Tropical Modernism

Miami Modern Architecture Meets Marine-Style Design In A Yacht-Inspired Habitat With Views of Biscayne Bay

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Expanses of glass, rich wood finishes and spectacular water views are richly appointed elements one might find on a luxury yacht. For homeowner Hassan Jalali, they serve as inspiration for the design of his 4,700-square-foot, Palm Island home in Miami Beach, Fla. It's a vision he would soon realize when he appointed architect and designer Reinaldo Borges, whose diverse portfolio includes projects ranging from airports to museums and to resort hotels, to oversee the project. "Everything is inspired by nautical architecture which drove the look and feel of the home," Borges says. "Jalali followed that motif with the material and color palette he selected." With boating and water sports on Biscayne Bay, and the Port of Miami in its sights, marine-like influences abound in the home's fluid design.

A glass stairway in the foyer instantly sets the tone for transparency and light, which according to Borges, conveys the home's fresh and modern motif. A second floor walkway, also designed in glass, enhances the feeling of volume and openness. The entry walls, treated with a combination of solid rosewood and Venetian plaster in tones of black, gray and white, impart a glossy sheen that creates gentle movement reminiscent of glistening waters that are touched by the sun.

Interior walls richly appointed in rosewood lead to a state-of-the-art kitchen with an ultra-sleek expanse of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry in an aluminum finish. The space flows easily from the kitchen to the living area, where custom cabinetry of black lacquer, glass and macassar ebony is prominently showcased. Here, Jalali desired a cozier feel. "I preferred a modern feel to the interior and exterior of the home," he says, "but with warmer materials used inside."

Nearby in the dining room, stately furnishings by Armani combine a faux-crocodile table in white lacquer and a set of black-leatherette armless chairs. A unique window treatment in glistening polyester strands from Costa conveys the illusion of a shimmering waterfall that allows natural light in and offers privacy.

Unobstructed bay views provide a glorious backdrop to the spacious and airy recreation room, where a glossy antique billiard table enjoys center stage. "The room has a feeling of island living that is very connected to the water, but is also very eventful," Borges says.

Jalali, who hand-selected the interior materials, employs darker woods in the master suite, using African wenge wood to line the floors as well as the ceiling. "When you're in the master suite, you are fully contained," says the homeowner of the sleek, calming retreat. Simple bed linens in sandy-colored natural weaves provide a welcome contrast to deeper tones. With 20-foot glass windows offering breathtaking bay views, the master suite spans the width of the entire home.

The home truly works as a joint effort with Borges orchestrating the architecturals and Jalali, a general contractor, managing the interiors. "The house has to become part of the client's distinctive personal taste," Borges says. "Modernism tends to be cold and harsh — one of the things we do to warm it up is to use rich stones and wood surfaces." Care was taken to ensure that the home was low key and relaxed, in proportion, and not overly voluminous — in keeping with island living.

Throughout the home, with a theme consistent with movement and flow amongst colors and textures throughout the residence, each space clearly has its own defined personality. "In every room of the home you get a slightly different feeling," Jalali says. It's like moving from one destination to the next … the scenery is always changing." The final result is an exceptionally pleasing home — a true collaborative effort between a homeowner and a designer in perfect sync.

Design and Interior Architecture
Reinaldo Borges, Borges & Borges Associates, Miami, FL, and Mark Diaz, Mad Design, Miami, FL

Steven Brooke, Miami, FL

Text by
Robin Hodes