A native Puerto Rican’s affinity for bringing in the outdoors merges with a wife’s South African design heritage in the masterpiece architect Colin Lichtenstein designed for family law attorney Marvin Solomiany and his wife, Kerry, who teaches swim lessons in the palm-tree-lined backyard pool.
Happy orange tones tie the Latin life-size oils to the earthy quartz foyer tower, alabaster walls and balmy islandlike views.
Kerry, who worked with designer Laura Thomas on only two of the rooms, gets credit for scouting gallery back rooms to find just the right pieces for the precise wall spaces. Master builder Zvi Bekerman and two woodworking geniuses formed a harmonious team to get the right lift, zest and emotion. Art from his parents’ collections (Puerto Rican artist Angel Botello) brightens the kitchen, while the master bedroom alcove highlights a South African nude wood statue from Kerry’s side.
After taking in the breathtaking open foyer featuring a modern painting by Persian Jew Emanuel, look inside at a compelling dose of sunshine.
Jaffe: What mood were you seeking for your home? Were you involved in the design and décor?
Marvin: After a long, hectic day working with people in difficult times, I unwind by relaxing on the patio, looking at the horses and palm trees. And, yes, I was very involved invoking my memories of growing up in Guaynabo (Puerto Rico), where we had large, covered living areas. Thus, our house here was built from the back going to the front, with the pool very close and on our main level. We entertain out back or sit and have coffee with guests.
Jaffe: What was it like working with builder Zvi Bekerman?
Marvin: First of all, he is efficient. After us working well over a year to get the building permit, Zvi built the house in eight months, pretty good for 9,500 square feet with mostly custom specifications.
Kerry: I was dazzled by the circular staircase he designed with the 6-foot round drop light fixture. The staircase is constructed with rough-textured white quartz from Jacksonville by Norstone.
Bekerman: I did an extension on the Solomianys’ older home years ago, when they promised to contact me in the future to execute their real dream house. I was delighted to get that call three years later. Initially, there were some hiccups with the local permit folks about relocating a few trees, which we did replace. And then again when the interior designer changed midstream and wanted revisions. The technical challenge was in mounting the white quartz stones in the stairwell since they arrived in flat rectangles and we had to chisel each piece to become circular. It all worked out in the end. The Solomianys were fabulous clients.
Jaffe: What is distinct about your kitchen and dining room?
Kerry: The kitchen counters are Silestone, and the kitchen table is leathered granite from Newnan. Our dining room has hosted many Shabbat dinners. The table and chairs are from Cantoni, and the orange suede chairs provide a pop of color. The paintings, all of which tie in the tangerine hues, are by local artist Stephanie Jordan and a Peruvian street artist. This pair was actually one painting that our art consultant, Anthony Naturman, split in two.
The copper circle rings I found at Hill Street Warehouse. You have to know where to look. I go into the back rooms to find unique and often inexpensive treasures.
Jaffe: You worked with two very talented wood designers?
Kerry: Denys Umazor custom-designed the kitchen table base and the master bedroom built-ins and end tables in the white glaze that echoed Israel Peljovich’s grand circular table in the entrance. We liked the effect of the treated white maple wood with chocolate brown, which was soaked into the grain, then finished off. Built-ins are important to us because we are both militarily precise neat freaks.
Jaffe: What are some of your most artistic personal touches?
Kerry: Using cork wallpaper by Phillip Jeffries, the cowhide piece in the family room, and Marvin’s black-and-white blow-up photo of Anne Arbor, Mich., as the street looked in 1995, when he was a student there. Recently I acquired this Plexiglas in the dog’s area by Sanford Loakeman that is a collage of exotic culinary objects like floating cucumbers.
Jaffe: The wall behind your master bed is the most unusual I have seen.
Kerry: I was inspired by a design I saw in a Puerto Rican magazine, Modo de Vida, and had Denys re-create it. Its contrasting stained wood panels were constructed like a jigsaw puzzle. The tones are so rich and warm.
Jaffe: What makes this a family home?
Kerry: We are surrounded by children’s Judaic artwork. We also recently took the children to South Africa and brought back this pointillist foyer painting called “Celebration,” reveling in the day Nelson Mandela was released.
Marvin: For family peace, we have a movie theater with five TVs, so everyone is happy at all times.
Jaffe: Marvin, do you dream in Spanish or English?
Marvin: By now, in English.
Kerry: But he counts in Spanish.