Deborah Rath Howell
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Punta Mita, Mexico
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St. Lucia
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Pacific Palisades, CA
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The Murano at Portifino
South Beach, FL
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The Voice of Rath

The Murano: Modern Warmth - South Beach, Florida

South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224
South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224

The continuous vertical line is a strictly human invention. And it's a fine one at that. From the "prow" of this marvelous property (the main terrace) one gazes at the straight vertical lines of the sailboat masts and the perpendicular lines of the boat slips below, which play off the natural arcing lines of the royal palms, the curved shoreline, and the rounded bodies of the islands in the distance. A powerful combination of the straight and the smooth: waves curl as sails unfurl.

From this suspended vertical perch in the sky, the artistic symmetry of land and sea, home and the heavens comes together in breathtaking fashion. This terrace is where you go instinctively after you turn the key. To check on the state of affairs in the bay of Miami and beyond; to assess how the weather patterns are forming across the southland; to plan the day ahead, or to reflect on the previous one.

It's an ideal place to gather one's thoughts carefully and joyfully while the world slides by. Or to host a dinner party that requires no extra entertainment—Mother Nature is booked live every night…and delivers a magnificent show of fire and water; sea and sky. One can see the lines of rainstorms and track their movement as they form in the vast distance; or taste the last rays of the day in quiet reflection.

The home itself is a field of ivory. The softness of the ultra-suede neutral-tone furniture accented with the eggshell draperies work together to promote that happy, safe, suspended feeling. Handblown glass sculptures float on the walls like sea flowers. The first time I walked past them through the dining room I actually had the odd sensation that they were drawing me in towards them as if by tidal pull.

The interior view of the residence from the wheat-colored living room chaise is a delight—red vases, spare but lovely art on the walls, an undulating aquatic screen-saver that acts as moving art, ice-white ottomans with cherry pillows-- and that true red couch that 'pops': the arrangement is beautifully executed and utterly pleasing to the eye. A few hours here and your mind will feel as uncluttered as this spacious pied-a-terre.

South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224
South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224
The glass tables and reflecting surfaces throughout this home seem to float as well—it's the feeling of lightness here as well as the actual natural light which spills into the space that makes it so striking. The large plasma screen/media center is bracketed by modern floor vases accented with tall, curly willow branches that reach for the pure white ceilings. Splashes of color make a powerful statement in this otherwise serene aerie over the water with the jet-eye view.

Bose surround-sound speakers ensure a glorious and rich musical experience, with playlists programmed for "weekday" and "weekend" listening; plus favorite albums and world music to set any mood.

The impeccable décor extends to the 3 terraces, with a modern 2-person chaise outside the master bedroom, teak dining table for 6, silver chaise longues and large white pots planted with what have to be Miami's happiest palms.

....All to comfortably and stylishly watch the water show below, which plays continuously. Keep a sharp eye out for human activity on that yacht with the helicopter on it down never know who'll be walking the decks tonight.

Back inside this modern cocoon, you'll enjoy the dining area's whisper-blue walls, wavy glass sconces and dramatic flame-tipped glass and steel chandelier. The room is anchored by a glass-topped dining table with creamy leather box-chairs and a handsome white leather-topped bench for dining. Tall floor vases with berry branches complement three striking blue table vases filled with curly willow. Dining in this illuminated environment is indeed a magical experience.

South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224
South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224
In the kitchen, it's Light! Light! Light! Just what you need to get inspired. Appliances are top of the line and as functional as they are attractive. At twilight, having a tea at the round table in this room and gazing out over the beachscape, you feel like you're inside a painting of great worth.

The vertical lines of the kitchen are uninterrupted: even the microwave is concealed behind a hinged door.

The little deck off the kitchen provides a glance into another slice of Miami life. Low pastel buildings reflect the light; glowing in sunny, dazzling patterns. Two white modern thatched chairs are as comfortable as they are pretty. Extra compliments to the expert eye who chose these beauties! You may find yourself staring at these chairs instead of the view.

Around the corner, the study is a nicely proportioned private room for working or reading with a smart-looking glass deck facing a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass. Modern carpeting, floor lamps, furniture and a flatscreen find an easy relationship of form and function. Neutral colors invite mental relaxation in this setting, and the convenient ensuite full bath is a plus for those who like to "stay in the zone" without interruption.

Moving along to the master bedroom off the living room, you'll find a pleasing color scheme of seagreen in the floor-to-ceiling curtains and bronze tones in the floor rugs and bed linens. (Yes, guys, there's a flat screen in here as well…I know you were wondering). Again, the floating feeling prevails and stimulates. You'll appreciate the hidden blackout draperies for those mornings where you want (or need) to sleep in. The bed is an ultra-comfy stylish platform with a low wooden headboard and subtle lighting feature. You'll awake to a view of sea and sky with Fisher Island at your fingertips.

South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224
South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224
The guest bedroom boasts another extremely comfortable bed bookended by two sleek side tables topped with modern lamps. White floor-to-ceiling sheers cover half the room when closed; when drawn back they reveal an absolutely sensational view of the tidy, private boat slips below—plus the Bay of Miami and a succession of islands leading out to sea.

A generous mirrored closet and a modern leather chair complete the finished, uncluttered scenario. One could sit in that sweet corner chair and look out at the "water show" for hours from this perch. A fine spot for kicking back with a book on a rainy day.

While you're at the Murano at Portofino, have the concierge show you the lovely grounds and tell you a bit of the story about this magnificent residence. Jorge was kind enough to arrive at our door to be our guide ten minutes after we arrived.

The hallway from the elevator bank to the lobby displays colorful hand-blown and beautifully-lit glass sculptures on standing tables, and sweeping soft ivory curtains—a hint of what's to come inside the residences.

The elevator has two floors leading to the fitness center and spa, where you can book an appointment for a wide variety of massages, treatments or a manicure/pedicure. Cardio equipment like Stairmasters and Precor machines, plus an area for stretching or using hand-weights, and the Spa occupies the upper level. The lower level has an area with floor space and yoga mats…plus a separate area for free weights.

Both levels boast a gorgeous view through enormous windows of the sailboats and pleasure boats just in front of you awaiting their own workout. Giant palms stretch, breathe, sway and move along with you in the bay breezes. A glorious environment in which to work out! There is a trainer on-hand at all times if you need assistance or want to learn some new exercises.

South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224
South Beach, Florida, Property #T1224
The outside area is perfect for activity-lovers. The pool with sand beach edge is surrounded by comfortable chaises and has a terrific view of the bay. It's within a stone's throw of a private beach club and the indoor/outdoor restaurant La Piagga.

The tennis courts serve as stages for some of the game's shining stars (who own in the Murano and play with their friends when they're in town). Residents often have a bird's eye view of these pros in a non-tournament setting, where they're more relaxed and at ease. Not that their tennis is any less intense here! And don't worry—there's plenty of courts for everyone in addition to the ranked players. Handball courts are also available for the brave.

It's a very short hop to the beach, or a nice walk to Ocean Drive for a little retail therapy and people-watching from the sidewalk cafés reminiscent of those in Nice along the Promenade Des Anglais. An enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, in either case.

Heading back to the grand lobby, with its soaring ceilings, terrazzo floors studded with sea-gems and colored glass, gold-toned modern sculptured chandelier and gathered oystershell curtains, one realizes how fortunate the owners of these luxury residences really are. And how lucky you will feel when you float off to sleep in this modern cocoon high above the sparkling Atlantic.

Many thanks to the staff and the owners for a dreamy stay in the perfect pleasure perch 31 floors above the sea. Suspended bliss awaits you when you choose this maison of magic in Miami.

Deborah Rath Howell