Ocean Drive is a 6,112-square-foot single floor condominium unit within a new residential tower overlooking the Atlantic in Miami Beach, Florida. The clients are based in Seattle and travel often but have deep roots in the panhandle and had been looking to return home. To accommodate a family of six, this down to the slab renovation combined two smaller units to create a five bedroom retreat on the beach.
The project brief from the client was a to transform the raw shell into a home that would reference the casual style appropriate to the tropical climate but at the same time have a thoughtfulness in craft and detailing that suggested a permanence not often typical of South Beach. Great care was taken to create clean lines and legible assemblies that deferred attention to the landscape.
First conversations focused on the ever changing views from the space and the almost tactile quality of light at this latitude. The design grew out of a desire to amplify these phenomena and let the interior architecture be a canvas and a frame. To that end, a simple diagram was developed with a solid, shadowy service core surrounded by light elemental volumes.
The heart of the unit is clad in dark tropical hardwood with careful detailing emphasising mass and craft. A dropped ceiling to accommodate services supplied from the core is expressed as a heavy wood raft creating subtle compression when moving between public spaces. Walls are expressed as solid wood slabs and wide plank floors matched.
Directly opposite the elevator landing a small alcove was created to mark the entry. The ‘moyo’ wall was intended to reference vernacular masonry ventilation blocks washed with natural light from a perceived adjacent court. Varied concrete mixes and interior geometry in each block lends an informality to a pattern that shifts and deforms across the assembly. In an alcove off the entry hall an LED lighting system casts shadows through a small garden that track with the movement of the sun throughout the day. At night, the adjacent powder room is illuminated with a cool simulated moonlight through the same garden.
Pure, simple volumes stand in contrast to the richness of the wood aspects. Doors are expressed as heavy slabs allowing for integrated closer hardware concealed within. With pivot hardware controlling operation door pulls could be simplified and jambs omitted leaving the plaster volumes as clean elemental volumes.
Graceful bent brass pulls and whistle knobs for privacy latches provide bright accents throughout, catching the light with a subtle patina revealing use over time. The client requested programmable low volt switching but it is controlled via analog toggles carefully set into the plaster walls reducing clutter.
At the perimeter, elemental bedroom volumes are treated in pale, sandy tones of hand troweled plaster reflecting natural light deep into the floor plate. Doors are expressed as heavy slabs with integrated closer hardware allowing for trimless jambs and simplified hardware. Switches integrated into plaster walls further reduce visual clutter. The irregular surface of the plaster highlights the changing quality of light throughout the day and lends a softness to private spaces.
Finally, at the gathering spaces at the east and west ends of the unit, large format concrete slab floor tiles reflect light onto plaster ceilings above and provide a cool surface underfoot. A hierarchy of assemblies is established as the structural concrete deck slips over the glass window wall before stepping down as a plaster ceiling. Concrete columns remain unfinished, providing another piece of context to the nature of the intervention and layers of the larger building assembly.
Sheer curtains catch onshore breezes and bright textiles, woven baskets and patterned floor coverings add a layer of softness. Amongst the neutral canvas varied shades of blue, orange and red respond to the native flora and fauna of southern Florida. At home hosting guests or children’s sandy feet, this home references the tones, textures and tropical climate of its site while its careful craft and detailing suggests a permanence not typical of South Beach.