Made in Miami Beach
Beth Dunlop -- Interior Design, 11/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Rare is the opportunity to conceive it all—from site plan to floor lamp. But for Oppenheim Architecture + Design, a 16-unit condominium in Miami Beach offered essentially that scenario. The developers enlisted principal Chad Oppenheim as the building architect, and he collaborated with a buyer on the interior of one of the apartments.
Named Ilona, after Oppenheim's wife, the compact five-story building of concrete and stucco is a celebration of the tropics. Beyond a welded-steel fence by sculptor Carolina Sardi lies a covered entry with the vibe of a lanai. A travertine-paved walkway runs alongside a triangular black-bottom fountain to intersect with a row of nine concrete structural columns, two of which stand in the water itself. Across the fountain, just beyond the building's overhang, are bamboo, jasmine trees, and exotic banana palms—with fruit ready for picking and eating. For the end of the entry sequence, the architect designed a lozenge-shape swing of perforated aluminum, the exterior painted in silver and the interior covered in apple-green marine-grade leather.
"The sound of water, the rustling of the leaves—a connection to nature is important," he explains. And this connection is equally evident on the roof terrace. "I took the concept of rooms below and public spaces above, like on ships," he continues. Here, the outdoor salon centers on an angular swimming pool surrounded by dune grass, lantana, and palm trees; cabanas and lounge beds offer Atlantic views. Coated in metallic blue automotive paint, a custom aluminum table picks up on the color of the ocean.
The apartments mostly face the street, and Oppenheim imbued them with a more urban sensibility. Yet each has a large terrace off the living area for that ever important indoor-outdoor exchange. To screen the terraces—from the sun's rays and onlookers' eyes—he installed panels of perforated aluminum on the building's north and south facades.
Besides the 1,250-square-foot penthouse, the duplex units range from 940 to 1,300 square feet. On the first floor are the double-height living-dining area, the kitchen, a bedroom, and a bath. A sculpted stairway leads up to the master suite.
For the apartment he helped design, Oppenheim left the bamboo floors bare. He also "put together things that are fluid and easy on the eye," he explains, in an effort to keep the setting light and airy.
The dining area is a leggy composition of chromed-steel lines, as the transparent polycarbonate shells of Philippe Starck and Piero Lissoni's chairs allow an unobstructed view of Antonio Citterio's round table topped in white plastic laminate. In the neighboring living area, a similarly subdued tone carries through to the low-slung cream-colored sofa by Didier Gomez and the boxy walnut cocktail table; in a corner, a Charles and Ray Eames task chair adds a single shot of bright green, a shade picked up from the upholstery of Oppenheim's entry swing.
To coordinate with the Eames chair, the owners painted the staircase's risers green. (A storage space underneath contains clutter.) More bold colors—orange, red, and black—make an appearance on the canvas covers of the butterfly chairs on the terrace.
Upstairs in the master bedroom, that custom lamp comes into play. Fashioned of lacy laser-cut aluminum and painted sugar white, the 6-foot-high columnar form is the icing on Oppenheim's five-story cake.