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In the Beginning

Two local design firms push beyond the perceived limits of the starter home.

Designer Diego Rincon encouraged his client to use bold colors to accent the gray B&B Italia sectional sofa.

Photo by Ryosuke Matsumoto

“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction,” said the social commentator and futurist Alvin Toffler. In other words, you have to think about the novel even while writing a character sketch. For these two disparate residences, two design firms with very different aesthetics put their talents to use to create novelistic worlds in confined spaces. Diego Alejandro Design set to work on an open two-story loft—a fairly unlikely layout for Miami Beach, but a brilliant bachelor pad nonetheless. Meanwhile, Brown Davis took on the task of gutting and designing the first home of newlyweds in a tower that can scarcely be more symbolic of South of Fifth: the Portofino. Built in 1997 by the Related Group, the 44-story salmon-colored—or peach-colored, depending on the light—edifice was the first luxury residential skyscraper in the hood. In describing what they chose and did, these fine minds offer practical lessons in space and flow for homes high and low, and big and small.


Diego Alejandro Design

2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms

Project Duration
11 months

The Story
“My client Jose Bandujo is an entrepreneur—the founder and CEO of an advertising agency in Manhattan,” explains Diego Rincon, principal of Diego Alejandro Design. “We met while I was working in New York, and he said he was looking for someone to help him design his new pied-à-terre that he had recently purchased in Miami Beach.”

Size Matters
In order to make the space seem larger and to amplify the loft’s light—which is only indirect, despite the double-height windows—Rincon selected a rectangular white imported tile with a matte finish in the largest format available (24 inches by 48 inches) for the entire apartment. “This way, I was able to reflect the most natural light possible into the space,” he explains. “Then I began to play around with the layout, incorporating large pieces of furniture—like the B&B Italia sectional sofa, the Carrara marble dining table, the cabinets and large pieces of art—not only to get the most efficiency in terms of the use of the space, but to make the loft feel clean and unified.”

Rincon advises that you shouldn’t be afraid of using bold colors—no matter what size the space. “Colors are meant to enrich your life and make you happy,” he says, “and it’s always nice to have color in a small spot that stands out more than the rest. We call them focal points. It could be a wall or it could be a chair—bold touches in small apartments are great because they let you play and explore with different elements without making a huge commitment. You’re supposed to have fun while you’re doing it!”

Conversation Piece
The double-height ceiling allowed Rincon to display the hanging LED light fixture in the dining room area. “It’s by the Dutch company Moooi, and it’s called Heracleum,” Rincon says. “The same use of height goes for the large painting over the sofa, which would be more complicated to do in a more conventional layout.”


 Brown Davis Interiors

Stats 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths

Project Duration 6 months

The Story Newlyweds from New York, the clients, a design-savvy duo, love the excitement, diversity and culture of South Beach. They were drawn to this 12th-floor unit in the tony South of Fifth neighborhood, in part, due to its arresting views of Biscayne Bay and downtown. “This project has been rewarding because the clients have such great energy and are extremely intelligent,” says Todd Davis, who, together with his business partner, Robert Brown, comprises Brown Davis.

Size Matters “The kitchen was gutted, as were the bathrooms,” Brown recalls. Like Rincon, Brown and Davis agree that a modest space appears larger by using the same flooring throughout the living areas. But in this case, they chose a darker floor to reduce glare. “The existing stone floors in the entire apartment were jackhammered up and replaced with ebony-stained wood floors, while the kitchen and bathrooms were surfaced with gray porcelain tiles,” Brown says.

Brown Davis encouraged a sexy and bold color palette of deep purple, sandy beige, sea-glass green and dramatic ebony—in mostly solid fabrics. They added both brass and polished chrome accents for an unexpected and soulful twist. “We placed a custom sociable in the middle of the living room for whimsy as well as function. … This is a favorite perch for guests during parties,” Davis explains. “Then we allocated one area of the living room for a custom banquette—to be used for card playing, computer work as well as meals—and, in another area, a dynamic lacquered goatskin and chrome media cabinet with a flat-screen TV. That way, this large room can be used for quiet reading and conversation, TV watching, parties and meals. The result is not a crowding, but instead an artful use of space that feels fresh and unexpected.”

Epilogue Just around the time the couple moved into their dream home, they discovered they were expecting their first child. “As luck would have it, the first buyers to view the newly available condo bought it, and our clients are now purchasing a house in Miami Beach to continue growing their family,” Brown says. “Todd and I will move the existing custom-made furniture into their new home and tweak the look with new curtains, rugs and pillows. All in all, we feel that making solid, classic choices for built-ins and utilizing bold and fresh colors and designs not only made our clients happy, but positioned the apartment for a very appealing resale.”