Cool Sophistication in Riva Residences Condo

Designer Carmen Alcaraz Gomes designed this waterfront condominium with understated elegance and a minimal use of color.

Photography to Craig Denis

Athough Brazilian designer Carmen Alcaraz Gomes loves the tropical, seaside colors of South Florida, she advised her Colombia-based clients to play down the bright tones when they hired her to design their new waterfront condominium at Riva Residences in Fort Lauderdale.

She knew their passion for sophistication would come alive with gray, beige, off-white, moody blues and the occasional sunny yellow. “I told them to forget the brights and be more low key with the use of subdued colors throughout their vacation home,” say Gomes, owner of Cg1 Design in Miami. “They understood that it is hard to get a sophisticated look using overwhelming color.”

When the owners, a health-care magnate with a dentist wife and four children, were referred to Gomes through their realtor, they asked her to go shopping with them. They hoped that the designer would explain what kind of furnishings they should consider in order to make their 3,200-square-foot Intracoastal-front home reflect a picture of sophistication. Since they plan to visit the three-bedroom, four-bath residence every three months for at least a week, the couple wanted the interiors to be beautiful and understated yet comfortable for family gatherings. The walls are finished in off-white with different kinds of wallpaper in some rooms; the flooring is mostly light Italian ceramic for quiet beauty and durability; and lighting is a mix-and-match of spot, romantic Italian and Restoration Hardware chandeliers.

During the design period, Gomes explains that there were very few challenges because the apartment is new construction with no need for major change. A waterfront patio runs the length of the front of the living space, which gave Gomes lots of clever design ideas. For example, she made the patio look like an authentic garden surrounding a single-family home. “I envisioned a real patio with palm trees, so I took little palms and planted them in lovely containers behind one of the seating vignettes,” says Gomes. “I also added greenery to another section of the patio so the whole space looks very outdoorsy and offers the family the feeling of being in their own home while on vacation.”

For the open living and dining room area, which is used frequently by the family for relaxing, entertaining, talking and taking in the wide water views through the floor-to-ceiling glass window-doors, Gomes set the right mood with her choice of furnishings. The living space is dominated by a huge custom entertainment center. It is the darkest point in the room and offers great contrast with the light rug, off-white benches and white throw from West Elm draping the dark leather sofa. “I designed a lot of seating for their extended family gatherings,” says Gomes. “Within the subdued grays, beiges and off-whites, I threw in a burst of color with a sunny yellow throw pillow for warmth and to generally lighten up the entire room.”

In the dining area, it is essential to view the single element that transports the space to another level of sophistication: Italian sculptural round wall mirrors created to break the monotony of minimal color. “I needed a new form, and the wall location is close to the brushed metal side table from Habitus Furniture,” says Gomes. “They work well together.”

With the dining table from Cattelan Italia, and dark leather chairs from Addison House, the designer added texture, excitement and elegance to a lovely space. “The family hosts a great deal of dinner parties for different family members,” says Gomes. “The wife cooks, or they cater the events, so this area needed to be special and functional.” Above the dining table is a wonderful chandelier from Restoration Hardware that plays off of the round mirror sculpture creating a talking point for guests.

The kitchen repeats the mix of white and dark with contrasting wood on the upper and lower cabinets. The mustard yellow used on the bottom of the light toned, quartz topped island adds the needed color to make this room chic and stylish. But the standout is the glaze of white, silver and stainless steel mosaic on the wall and backsplash. “I wanted a different feel here,” says Gomes, “and the family members love the unexpected.”

The bedroom designs continue the cool and cosmopolitan look of underplaying the wow factor while allowing the eye to wander to unusual pieces. For example, in the waterfront master bedroom, Gomes keeps the dark and light theme but creates a bolder use of color with an elegant throw that matches the dominant painting on the wall. The orange, yellow and blues in the abstract art bring out the beauty of the multicolored throw. They merge with the orange and gold throw pillows displayed on the custom king bed.

The large master bath offers his-and-hers sinks atop vanities with white quartz tops and dark wood bases located on either side of the room. Brown silk wallpaper and recessed lighting give it a haunting glow of beauty and serenity as if the husband and wife have been whisked away to a foreign spa.

The additional bedrooms use more color than the rest of the house and exude a youthful spirit to make the children happy when they retire. The younger two children have twin beds appointed with orange comforters from Pottery Barn below a cool backdrop of off white and gray stripes behind leather headboards. “A boy and girl share this room so I made it funky and fun for both of them as they enjoy their own water views from the wall length windows,” says Gomes. “I also used their initials as a hanging decoration in the back of the beds.” The older pair share a room that is designed in a quieter mix of gray, blue and green that Gomes has added for diversion. This brings out the blue-toned wall art creating more texture and eye movement. Behind the twin beds—appointed with blues, grays and greens from West Elm—are dark gray panels made of smooth eco-leather. “The colors in the shaggy carpet match the bed coverings and pillows and add another dimension to this waterfront room,” says Gomes. A single table lamp from Habitus atop a light-toned table between the beds offers an exceptional look with its stainless, geometric shaped base to delight the older children. “The shape of the lamp adds spirit to the design,” says Gomes. “Sometimes a single lamp can add a lasting effect to a room.”
After completing this project, Gomes felt the textures and colors worked together like a fine orchestra.  She likes to mix the elements that her clients don’t necessarily notice yet make her feel as if she has tackled all possibilities, thus bringing the design together in perfect harmony.

“Although I feel as if I am always improving something in every corner, the clients were delighted and grateful,” says Gomes. “They even invited me to visit their home in Colombia. I was very pleased.”

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