It’s not often that a client pushes a designer to go bolder and brighter. “My client was serious when she said they wanted colorful, fun, and inviting,” designer Barbara Vail says. “She sent me back to make the scheme more vibrant.” Vail’s empty nester clients headed south from Boston, purchasing a 1,870-square-foot contemporary condo located near the Design District in Miami.
Before concentrating on the color palette, Vail tweaked shell. “It’s a corner unit on a high floor with floor-to-ceiling glass and unobstructed views of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean,” the designer says. Vail didn’t want to detract from the stunning vista with unnecessary finishes, but the tan marble floor had to go. “The contractor suggested installing vinyl flooring right over the tile,” she says. “The whitewashed oak plank look warmed everything up.”
Entry is into a long, narrow hall, which Vail covered with a cobalt geometric patterned wallpaper. “We thought about where we could incorporate pattern that wouldn’t interfere with the airy feel,” she says. The wallpaper, from New Hat, a women-owned design studio in Nashville, just one example of elements sourced from small vendors. “We wanted pieces with stories behind their brands,” she says.
Vail also incorporated works from the couple’s existing art collection. She layered Rolling Stones tongue print atop the papered wall. “It’s a $75 poster (including the frame!) that we found at an antique shop on our way home from Canyon Ranch,” the owner laughs, adding that she and her husband have seen the band perform over 30 times.
At the end of the entry hall, a newly arched opening frames the view and the light-filled room expands; two walls of glass hug the open concept living space. Here, Vail applied a Mondrian-esque approach, choosing fun furnishings in colors that pop. “We started with saturated primary hues—bold blues, yellows, and reds—and went from there” she says.
A velvety, lemon yellow sectional holds the room beside Jonathan Adler’s Ether Cloud settee in white bouclé with tapered brass legs. A glass and chrome Mies van der Rohe style coffee table from a vintage shop in Los Angeles sits between them. Secondary pieces in candy colors add dimension, while the hand-knotted silk and wool rug in abstracted stripes ties it all together. “The rug is important because it has every color in it,” Vail points out. A brass palm leaf pendant adds a finishing Florida touch.
The palette carries into the corner, where Verner Panton chairs in blue, white, and powder pink surround an iconic Jonathan Adler dining table, its polished chrome base echoing the entry wallpaper pattern. A coral-colored bar cart with clear acrylic wheels displays the owners’ vintage Gucci cocktail shaker below an Andy Warhol Perrier lithograph that the couple scored on eBay.
The white and stainless steel kitchen stretches quietly along the back wall accompanied by a new center island with a barely there cooktop and an unobtrusive white hood “Redoing the kitchen was the best decision we made,” Vail says, “There was a terrible curved hood over a bi-level island.”
Vail pulled the yellow from the living space into the primary bedroom, which is slotted behind the kitchen. Here, a pair of arc sconces from Israeli Etsy vendor Rufat Lights plays off whimsical mountain wallpaper behind the bed. By contrast, the primary bath, with its walk-in marble shower, oak vanity, and earthy concrete Kelly Wearstler floor tiles, is a spa-like oasis. On the ceiling, a mod blue acrylic light from Urban Electric Company nods to the ocean and the funky forms found elsewhere in the home.
Creating a glass-enclosed alcove with a daybed off the living space where the couple’s son can stay when he visits allowed the wife to claim the second bedroom as a dressing room. “It’s meant to resemble a boutique,” says Vail, who lined the walls with a gold scribble wallpaper by Pittsburgh-based studio Savannah Hayes. A center island with drawers punctuated with acrylic knobs is set with design books and the owners’ treasured goods.
Vail continued the fashion-forward vibe in the en suite bath with stacked yellow glass subway tile that mimics the color of the wife’s neon yellow Prada coat. “We wanted to bring some of the yellow to that side of the house,” Vail says.
In the guest bath, cobalt blue Fireclay wall tile references the wallpaper in the entry. The geometric chain-link pattern is also reminiscent of Hermes’ interlocking H pattern, a wink to the owner’s love of the Parisian label. “I thought about fashion throughout the process,” Vail says. “We wanted everything, even the three baths, to speak to the concept.”
Learn more about the project team
Interior design: Barbara Vail Design
Contractor: Le Prestige