Local architect Ralph Choeff is transforming the Venetian Islands with an expanding roster of luxurious tropical modern homes.
“Tour boats often stop to admire the house from the bay, and observers are amazed by the water cascading over the edge of the rooftop pool,” says the architect.
Architect Ralph Choeff has come a long way since he started his career in New York City in the late 1970s. “My first job after I graduated from Pratt involved crawling into basements of tenements and coming up with floor plans for Section 8 housing,” he recalls. A few years later, he moved to Miami, got a break designing a modern house for a prominent developer, and has been a favorite of celebrities and CEOs in South Florida for his signature take on residential design ever since.
A de facto founder of what he calls “Tropical Modernism,” Choeff and his firm, Choeff Levy Fischman Architecture + Design, have designed hundreds of homes from Coral Gables to Miami Beach to Tampa for A-list clients, including Matt Damon, Cher, Barry Gibb, and Alex Rodriguez. Today, his company is a dominant force in the gradual transformation of the Venetian Islands with the design of almost 50 luxurious newly completed or under-construction modern homes. One of his firm’s latest accomplishments, Villa Venetian on the Venetian Causeway, exemplifies what so many glitterati find appealing in its work.
What were the client’s directives for Villa Venetian? The client, Jerry Goldfarb [a managing partner of CleverLight Media], had purchased a three-story spec house on South Venetian Way with Mediterranean-style features and wanted a completely different layout and style. He asked us to open up the floor plan and infuse the home with our Tropical Modern style.
What was the inspiration for the design of the home? The inspiration mostly came from the site and the magnificent, incredible views of downtown Miami, the Port of Miami, and the bay. Another major influence for the home came from the lightness of materials and clean lines of Midcentury Modern architecture. We completely gutted the house, redid the exterior, transformed the entry, opened up the interior to respond to the client’s specific needs, and introduced vast openings that let in the light of the southern exposure and created a connection with the outdoors.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom open up the room to the outside and the bay beyond.
What are some of the home’s unique features? One special feature is the swimming pool on the rooftop with an infinity edge that allows water to cascade over a face of glass that you can see through to and from the bay. We also introduced a series of reflecting ponds and water features around the exterior, along with steps that extend over the pond at the entry and a new cantilevered staircase inside. Paul Fischman, a principal in our firm, worked with Goldfarb on interior features, such as a bar area adjacent to the family room, a ribbon fireplace, and spa-inspired baths. A home theater was another special request of Goldfarb, who’s also a collector of guitars. We created a den next to the pool where he displays his collection and houses his DJ equipment and gathers with friends to party and entertain.
How does your work reflect what’s next for modern design in Miami? During the Bauhaus period, the mantra was “less is more,” but people often feel the architecture of that era was cold. We use a lot of wood and stones that make our modern designs warmer. Technology also changes architecture, and windows and doors made of new impact-resistant glass allow us to use glass in a more expansive way that brings in light and makes a seamless connection with the outdoors. 1374 B South Venetian Way, Miami Beach, 786-253-4912