The Surf Club opened its doors on New Year’s Eve, 1930, and from the outset, the Mediterranean Revival-style estate on Miami’s beachfront served as a celebratory oasis. Everyone from the Duchess of Windsor and Noël Coward to Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor could be found there lounging in the sun, sipping the club’s signature Mangareva cocktails, and enjoying poolside fashion shows, black-tie balls, and bo matches.
Today, a new generation of sophisticated sybarites is jetting to that fabled stretch of sand, which still retains the original clubhouse, thanks to a 21st-century vision of beachside fabulousness: a pair of glittering residential towers flanking a new Four Seasons hotel, all designed by Pritzker Prize winner Richard Meier, the virtuoso architect who is credited with conjuring some of the world’s most desirable contemporary high-rises devised for luxury living.
One cosmopolitan New York couple, who had previously resisted the impulse to own a beach house, came under the Meier-in-Miami spell. Even before the project broke ground, they purchased a unit on a lower floor and enlisted their longtime interior designer, Delphine Krakoff, to start working on plans.
But when the couple toured what was still a construction site, they fell in love with the top-floor views and decided to go all in—trading the smaller unit for two combined apartments to create a vast seven-bedroom residence that spans the depth of the building, overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean in front and Biscayne Bay at the back, and large enough to bring together their children, extended family, and friends.
Krakoff, who runs a small, prestigious Manhattan-based firm called , has a reputation for crafting effortlessly chic, inviting interiors imbued with the élan of her native France.
She and her husband, Reed Krakoff—a former fashion designer who is revitalizing Tiffany & Co. as chief artistic officer at the legendary luxury emporium—have decorated a series of treasure-filled homes for themselves, from the Hamptons to Paris, all delectably revealed in their recent Rizzoli monograph, Houses That We Dreamt Of.
As she had already renovated three residences for this New York family, Krakoff intuitively knew what her clients desired for Miami. “I can look at a piece of furniture or a work of art and know if they are going to love it or hate it,” she explains. “Or they might say, ‘I’m not sure we understand this, but we trust you.’”
“Delphine gets how we want to live,” her client says. “She knows our big thing is that sofas have to be so comfortable, you can take a nap on them.”
For this project, the couple, who collect contemporary art by the likes of Vik Muniz, Jim Dine, and Chuck Close, entrusted Krakoff to fashion a family getaway that reflects its setting. “You go to Miami, and you feel the energy, the colorfulness, and the multiculturalism—we wanted to celebrate that spirit,” the client says.
Krakoff interpreted that to mean “they wanted something fun, relaxed, upbeat, and optimistic. I’m not naturally drawn to color—I don’t dislike color, but it’s not what I am known for, so I was out of my comfort zone. Each space had to have its own flavor and character, yet it all had to work together,” she says.
The apartment also had to be functional—it is, after all, at the beach. “There’s nothing precious in there at all. There’s nowhere that you can’t put your feet up or sit in a wet bathing suit, or where you need a coaster,” Krakoff says. “Those things drive me crazy.”
The decorative fireworks start at the front door. What could have been a forlorn, back-of-house passageway was transformed by a design gesture so bold, it set the fearless tone for the rest of the apartment: a wavy, rainbow-hued Sol LeWitt drawing that snakes through the 50-foot-long, windowless L-shaped hallway. “I knew the space needed something really strong,” Krakoff says, noting that the LeWitt mural is “site-specific: You choose the design, and it is tailored to fit the exact geometry of the wall.”
Around the corner, the loftlike open living space—which encompasses sitting, dining, and kitchen areas—reveals wraparound glass views of sky and ocean, whose cerulean hues inform but by no means limit the vivid furnishings. Jean Royère chairs, upholstered in a metallic fabric, and a shimmery dining table by Martin Szekely top a circular hide rug whose fuchsia and navy stripes reflect in a golden console by the Campana Brothers. The glossy white kitchen gets its juicy hit from Reed Krakoff’s new seafoam-green tableware for Tiffany & Co. Andy Warhol’s kaleidoscopic series, “Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century”—penetrating images of famous Jewish personalities such as Sigmund Freud and Golda Meir—animates the family room.
A spacious sitting area off the hallway, meanwhile, which serves as a kind of lobby for the family to gather in before going out to dinner, is outfitted with a sectional sofa by Ron Arad that brings to mind a child’s toy-block assemblage. It’s as much irreverent sculpture as communal seating, and it fits right into the overall atmosphere. “This apartment is a folly,” Krakoff says. “The family doesn’t go there very often, so there was even more latitude to make it super fun and crazy.” That kind of spirited style is what launched the Surf Club in the first place.
This story originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of ELLE Decor.