Hitting The High Notes

Embellishment Takes A Back Seat To Form And Function In A High-Tech, High-Touch Penthouse Overlooking South Beach
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Drawing from a repertoire firmly rooted in the language of Modern Design, interior designer Richard Geary achieves the quintessential pairing of simplicity and sophistication for one beachfront penthouse in Miami Beach. "The most exciting thing about this apartment is that one does not often have the opportunity to create an entire language of forms and carry it throughout an entire residence," says Geary, who was brought on board in the pre-purchase phase as a participant in the decision-making process. "Having an established track record with my client also meant that he didn't have to take that 'leap of faith,' which afforded us maximum creativity under the somewhat challenging circumstances."

Geary's history with his client, a highly successful, single male entrepreneur in his 30s, spans two generations: over the years, he's completed design commissions for the owner's family in Florida and the Northeast, and designed his previous Miami Beach home. "The owner maintains several homes around the country but spends the majority of his time here in South Beach," the designer says.

Upon the advice of a local realtor, Geary and his client previewed what was described as the "perfect apartment." Not only was it located in one of the most desirable buildings with views overlooking South Beach and Government Cut, the spectacular, tri-level property offered nearly 16,000 square feet of living space.

Next, the purchase with one contingency: eliminate a spiral stairway that was located in the middle of the living room — an unfortunate design flaw. Working determinately with the building's original engineers and management team, Geary was finally given the nod to proceed and the purchase was completed. Cue a major renovation, one that reordered the majority of the apartment's 8,000 square feet of living space and an additional 7,850 square feet of exterior space and roof deck. "Our goal was to open up the space and build a bridge to the loft area that cantilevers off the side wall and can be accessed by the main stairway," Geary says. The tri-level floor plan unfolds to reveal a spacious downstairs containing all main living areas and the master suite; the mezzanine loft is reserved for personal spaces including a workout studio and office, with the uppermost roof deck serving as a private club and entertainment venue — a 3,000-square-foot rooftop oasis, where a "living wall" composed of plant forms provides a sustainable backdrop to a host of amenities that include a glass-bottomed Jacuzzi, a curved granite bar with a marine-grade, stainless steel base and multiple media screens for simultaneously viewing sporting events, concerts or movies.

Geary's charge to complete full architecture and interior design for the space included more than the usual construction challenges with an "objective to call focus to the stairway as the predominant architectural feature," says the designer, whose sculptural masterpiece of stainless steel and curved tempered glass spirals three stories to set the tone for the entire decor scheme. Starting with the floor as the darkest tone, Geary used wenge-wood planks rendered in a natural chocolate finish to tie the space together and provide the groundwork for the interiors. Everything above is lighter, featuring neutrals and warm tones accented by stainless steel.

Backlit onyx from Keys Granite shapes the high-top table and backsplash in the bar area, where custom Roman shades provide filtered light for atmosphere.

A mix of tactile fabrics adds light to the living room, where a custom-designed conversation grouping grounds the space. The sprawling, modular arrangement with deep-seated sofas clad in a butterscotch-toned chenille features backs that are wide enough to accommodate additional seating for large parties, while the oversized cocktail table, made of rusticated structural steel eyebeams with a marble top inset with fossils, has also been proven strong enough for extra seating.

Energy spills into an adjacent area that features a custom bar designed with one, floating slab of backlit onyx supported by stainless steel columns. Here, wenge-wood cabinetry houses all of the A/V equipment that is operated via remote controls.

In the nearby media area, Geary eliminated a wall to open up the room, adding a dropped lighting panel in the ceiling of the media center, dining area and kitchen to mirror the spaces beneath them. A buttery beige area rug brings a sense of lightness to the media center and lends continuity to the pale leather dining chairs that pull up to the table made of Cenicero, an exotic hardwood imported from Costa Rica.

"The great thing about this project is that we were able to work from scratch to recreate an entire architecture that was soley customized to the owner's specifications," Geary says.

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Interior Design
Richard Geary, Geary Design, Inc., Naples, FL

Harry De Zitter, Naples, FL

Text by
De Schofield