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Minimalism is the high-wire act of interior design. It’s an artistic act of courage, the designer’s intentions stripped of all things superfluous and laid bare for all to see. Or as acclaimed Miami designer Carola Hinojosa puts it, “When you use very few components, all of them had better be perfect.”
Hinojosa should know. The Bolivian-born designer has been conjuring up breathtaking modern environments for her cadre of international clients for nearly 30 years. This apartment perched high in the ocean-view tower above Miami Beach’s historic Bath Club is no exception. “My clients asked for extreme minimalism,” Hinojosa recounts. Those clients, a stylish Mexican couple with two young daughters, told Hinojosa they wanted a no-fuss holiday pied-à-terre where less is absolutely more.
“Every single element had to be simple, but powerful at the same time,” Hinojosa explains. No easy task, but the family had chosen the right designer. Handed the freedom of a complete gut job, Hinojosa took full advantage, even going so far as to build out the bathroom to perfectly accommodate the oversized 4-by-12-foot glass tiles she’d chosen for the walls. There isn’t a single partial-cut tile anywhere on these glistening surfaces.
That meticulous attention to detail is pure Hinojosa. Along with her regular collaborators, Bilal Barakat of Studio-1 Architects in New York and general contractors Artigues & Cubero Builders of Miami, she begins every project focused solely on the shell of the home. Furniture? It can wait.
Here, Hinojosa decided that the living area (dining room and kitchen included) should be completely open, with four private bedrooms adjacent to the space. “Carola totally changed what was a very typical condo layout,” marvels Sergio Artigues. “You used to walk into the back wall of a powder room. Now, the minute you step in from the private elevator lobby you can see the ocean on one end and the city views out the other. You see through the entire building, it’s fantastic!” To achieve that degree of transparency, Hinojosa had to hide the utility pipes that bisected the old apartment. She conceived a brilliant series of rift oak columns of varying widths that act as an opaque screen separating living room from family room while simultaneously concealing the mechanicals.
“A typical unit here looks nothing like this,” says Artigues. “This space has such remarkable light, on a sunny day you can sit anywhere and read a book without turning on a lamp.” The sparkling 36-by-36-foot white glass tiles that sheath the floors enhance all the light that bounces around the flat, while expanding the feeling of spaciousness. Hinojosa says they’re a good example of the “honest” materials she likes to work with—glass, concrete, wood—to create a balance between luxury and simplicity.
Those simple, honest materials and the apartment’s subtle gray and white palette also nicely highlight Hinojosa’s carefully curated furnishings. She dotes on each piece like a clucking mother hen. She calls Zanotta’s Maggiolina armchairs by Marco Zanuso in the living room “fifties classics and one of the most comfortable chairs you can sit on.” She loves the jigsaw-like dining table, De Padova’s Campo d’Oro by Paolo Pallucco, “because it’s like a piece of art based on the proportional harmony of the trapezoid, all hinged so you can have it in any form you want.” And the dining room’s astonishing red Jenette Chair, by Fernando and Humberto Campana, is “another classic. You can leave a piece like that to your children and they’d be happy. That’s why it’s in the MoMA.”
Too bad the Bulthaup kitchen can’t be airlifted out and placed on display at the MoMA, too; in its own way, it’s just as classic. With sleek modern lines and an unfathomable ability to visually disappear into the living room, it’s an open kitchen/living area to warm the coolest of Miesian hearts.
Even the pros from Artigues & Cubero Builders were overwhelmed by the fantastic end result. Artigues says that on their final walk-through, he couldn’t resist turning to Andrew Guasch, his team’s young, fresh-out-of college project manager and asking, “So, where do you go from here?”