Interior designer Perla Lichi lives for a challenge, so when it came time to purchase a weekend retreat on the ocean for herself, she gave the realtor two ultimatums: The condo must have an ocean view and it must be dated. “I said, ‘Find me an older building with the ugliest unit that hasn’t been touched or remodeled,’” explains Perla Lichi, ASID and founder of the luxury interior design firm Perla Lichi Design. She settled on an oceanfront condo constructed in the 1990s at Oceania III in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, where a mix of older and flashy new builds dots the coastline. “I’ve been doing this for 36 years. I knew that I could modernize it and make it better than any of the brand-new construction units,” she says.
What’s Old Is New (and Blue)
Lichi immediately went to work inside the 1,790-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath condo, knocking down walls, raising ceilings and playing with mirrors to make the space feel larger. She used Calacatta gold porcelain tile with gray veining for movement and brought in the breezy feeling of the azure ocean below. “I started with a blank slate, using a white background to open up the space. For the color scheme, I chose white and gray throughout, while using pops of blue to represent how the ocean’s color changes throughout the day,” says Lichi.
The designer’s biggest achievement was transforming the former dark galley kitchen into a showpiece—a two-tone kitchen, featuring stainless steel appliances, a white mosaic backsplash in a basket-weave pattern that’s dotted with Swarovski crystals from Rainbow Roofing & Tile, and a marble island layered with a subtle floral pattern (to break up the all-white aesthetic). The design is anchored from above by a wavy light fixture from LBU Lighting in Oakland Park, Florida.
“The kitchen is the heart of the home. Everyone can just hang at the island while you’re cooking or watch TV,” says Lichi, “and you can see those stunning ocean views.” The kitchen now opens into an inviting living room, decked out with a fireplace that glows red or electric blue, depending on Lichi’s mood, modern furniture enveloped in different textures, and colors that range from a blush pink chair to a rich navy velvet ottoman to accessories touched in electric blue.
“My signature thing is a throw in every room. Most of the time I knit them myself, but for this project I went for faux fur throws,” says Lichi, adding that she did rehab the conversation piece of the room—a 25-year-old coffee table that she silver-leafed and to which she added scrollwork for a Tuscan feel. “I don’t like all cookiecutter modern furniture; I like to bring in personality pieces.”
That bold personality extends to the adjoining dining room, where an eyecatching, LED-lit semiprecious onyx stone wall immediately draws you in—seemingly deep into the dramatic blues and whites of the ocean and sand.
“I wanted to bring in the drama. Instead of hanging a piece of art, the whole wall became the art,” she says. The wall is always lit, and its electric blue colors also echo in the reflective ceiling fitted with LED strips. The room is topped off with a dining room table from Whiteline Furniture, window sheers speckled in silver leather from Cloud9 Design and a glittering crystal chandelier. Nearby, Lichi designed a wet bar with an extra-white quartz bar top, with doors and drawers swathed in the same floral pattern as the kitchen island. “It’s all about creating interest or something unexpected in a room,” she notes.
Mastering the Art of Relaxation
Departing from the main living area’s striking electric blue touches of color, the designer chose calming aquamarine colors for the master bedroom. “This is where I spend my weekends, so I wanted it to feel relaxing when I wake up,” says Lichi. “Depending on the time of day, the color of the water matches the iridescent wallpaper.”
She added her own personal touches to the room using Perla Lichi pillows, a colorful rug made of New Zealand wool that she designed, and one of her handmade signature throws.
The master bathroom is just as opulent, with an egg-shaped freestanding tub, a two-tone vanity buttoned up with pearl and crystal handles, and more than “50 shades of gray” in the Chevron-patterned wallpaper that adorns the walls. As someone who’s always dabbled in fashion—Lichi also treated herself to an expansive boutique closet with a peninsula island— every inch is covered in shelves and doors that can be closed or opened to reveal or hide handbags, shoes or clothing.
The guest bedroom purposely feels like a plush hotel room, with its bold statement piece of art, reflective ceilings and perimeter LED lighting that offers the illusion of more space. Lichi also put her design skills to work to create a unique feature wall with a sculptural round piece that serves as a night table. “I didn’t want to do a typical store-bought bedroom set,” she says.
With her anything-but-typical style, living at the condo on weekends breaks up the mundane for Lichi. “I’m loving it. Where I live full time has an opulent feeling, like an Italian palace. Walking in here with fresh, modern vibes and ocean views is a total contrast, and that’s exactly what I wanted,” she says.
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.