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Second Thoughts

Once design duo Moniomi got involved, a home meant to be flipped evolved into a fabulous forever home.

In the family room, Moniomi reupholstered the clients’ Roche Bobois sofa in Perennials fabric. It is flanked by Jonathan Adler’s solid brass stools and a tufted ottoman from RH. The rug was custom-made. 

As the first part of the home’s remodeling, Moniomi outfitted the kitchen with a silver Egeo marble island and added custom-designed cabinetry built by Omega.  

The master bedroom features a bamboo silk rug from Kravet, drapes from Lux Art and a small curved sofa by Kelly Wearstler for Groundworks. Moniomi stained the original floors in black. 

The Maxime daybed is from Jonathan Adler. 

The master bath benefits from custom-designed brown and white marble tile. Walls and counters are Arabescato Corchia marble. 

Asha Sue Elias says she and her husband were just toying with the idea of house hunting before she learned about one particular circa-1936 Sunset Island home with six bedrooms and six bathrooms. “We had started to think about looking for houses,” she recalls, “and I was at a nail salon on the phone with him talking about it when the woman next to me said, ‘You should buy mine.’ It wasn’t even on the market yet.”

The couple had a toddler and anticipated that their needs were about to change, so they started making a wish list: “We were looking for a certain-sized house with green space, and we wanted to be on one of the Sunset Islands, near the beach and behind a gate.”

On a whim they visited the aforementioned woman’s home and were relatively underwhelmed, but still sought a second opinion from their friends Monica Santayana and Ronald Alvarez since they thought, at the very least, purchasing the property would be a wise investment. Santayana recalls the couple repeatedly told her they liked the lot, but did not love the house. “They said it needs to be livable for a few years, then they were going to flip it.”

Santayana and Alvarez, the married co-founders of Moniomi Design, saw things differently. Though Santayana says the home definitely exuded a “deco eclectic vibe,” the talented duo intuited that they could give the two-story, 6,500-square-foot house modern character. “Monica and I knew from the beginning the transformation would be great,” Alvarez says. “We always had that vision. We knew how we wanted the house to feel.”

Moniomi started the project on the ground floor, first designing custom kitchen cabinets, and then installing Opustone Vena Oro marble to the counters and backsplash. Centering the space is a Silver Egeo marble island with light fixtures from Interior Homespaces. “This was the turning point,” Santayana says, “when they saw a dingy space become completely different. Little by little they started convincing themselves.”

After the kitchen was completed because, as Santayana explains, “they needed it,” the master bedroom was next, “because they wanted it.” Moniomi kept the original wood floors in the master bedroom but stained them black, and then added a sumptuous Kravet bamboo silk rug, custom media console with curved edges, sheer linen drapes and a custom headboard to unify the wall with the cathedral ceiling. “We love layering patterns, but for the master bedroom, Asha wanted it more calm, so we used layers of textures and fabrics,” Santayana explains. The focal point is a gold triptych by local artist Sinisa Kukec that the owners found at Spinello Projects.

Until that point, Asha’s husband, who works in finance, had agreed to invest only 25 percent of the home’s cost in renovations, but Alvarez says he increased his investment—both financially and emotionally—when he saw how beautifully the master bedroom had turned out. Soon the existing master bathroom was blown out to create a suite, and a space behind the kitchen became an additional bedroom and bathroom for a live-in nanny. Once all the windows were replaced in the living room, natural light flooded in. Outside Moniomi added awnings and a black iron fence for interest before resurfacing the pool and creating an outdoor kitchen and spacious indoor/outdoor living area.

Only three items from the owners’ previous condo made their way into the new home: one mattress, a sideboard and a Roche Bobois sofa Moniomi had reupholstered in durable material from Perennials Fabrics. And while the designers found select pieces around town, most of the indoor furnishings are of their own design. As anyone can imagine, revitalizing the home and its landscape was hardly an overnight job, especially since the owners began by merely dipping their toes into the project. “We’ve done everything over a period of three years,” Santayana explains. Alvarez adds, “But it was a process we enjoyed. It allowed us to have a great relationship with our clients, and it allowed them to really become part of the journey.” Today Elias says her lovingly updated home, which began as an eyesore, is much more than a dream come true. “I definitely had some buyer’s remorse,” Elias admits. “It was a big property that was really in disrepair. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now I’m so attached to it. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”


Single-family home
Sunset Islands, Miami Beach


Imogene and Sonneman chandeliers, plus sconces

Solid oak flooring

Maxime daybed, brass stools, master bedroom nightstands

Master bedroom bamboo silk rug

Master bedroom drapes

Kitchen cabinets

Silver Egeo and Vena Oro marble

Tufted leather ottoman