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Home of the Week: The Designer-Owner of This Miami Beach Home Sprinkled ‘Love Letters’ to Her Family Throughout It

If you know Miami Beach well, you probably know North Bay Road—a snaking street that hugs Biscayne Bay on the peninsula’s west side. While Miami Beach and South Beach in particular may be known around the globe for their glitzy, raucous nightlife, North Bay Road, a.k.a. Millionaire’s Row, is a quiet respite from the high-octane clubs and bars. The area is renowned for its historic architecture and exquisite mansions that are sequestered behind manicured hedges and security gates, as well as for its A-list residents, who have included Jennifer Lopez, Matt Damon, Ricky Martin, Tommy Hilfiger, and Shakira.

Also drawn to North Bay Road and to a specific home’s history are Matthew and Taylor Abess. Matthew, a Miami native, is the son of American banker and philanthropist Leonard Abess. He’s also an accomplished art curator, savvy collector, writer, and academic who is deeply engaged in his family’s philanthropic efforts. Among their contributions, the Abess family has founded a research station in the Brazilian Amazon, started educational initiatives at the University of Miami, and founded the Abess Center for Environmental Studies at Miami Country Day School.

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Abess Miami Beach Home Parlor Interiors
A vintage bubble chandelier is showcased in the living room.

Matthew and Taylor met in New York before permanently relocating to Miami with their two young sons. They purchased their North Bay Road home in 2017. Taylor, the founder of the Miami-based design studio Parlor Interiors, worked as a fashion executive before discovering her passion for interior design and home restoration. Along with overhauling her own home in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon, she’s worked on several projects around the country. But restoring, updating, and designing the circa 1940s Mediterranean Revival-style house on North Bay Road for her and her family posed a completely new challenge.

They embarked on an extensive refurbishment and expansion intended to pay authentic homage to the home’s history as well as reflect the couple’s personal love for art and architecture. “We wanted to pay tribute to the time it was constructed, and even though we did a full gut renovation, we were very respectful of the architectural details and stayed consistent with the design of the original structure,” Taylor tells Robb Report. “When people come and experience the house, there’s no indication that there was any addition. It looks like it all could have been built in the 1940s.”

Abess Miami Beach Home Parlor Interiors
Custom shelving in the family room holds select pieces of the owner’s artifact collection.

They didn’t want to disturb the existing architecture, but they ran into a few difficulties—things like rogue wires, outdated air-conditioning grills, and modern building codes— making the update more of a complete overhaul than initially anticipated. That said, they were determined to recreate the home’s aesthetic while bringing it up to code and installing the best technology possible that wasn’t visible to the naked eye. For example, there’s an impressive speaker system hidden in the ceilings between the drywall and plaster.

During the planning and construction, Matthew suggested Taylor present design options to him as if he were a client instead of family. “My own orientation towards design tends to be rooted in the historical and the theoretical,” Matthew tells Robb Report. “Taylor’s approach tends to be artistic, with a deep understanding of both the personal needs as well as the dreams and desires of her clients. In this case, that was her family. She was presenting things she wanted to live with, but with an eye towards what I liked as well. The challenge was taking my philosophical and aesthetic preoccupations and making them fit for modern living while bringing a tender touch to the finished home.”

The home exudes a romantic essence and is also inspired by the couple’s global travels. From the moment you enter, with the wild and native landscaping flanking the checkered entry pathway, you’re greeted by a grand spiral staircase. Through the foyer is the living room, adorned with custom moldings and a Marcin Rusak Studio’s kaleidoscopic Flora Table, with flowers set in resin.

Matthew collects impressive antiquities, such as museum-worthy ancient Chinese, Eurasian, and Mesoamerican artifacts that date back up to 4,000 years. Many of these were passed down from his grandfather. Several of these museum-quality pieces are carefully displayed in their home via custom shelving in the family room, living room, and beyond. Given the amount of artwork on display, the home could easily feel like a museum.

Abess Miami Beach Home Parlor Interiors
The kitchen features bespoke glass breakfronts for storing and displaying tableware.

Taylor’s singular eye for design, however, allows her to harmoniously marry ancient artifacts, pedigreed furnishings, and artwork from multiple eras to create perfectly calibrated environments that are warm, inviting, and livable. For example, the living room has an oversized bubble chandelier from the 1970s, a Thomas Duriez Ring coffee table, sofas upholstered in Pierre Frey fabric, a fireplace with a 19th-century Victorian marble mantle, and ancient Chinese figures dating back to the 4th and 2nd centuries B.C.

“If I can brag about my wife, I think what Taylor does so masterfully in design is marry the contemporary with the modern,” Matthew says. “I find that the way that Taylor is able to bring these things together through texture, materials, and architecture is more than juxtaposition; it’s really syncretic. It creates a space where the past and the present can really inform each other and take on a vibrancy that can sometimes otherwise be lost.”

What she does, both in her practice with outside clients and in her personal space, is understand how people use their homes and how they can create sanctuaries for themselves. Matthew refers to these details as subtle “love letters” from his wife. For example, Matthew’s office is offset from the rest of the house. Taylor knew to place the office at some distance because she acknowledged that her husband needs moments of isolation and quiet.

Other “love letters” can be found within Matthew’s office, including a built-in bookcase with corbels made from marine rope that were dyed in Japanese calligraphy ink—a subtle, thoughtful reference to Matthew’s career in and love for the language arts. The built-in bookshelf also displays Matthew’s rare book collection, peppered by Tang Dynasty bronze and jade seals and architectural fragments recovered from Alexander the Great’s military campaigns in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Abess Miami Beach Home Parlor Interiors
The primary bedroom’s muted color palette lends an air of calm sophistication.

The kitchen is the heart of the home and where Matthew and Taylor most often share time with their young boys. Not only do they share meals there, but the family spends time together with the boys doing homework, reading books, and just hanging out. Additional dedicated kid’s spaces include the boys’ shared room upstairs and the playroom. The boys’ room is painted a blue-green shade, in reference to the nearby ocean, and there are various nods to maritime culture through the furniture.

Outside, there’s a lovely pool, a seating area with checkered tiling, and native Florida landscaping. “When we were conceiving the house, we knew nature would be important to us, so we made a conscious effort to focus on planting things native to South Florida,” Matthew says. “Not only is it more environmentally sound, but whenever we sit in the kitchen and look out the bay windows, we see four different native species of birds nesting and 11 different species of butterflies, four of which are endangered. There’s a lot of life around the house, which adds so much joy.”

Abess Miami Beach Home Parlor Interiors
The office includes custom bookshelves filled with rare books.

The couple also has several custom art pieces, like a custom piece in the formal dining room from artist Michele Oka Doner, an American artist whose work includes sculpture, prints, drawings, and more. While she no longer does custom pieces, she made an exception for the couple. She created a beautiful chandelier from rare native seeds she sourced from the property and cast them in bronze—which represents the seeds of the future for the family.

Click here for more photos of the Abess House.

Abess Miami Beach Home Parlor Interiors
Abess Miami Beach Home Parlor Interiors

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