When interior designer Sarah Zohar began working with a family to transform two condominiums into one sprawling residence at the Solimar in the quiet beach town of Surfside, she was immediately, yet exhilaratingly, pushed out of her comfort zone. Not only was it her first time merging two condos, but the owner desired a gallery-esque setting to display his vast collection of Judaic art. This meant the interior design would solely revolve around the art.
“It’s usually the other way around—we start from the ground up,” says Zohar, owner of Sarah Z. Designs. “When we began with the design and renderings, we had to plan for walls that were created specifically for the art. We accomplished that through ceiling design.”
Working closely with architecture firm Reines & Straz and construction firm Le Prestige LLC, the team completely gutted the dual condos—which now boast a total of 5,400 square feet—removing all the walls, lowering and raising ceilings, and relocating the electrical.
“It was very challenging, and it took a lot of planning. We created 3-D renderings of the walls and of the art, and we made changes along the way until we found the best fit,” explains Zohar, who worked like a museum curator, finding the perfect spot for each piece. “Every art piece has a story, and it really touched me.”
Art, religion, family and culture are brought to life throughout the home with something interesting to see at every turn. Exit the elevator, and you’re met with a foyer wall draped in a rivet wall covering by Phillip Jeffries and a custom-made floating wall adorned with sculptures and religious objects, spotlighted by LED lights. All the artwork, originally in traditional gold frames, was given a new, modern look thanks to Designs in Art in Hollywood, Florida. “They reframed the piece that says, ‘I Will Not Bite My Sister’ in a huge acrylic box, and we had to create a special-sized wall for it and reinforce the wall to sustain the weight of it,” says Zohar.
The entire color scheme of the living room, with pops of blue on the chairs and pillows that sit atop the off-white Modloft sectional, was inspired by a large painting of a rabbi flanked by a blue background. The room now seems to easily float on top of the turquoise Atlantic Ocean seen through the glass windows and doors. The open concept kitchen extends to the living room, two dining rooms and a wine room. “When you design such a large space, you don’t want it to feel heavy,” says Zohar, who used transparent ghost chairs in the kitchen and at the informal dining table, so the stunning ocean views aren’t blocked. She also made a bold statement by using blue metallic wallpaper from Jeffrey Michaels in the ceiling indentions above the table. “We accentuated the ceilings in each area, so it doesn’t look like a furniture store,” she says.
Family and friends visiting for Shabbat dinner can also gather around a custom formal dining table with a brass base from Morada-Haute Furniture Boutique in the Miami Design District. Behind it is a trio of paintings that are a collection of the state of Israel, and Zohar swathed the concrete corner in white Jerusalem stone.
Extra work went into designing an elaborate kosher kitchen, where every detail, from a separate dairy and meat section to a meat cooktop and double sink, was on point. White Shaker cabinets and white quartz Neolith countertops contrast with a silver backsplash from Susan Jablon, all brought to life by a ceiling designed with LED lights. A butler’s pantry made of glass shows off a collection of beautiful dishes and serveware; it faces a baby-blue tumbled stone backsplash, which holds an image of a rabbi made from colorful Rubik’s Cubes.
The master bedroom, which faces the sparkling Intracoastal Waterway, is decked out in soothing beige and blue colors, with custom-made bedding and a sleek writing desk with brass accents; a sprawling custom-designed closet is lit with LED lights and features a mirrored belt and bag closet. In the couples’ master bath, Zohar went for a Moorish look in the vanity backsplash and shared shower, inspired by the tapestry art with a Moroccan feel throughout the home. “I also created an optical illusion by mirroring the linen closet door and the entire wall to give the impression that it’s double the size,” says Zohar.
Visitors are treated to a comfy den/media room with a custom comfort sleeper from American Leather and private bathroom with a standout herringbone marble backsplash to offset the modern gray and white color scheme.
The couple’s four children were just as involved in the planning as their parents, offering their own ideas for their individual rooms. “It was nice to see their kids’ passion and thoughts about what they wanted in the new home,” says Zohar. The oldest daughter’s room is light and bright, with pops of red and coral in the bedding and rug, a girly feather chandelier pendant from Lumens, houndstooth baby pink wall coverings, and a custom-built desk and shelving designed by Zohar. “The little girl chose the accessories, and she was very particular about what she wanted.” The showpiece of the room is the vibrant tapestry framed above her bed.
Her younger sisters share a custom-built bunk bed with queen beds and a polka-dot wall covering; they also displayed their books and favorite accessories on a lit bookshelf. Their brother wanted a patriotic flag and sports memorabilia framed on walls covered in Phillip Jeffries wallpaper, and a closet where he could display his collection of beautiful sneakers.
When the home was completed, the family could barely contain their excitement. “Seeing the reaction from my clients and the kids, it was their dream,” says Zohar. “I want to live there; it’s beautiful.”
Angela Caraway-Carlton is a Miami-based freelance writer, travel and lifestyle expert, and television producer. Her works have appeared in Indulge Magazine, Time Out, Elysian, Aventura, South Florida Luxury Guide and Modern Luxury Weddings South Florida & the Caribbean. Caraway-Carlton has covered lifestyle trends in South Florida and beyond for more than a decade.