By: JEAN NAYAR
Architect Willy Bermello blends personal style with his family’s lifestyle in designing his home in Coral Gables.
With his two adult children settled in their own homes with growing families, architect Willy Bermello and his wife, Daysi, decided it was time for a change. “We’d been living in a Mediterranean-style house in Coral Gables for 28 years, so we planned to scale back and move into a high-rise, but the pandemic changed all that,” says Bermello, a principal of the Miami-based architecture firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners. “At the time, my wife and I took regular walks around the neighborhoods of Coral Gables for exercise and realized what we really needed was easy access to fresh air and the outdoors.” And so the plan changed when they found a lot in a great location near the Biltmore Hotel on one of those strolls and decided it was the perfect spot to build a new home for the next chapter in their lives.
Free to design an abode from scratch to suit their current lifestyle in any style he could imagine, Bermello chose to create an authentic expression of himself and his values. “After decades of living in a Mediterranean-style house, I had checked that box and saw no need to design an homage to George Merrick,” says the architect. “I wanted my home to be a place where I could fly a flag on the Fourth of July in the spirit of America rather than southern Spain,” he says. As such, he opted to fuse a mix of American influences—“Colonial Revival with a Neoclassical twist along with some southern plantation flavor and a touch of Key West,” explains the architect. Yet thanks to his creative approach to siting the home on a corner lot at the intersection of Anastasia and Malaga Streets, the house also brims with a gusty sense of modern American grit.
“Since the lot was on a corner, I had a choice on where to position the front door, so I placed it along the quieter street of Malaga rather than the high-traffic road of Anastasia, which leads to the Biltmore,” says Bermello. While siting the house in this fashion also afforded a setback of just 15 feet versus the 30 feet required along Anastasia, allowing the architect to maximize the size of the four-bedroom home to about 7,000 square feet, it also meant he’d have to adapt its shape to fit the trapezoidal lot. “The solution was to create a home in the shape of a triangle,” says the architect, an avid collector of Latin American art who embraced the challenge as an opportunity. “Since there are no two parallel lines in the home, the geometry, perspective, and focal points are always changing,” he explains. “Not only does this create a lot of drama, but it also gave me a chance to turn our home into a gallery. Our works of art, including pieces by Cuban artists Agustin Fernandez and Rafael Soriano, Colombian artist David Manzur Londono, and Peruvian artist Fernando de Szyszlo, are like our babies, so I laid out the house in such a way that I get to see all my major pieces—from the foyer or garage to the master bedroom—every day.”
Anchoring one point of the triangular house with a triumphal gesture, a high-ceilinged rotunda that he calls “the hinge” houses the formal dining room, where Daysi enjoys hosting cozy family dinners overlooking part of the grounds. Wedged amid the various volumes comprising the home, the centerpiece of a hidden courtyard is a spa-size pool offering a place for a cool dip without the challenges
of a full-scale pool. And an accessory structure kitted out with a wine cellar and humidor at another end of the home serves as Bermello’s private getaway with its own separate entrance. “It’s like an outdoor man cave, where I can enjoy a glass of wine and a good cigar with my wife’s approval,” says Bermello. Since moving into the home just before Thanksgiving last year, the couple regards their new dwelling as a blessing. “It’s as if divine intervention played a role in the whole process—from the lot to the permitting to the design and construction of the home, which was built by my son-in-law,” says Bermello. “Now I feel like I live in a resort, and every day is a holiday.”