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Sky High: A Miami Open Space Converted From a Cluster of Small Rooms

Sky High: A Miami Open Space Converted From a Cluster of Small Rooms

PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEN HAYDEN

It's hard to imagine that this flowing 6,000- square-foot residence overlooking Miami Beach was once broken up into a maze of tiny beige rooms. Now rendered in rich materials like marble, slate, ebony and glass, the four-bedroom home’s architecture is the result of a gut renovation by Larissa Sand, principal of the architecture and interiors firm Sand Studios in San Francisco, for hospitality businessman David Marvisi. The space holds court on the 36th floor of the Continuum Condominium— the name suggests the continuous views of the ocean—and, with its minimal but stylish detailing, it exudes an elegant simplicity that Sand describes as “a celebration of materials and location.”

“He told me he wanted an open space, so all the rooms are open to each other,” Sand recalls of her early conversations with Marvisi, who loves to cook and entertain. To achieve that plan, she first took care to reconfigure the layout.

On the main level, functional areas—the kitchen, a temperature-controlled wine storage unit, a home theater with motion-censored entry, and a but- ler’s area—were centralized, so that living, sitting and dining areas could be pushed to the perimeter and take advantage of the views, not to mention the privacy granted from such a remote location. Rooms flow from one to the next, though structural segments like edge-lit ceil- ing coves provide modulation and offer interesting height changes. Bedrooms are partitioned by TRE-Piu` sliding-glass-door systems, and subtleties like changes in material and switching the orientation of a wood’s grain delineate other areas.

In the entryway, for example, is a pivoting stainless-steel and glass door designed by Sand Studios and composed of different-size hand-blown glass panels. (The firm has a metalwork shop on site, so they fabricate their own custom work.) Inside, a wall of slate slabs, which are cut in var- ious thicknesses to add texture, is the backdrop to a quiet water feature. Long and horizontally arranged, the slabs encourage movement not just into the residence but beyond, toward the stunning view on the other side. And as one moves along the wall, the space opens up into a two-story-high sitting area with a cognac bar that the master bedroom overlooks. The environment shifts, and a double-height wall of vertical- grain ebony veneer emphasizes the dramatic height. “I was inspired by the simple and minimal compositions of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, which are difficult to accomplish,” says Sand.

Aesthetics and function guided the choice of materials, and Sand played up rougher surfaces to create a counterpoint to more refined ones. “Given the fact that we were working with an existing shell,” says Sand, “we were left with concrete structural walls—like the muscle of the building. something to offset the monochromatic simplicity of the other mate- rials. Plus,” she adds pragmatically, “it’s a strong tropical wood that can handle the humidity.” Of the master bathroom’s wall, she says, “We chose a particular blue marble and picked out the pattern specifically because it matched the landscape of clouds and ocean perfectly.” Detailing is kept to a minimum, so walls and fixtures are clean, with- out trim, and doors have touch latches.

While the interior furnishings were mostly selected by the resident, Sand Studios designed some key pieces. In the dining area near the kitchen, two frosted-glass chandeliers hang above a 16-foot table, all by the firm. Segmented into rectangular forms like the entryway door, the table is “an element of the architecture,” explains Sand. It’s also ingeniously useful. Built-in sections can be filled with plants, decorative glass or even ice for bottles of vodka or wine. The kitchen and entertaining areas were important to Marvisi, who is known to whip up impromptu dinners for groups of friends. Even Sand admits to falling in step, jumping in to help chop onions while discussing design plans. “It’s really about the spirit of enjoying life,” she says. 

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