Full speed ahead
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 10/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
The view into Steve von Steen's penthouse is almost as tantalizing as the view out. And that's saying a lot, since the 42nd-floor aerie overlooks the Miami skyline, South Beach, and the city's busy port through continuous full-height glazing. Even the bathroom gets the window treatment, angling out of the facade like a stadium sky box, in sight of curious neighbors.
The exhibitionist interior by Vrooom! Designtribe effaces any distinction between public and private space. "Nothing interferes with the view—including walls," says Yamir Perez, principal of Vrooom! "Steve splits his time between here and Paris, where his apartment is dark, minimal, and a bit set in its ways. For Miami, he wanted something bright and futuristic and visionary."
Visionary, indeed. The bedroom and bath float within the loft's open floor plan, partitioned by glazing or, in some cases, nothing at all. The WC's tempered-glass walls are screened only by polarized film that's translucent although far from opaque. The adjacent shower, tiled in blue glass, overlooks South Beach through antique brass portholes salvaged from a shipyard. The window-wrapped bathing area features a tub made of a century-old black-walnut horse trough from Thailand; Perez drilled a hole for a drain, added seven interior coats of polyurethane for water resistance, and sandblasted the exterior.
"Our philosophy is to find new interpretations for old things—furnishings, portholes, lighting, even faucets," says Perez, who used three different components to create the marble sink's S-shape wall-mounted spouts. He even designed rough-hewn accent walls to mimic the loft's original concrete columns. Achieving the desired effect took five applications of concrete, as many layers of paint, and—much to the neighbors' chagrin—two weeks of vigorous sledgehammering, courtesy of Perez himself.
His DIY spirit extended to the system of fiber optics encircling the wet zone's perimeter; lights are strung along the floor so as not to compete with the twinkly nighttime view. The firm also designed circuit breakers, relays, and switches, the latter actually being rubber doorbell components rewired by a fabricator in Puerto Rico. "We're always looking in far-flung places for people making crazy stuff," says Perez.
The master bedroom is a 12-by-15-foot pavilion with a peaked stainless-steel roof, leather flooring, and custom sliding glass doors for walls. Automotive paint lends pearlescence to the door frames, and two layers of curtains provide privacy. The inner layer is satin. The outer features a custom print intermingling ancient Chinese symbols with astrological imagery. ("Steve's a Scorpio," says Perez.) The fabric is a thin nylon weave generally used for billboards—bringing new meaning to the question "What's your sign?"