A Perfectly Imperfect House in Miami

When Nicolai Bezsonoff and Constanza Collarte decided to move to Miami in 2010, it wasn’t just to establish a new home in a new location – it was to build a life together after years of long-distance romance.

Although they both lived in Miami, New York, and London, they only met after attending a mutual friend’s engagement party in Bogotá, Colombia, in 2008. At the time, Mr. Bezsonoff lived in New York and Ms. Collarte was leaving Miami for London.

The two-year bicontinental relationship that developed from that initial meeting “involved a lot of AT&T air miles and long distance bills,” said Mr. Bezsonoff, 46, a technology manager specializing in company names. domain and hosting.

Eventually, they uprooted their lives to be together, sharing a beachfront apartment in Key Biscayne for a few years. “It was a little paradise, just beautiful,” said Ms. Collarte, 40, an interior designer.

But when they started having kids – they now have three: Andreas, 7, Lucia, 4, and Agustin, 1 – they went beyond their space, and that toe-toe sand lifestyle was less heavenly. .

So, in 2016, they started looking for a new home. But they were left cold by most of what they saw. “Everything in the landscape was a white, modern box,” Ms. Collarte said.

What they hoped for was a house with character. Or, as Mr. Bezsonoff said, “we wanted something that looked more like home, and not that new.”

When they visited a 1930s Mediterranean-inspired home in the Coconut Grove neighborhood, Ms. Collarte said, “We both fell in love immediately.

The house’s stucco and terracotta-roofed exterior – enveloped by a lush courtyard of magnolias and palms, cut Green Island ficus trees, and brick walkways created by Fernando Wong, a Panamanian landscape designer – exuded charm.

The 5,400 square foot interior was another story. The house had undergone a series of renovations and additions over the years, leaving it with awkward connections and hallways, and dated finishes – just what the couple had dreamed of finding. “We wanted something that we could get involved in and do a bit of work to create our own,” Ms. Collarte said.

They bought the house for around $ 3 million in May, and Ms. Collarte began drawing up renovation plans that would not only update the interior style, but also relocate the walls to create cohesive and practical living spaces for a young girl. busy family.

She moved the laundry room from the garage to the main floor of the house, opened the kitchen to the family room, removed an interfering fireplace, repositioned the bathrooms, moved a poorly placed staircase, swapped living room locations and dining room, and added new windows to bring in light and air. Except to save a few original doors and floors, which she had refurbished, it was a complete gut renovation.

“I wanted to bring it almost to a Californian-style Spanish home,” Ms. Collarte said, while adding pleasant textures, soft curves and colors, natural materials and hand-applied finishes. “There is a lot of human touch on everything, which is very important to me.”

The cabinets in the newly expanded kitchen, for example, were hand painted rather than lacquered in a store. And white walls look cloudy because Ms. Collarte’s painter applied a lime wash and then waxed the surface, which adds shine and protects the finish from messy hands.

She carpeted the master bathroom in warm hues of limestone and installed custom white oak cabinetry. And in many areas of the house, she designed arched openings and walls with rounded edges, avoiding sharp corners.

The interior space doesn’t look high-tech, but a smart home system allows the couple to control the lighting, heating, air conditioning, and entertainment from their smartphones. “I mean, I’m into tech, so one of the requirements was that I wanted to have a rack with some gear – just a few flashing lights,” Bezsonoff said. (In keeping with Ms. Collarte’s aesthetic, however, it’s hidden.)

This feeling of serenity belies the surprises that the contractors unearthed during construction. As the demolition began in February 2017, the couple discovered sagging beams and foundation issues. In addition, “we realized that we had to redo the roof,” Ms. Collarte said. “And we found out there were termites.”

It took 17 months of work to complete the transformation, at a cost of about $ 130 per square foot.

After living in the house for over two years, Mr. Bezsonoff is still sometimes surprised by how much he loves it. “I was literally kicking and screaming to get away from my beloved apartment,” with its view of the water, he says. “It was a big change, but I love the way we live in this house. I guess I didn’t realize I was going to be able to enjoy the house so much.

And having more room to spread has been a gift during the pandemic. “There are spaces for everyone to zoom in, and for Nicolai and I to do our work,” Ms. Collarte said. “And there are places where we can hide from our children when necessary.”

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