Therapeutic Design

The philosophy behind SW Designs is that the client’s lifestyle and likes are what dictates how they design a space.

By Jen Karetnick – Photography by Moris Moreno

Here’s some good advice from the design world: To create your perfect home, consider your lifestyle first. Are you single? A young couple? A family in transition? Then, think about your space. This is what Sara Waijman and Sandra Wodner of SW Designs did when they were approached by a single male, a globe-trotting CEO whose South Beach apartment would be his second home. “It’s not our taste or our decision,” Waijman says. “We’re not the kind of designers who impose our style. It’s like therapy. We have to understand our clients’ lifestyle, their family, how they wish to use their house. Then we try to give them what they want even if they can’t express it.”


To that end, for the CEO, Wodner tried to picture “an interesting and calming design, keeping things comfortable and relaxing,” so that the gentleman could “enjoy the view that the property has.” And although the pair have backgrounds in architecture—both natives of Buenos Aries, they each hold a Masters of Architecture (Waijman from University of Belgrano, 1984, and Wodner from University of Buenos Aries, 1988) and worked individually in both South America and Miami for many years before partnering—the freshly built spot didn’t need any spatial modifications, Wodner says. Rather than act as contractors, then, the women felt free to project pure design ideas of tranquility and stability onto the untainted surfaces.


To achieve that mood in the main room, the pair installed gold Calacatta marble floors, the color reminiscent of slanted sunrays, and painted the walls “a warm gray that has a little beige in it that reminds you of the beach,” Wodner says. “It gives you a warm feeling in the apartment.” The monochromatic color palette is something of a calling card; she explains that the gray has evolved from the brown that “everybody wanted a couple of years ago,” and that eventually became a fad. “We’re not into an explosion of colors and textures,” Waijman echoes. “We appreciate balance and integrity. We don’t want to age the house with our approach, by using what is trendy or out there this year, or textures that won’t last.”


Finishes for this 1,900-square-foot apartment with two-sided, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Atlantic were equally important. For instance, the KnollStudio Flat Bar Brno chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe has “a mirror-quality finish on the frame that incorporates the ocean colors,” Waijman notes, and is “upholstered in supple full-grain Spynneybeck leather for smooth texture and comfort.” It’s fairly easy to picture a travel-weary executive flopping down onto it, suit jacket draped open.

The oversize living room sofa, an Annika Larsonn design, was also chosen with both style and relief in mind, with plump cushions and soft details in an oatmeal-colored linen fabric. To continue that feeling of ease, the trio of interlocking tables was custom designed to be used together, incorporated like giant puzzle pieces, or pulled apart as minimal elements that function as sculptured cocktail tables and conversation pieces simultaneously. Mimicking the gentle, graceful and thoroughly modernist design, the Platner dining table, constructed of metal components that were finished in bright nickel, was topped with thick clear glass manufactured by Knoll.


The women agree that they tend to appreciate glass in new ways—for instance, in the elevator foyer, they installed two curved, chrome, wall-mounted sconces by Artemide over a gray mirror. “In this case, we used the same colors [as the living room walls] but tried to give them something more,” Wodman says. The sconces and mirror add touches of sophistication by using glass and metallics that don’t have a green tint but glint instead with smoke and silver.


The foyer, what the pair calls the first impression of the concept, also shows off a natural-fiber paper that was applied not only on the walls, but on the ceiling. “The weave gives character to the handcrafted, organic material,” Waijman explains. “We like to work with natural fibers in the fabrics and use woods that aren’t endangered, ones that everybody isn’t overusing. We try to be respectful. We’re also into the new technology, like LED lighting—whatever eco-friendly approach helps the design.”

Indeed, the track-lighting system hung here was intended to be hung “in a very unobtrusive approach,” Waijman says, as was the surface-mounted, stainless steel and adjustable light fixture above the dining room table. In addition, “for reading purposes, we selected a Tolomeo Mega floor lamp with an articulating arm that can be positioned wherever more light is needed. It has a lightweight parchment shade that emits a warm, diffuse glow.”


Put together, this South Beach bachelor pad, with whites and soft neutrals contrasting the gray, offers peace and harmony—“as soon as you get off the elevator,” Waijman comments. “Comfort, simplicity and minimal accessorizing were a must. Now this is a special place for this gentleman to land with his private plane for a special weekend in paradise.”