Design PRIME MAGAZINE — 30 March 2018
How to make condo life more beautiful

By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

City & Shore PRIME

Owning a single-family home can get overwhelming. Landscape maintenance. Roof repairs. Power-washing driveways. Broken pool pumps. Something always needs to be added, maintained or replaced in a single-family home.

For many of us, the solution is to buy a condo. Management companies take care of the exterior problems and the building staff offers security.

That doesn’t mean we can’t live stylishly, and three designers here show how beautiful a condo life can be.



Anyone stepping off the private elevator at the 38th floor penthouse at Turnberry Ocean Colony in Sunny Isles arrives in a breath-taking foyer clad in light and medium African Movingui wood. A two-tone nautilus design in the center of the floor looks almost three-dimensional.

“The wood has a lot of figuring and patterning and the nautilus gave a nod to the oceanfront location,” Joseph Cortes says. “It’s a welcoming space.”

Cortes knew the clients’ likes and dislikes because he has designed five different homes for them. This is a redesign for his original design of nine years ago. The clients requested a soft modern look sprinkled with a few traditional pieces.

He used the same Movingui wood to warm the living room and create a focal point. The gas fireplace is surrounded with a rare fossil slab that includes a 10-inch diameter nautilus shell repeating the theme from the foyer. Sheer window treatments soften the bright morning sun. The clients love to entertain so he designed a pair of 10-foot sofas. Between the coffee tables are two ottomans that can be used to create chaises with the sofas or serve as extra seating.

Cortes also kept entertaining in mind when he designed the breakfast room. Simple sculptural table and chairs put the focus on the water. Artemide’s Chlorophilia light fixture has acrylic leaves that come alive when the fixture is turned on. Cortes decided to hang it closer to the ceiling rather than the typical 30 inches above the table.

“The LED lights are on the bottom and it casts shadows on the ceiling,” he says. “It becomes a sculptural element and it doesn’t compete with the view. The table and chairs can be moved when the clients have parties. Hanging the lighting high allows guests to walk under it.”

The dining room is in the core of the apartment and doesn’t get much light. The solution: He covered a wall with beveled mirrored segments to produce a twinkling effect at night when the lights are low and to reflect the ocean and living room.

“Clients like to move from houses to condos because condos are less work,” he says. “This one also has the amenities of a grand hotel with two pools, a shop, restaurants, a spa and a gym.”




Martha Puente’s client calls her the “space-planning queen.” The retired American Express executive was downsizing from a 3,600-square-foot condo on Key Biscayne to a 2,600-square-foot condo in Gables on the Green in central Coral Gables.

“He is very organized and has a lot of beautiful antiques and artwork,” she says. “It was a big challenge to allocate space for everything he had from the other apartment.”

The living room illustrates how she blended antiques with clean-lined contemporary. She transformed an English armoire into an after-dinner cordial bar and played it against a glass-top coffee table. Louvered shutters at the top of the glass doors hide the roll-down hurricane shutters on the outside. Another example in the dining room is the custom eclipse-shaped glass top on a granite base that allows seating for six with classic Queen Anne dining chairs.

She gutted the condo, including removing the old air conditioner. Door casings are embedded in the walls and baseboards are only 2 inches high. Storage goes up to the 9-foot ceiling.

Despite the changes in floor plan, Puente still had two odd spaces in the areas she used for his closet and his office. A strange trapezoid space became a closet with storage on both sides. The client, who she describes as a clothes horse, needed a lot of room for his large wardrobe. She even utilized a small space to store his belts in cubbyholes. The office has bookshelves for his binders and a desk tucked into the corner of the trapezoid shape.

“He really pushed us to the next dimension,” she says.




Creating a condo for snowbirds from Canada in Fort Lauderdale’s La Rive was a challenge. The clients spoke French and Joe Fava spoke English.

“We spent the first four or five months pointing and gesturing to understand each other,” he says. “The wife was taking English classes so it wasn’t until the design was completed until we could speak the same language. It was funny how well the project turned out with very little communication.”

The project, which took two years to complete, will eventually be the couple’s permanent residence. The couple told Fava they wanted a grandchildren-proof design that also would be sleek and comfortable for just them.

“The wife was more of a minimalist after coming from homes that were more traditional with a heavier look,” he says. “They wanted this apartment to be less encumbered by heavy furniture or a lot of accessories.”

The first-floor condo had a wonderful view of the Intracoastal so Fava kept the furnishings neutral. The sectional in the Great Room is leather for easy cleanup in case the grandchildren spill something. The room’s highlight is a dropped ceiling with LED-lighted curvilinear design. The window treatments are sheer to preserve the view even when closed.

Fava likes to design master bedrooms in neutral, more soothing tones. He designed their bedroom in shades of gray with a subtle pop of blue in the artwork and throw pillows. The reader lights were attached to the wall so the wife could read without disturbing the husband.

So why are clients moving to condos?

“Most people are downsizing and want something more manageable or less maintenance,” Fava says. “Others are traveling or have multiple homes. They like the security of turning the key and walking away.”


Joseph Cortes: Home Life Interiors, 6001 Georgia Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-659-2404,

Joe Fava: Fava Design Group, 7255 NE Fourth Ave., Suite #117, Miami, 786-536-5380,

Martha Puente: Puente & Associates in Design, 6130 SW 108th St., Pinecrest, 305-443-2227,

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