen work on all of our jobs makes things very efficient.”
In the case of the 5,800-square-foot home with six bedrooms and 6 ½ baths on South Beach’s Sunset Islands, Smaldone and Glaser enlisted Lincoln Road-based Domo Architecture + Design for the blueprints and Miami-based Italkraft for the kitchen and bathroom finishings. Listed at $6.9 million, the home sold in four months.
While Smaldone is currently working on more custom projects with homeowner clients, his spec home formula has proven successful over the last 15 years. “I’ve learned what people are looking for, what people do day to day,” he says. “We build a functional home that happens to be a major mansion.” Smaldone has one realtor on his team and relationships with a pool of additional realtors, so by the time a project is ready to go to market, “the home sells itself,” he says.
The majority of his buyers are Miami locals in their 30s and 40s who live in their homes year-round, but he occasionally caters to celebrities, snowbird New Yorkers and Europeans. He feels proud that he can leave such a diverse clientele satisfied. “I’ve gone back to visit several spec homes a year later to find that they’ve left the design exactly how we made it,” he says.
For the Sunset Islands home, Domo designed an open, airy space with sharp, modern angles, aluminum-clad floor-to-ceiling windows and 24-foot ceilings. A freestanding guest “pod” and cabana were also built on the property, which is lushly landscaped with water features that include an L-shaped swimming pool, a pond and a fountain that surrounds the home with water on three sides.
“Even though it’s not on the beach, I wanted it to be a casual, elegant beach house—relaxed,” Smaldone says, “a home where the furnishings are soft and cushy and say, ‘Come lie down on me.’”
To contrast with the home’s architecturally clean, distinct lines, he utilized furniture and natural materials to achieve a soft, tropical-modern aesthetic. The living room features creamy Belgian linen sofas from Restoration Hardware and gauzy curtains framing the windows. Bedrooms boast custom built-in frames and headboards by Smaldone for an extra feeling of coziness, and naturally bleached rugs cushion the engineered white oak floors.
Smaldone’s concept for the master bath was a cutting-edge spa: Its centerpiece is a freestanding tub on a marble pedestal that fills from the ceiling. He enlisted Andrea Subotovsky, senior designer and production manager at Italkraft, for the cabinetry and the Corian stone countertops, which can be molded into any shape for an integrated effect. Subotovsky also collaborated on the minimalist kitchen located in the open living space, which features a beautifully veined Calacatta Lincoln marble island and cabinetry in wood veneer. “The finishes in the home really push the boundaries,” says Subotovsky.
Smaldone intentionally opted to limit the home’s color palette to creams, heathers and soft dusty shades to allow the natural materials to speak for themselves. Engineered white oak is used not only for the floors, but also as accent walls and ceilings. A variety of stone finishes are found throughout.
He also regards lighting as a source of impact and a way of shaping the space. “It’s extraordinarily important,” he says. “It can make or break a home.” Delta lighting behind the beds and along the accent cove in the living room creates beautiful halos in the evening. The living space’s dramatic recessed ceiling is lined with modern clerestory windows to flood the room with natural light; in addition, Smaldone hung three sculptural beechwood veneer chandeliers to cast geometric shadows on the room at night.
Through the years designing and building homes, Smaldone sets out to create everything that Miami residential style should be: light, spacious, transparent, natural. He knows his clientele. Little wonder, then, that this home was plucked off the market so quickly.
Sunset Islands, South Beach
Domo Architecture + Design
Bedroom lounge chairs
Living room chandeliers
Kitchen and bathroom cabinetry
Headboard, bed frames, nightstands, dining room table and living room TV stand
Kitchen and bath countertops
Living room sofas
SERENA & LILY
WILLIAMS SONOMA HOME
Dining room chairs and outdoor furniture