Design — 02 June 2017
South Florida interior design styles evolve


By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

City & Shore Contributing Design Writer

What does “South Florida style” mean today? Our interiors have morphed from Mediterranean to clean and sleek contemporary with well-edited accessories. We have fallen in love with large pieces of stand-alone art rather than clusters of smaller pieces. Need ideas? Here’s inspiration.



Everyone was focused on Mediterranean furnishings when Todd Davis and Rob Brown came to South Florida in 2001. The look was cluttered with collections and a lot of accessories.

“Our first house was a Miami Vice-style house on Sunset Island II,” says Davis, whose firm does work in Washington, D.C., as well as South Florida. “People thought we were crazy and wondered why we would buy a modern house. We knew from our marketing background that high-end clients are always looking for something new. Everything comes and goes in cycles. We were tired of the same old Mediterranean and knew modern would come back.”

They did the renovation and sold the 6,200-square-foot house unfurnished for $1,000 a square foot. It set a record for sales in Miami.

Modern is back with a vengeance today. Design stores are featuring cleaner lines with a Mid-Century vibe, whether it’s vintage or an interpretation. Grays often provide a neutral background in walls or upholstery. Davis says you should ask yourself: Does it have the personality and depth that I want to live with?

“People are focusing more on fewer but better things,” Davis says. “They want a piece of furniture that will stand the test of time and paintings that will last.”

A good example is a young couple that bought a condo in Portofino Tower on South Beach. They wanted a cross between Miami and traditional New York that was sophisticated but understated. Brown-Davis created the seating area of the great room in subtle tones of green, blue, purple and mauve. The round sociable is the same one the firm used in Hillary and Bill Clinton’s Chappaqua, N.Y., home.




Melissa Zohrer came to Florida in 2004 from Atlanta, a more traditional market that relied on antiques, chintz and collections on tabletops. Even then Floridians were in love with Mediterranean. Not anymore.

“I found that people are trying to have a more streamlined or contemporary look without a lot of tchotchkes,” she says. “They want a clean space that feels comfortable, light, bright, airy and up to date. People are moving away from total opulence of the ’80s and early ’90s to a less formal look. They want something more livable while still beautiful.”

The coveted designs are those with a more coastal vibe without the kitschy look of rooms with shells on the walls, she says.

Another way to look less cluttered is to use large pieces of art rather than a gallery wall of several smaller pieces.

The large panel over the sectional from Razor Tooth Designs in Brooklyn hints at the coastal look without being too obvious.

“We didn’t want to add clutter and we would have needed several pieces of art to carry the weight of the sectional,” she says about a home on Jupiter Island. “We looked for a piece that was sculptural and soft.”

The large piece from Razor Tooth Designs in Brooklyn is a 1/8-inch aluminum composite panel that hints at the coastal look without being too obvious.

Bathrooms and kitchens in this home were also clean lined. Large slabs of ceramic look like marble but are easier to maintain. It looks like art in a clean, modern design. She finished the room with a sculptural soaking tub and a television so the client can chill out while watching his or her favorite shows.

“When we started the kitchen looked like a 1980s time capsule with dark wood cabinets,” she says. “We wanted to open up the kitchen so the clients can see the ocean as well as the Intracoastal. “We excavated the floor to find the concrete structure beneath so we could move the cooktop in the middle.”

White cabinets, which never go out of style, hid the refrigerator and freezer. Cabinets have pull-out drawers for easier access and satin-nickel hardware. Hand-painted concrete tile and the sculptural hood make everything feel current.

The dining room chandelier, which looks like a standing rib roast with a pineapple on top, is a sculptural focal point. It gives punch to the simple design of glass dining table and upholstered dining chairs.

“I don’t like going into a room and knowing the designer,” she says. “At the end of the day, the space should be beautiful and look like you.”


Todd Davis: Brown-Davis Interiors, 1665 Alton Road, Unit #1, Miami Beach, 305-401-7565,

Melissa Zohr: NXG Studio, 420 US Highway 1, Suite 23, North Palm Beach, 561-337-8786,

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