22 January 2019

High Times on Miami Beach?

Modern Florida beachfront homes, by real estate broker Tobias Kaiser

On January 2, 2018, in an article entitled “Florida Could Be Close to a Real Estate Reckoning,” the Insurance Journal suggested that “one of the great mysteries of climate change isn’t scientific but psychological: When will the growing risks associated with rising seas and more severe storms begin to affect home values in otherwise desirable coastal markets?”

The article continued: “Nowhere is that question more pressing than South Florida, which has some of the country’s priciest properties—and some of the most vulnerable. A state built on real estate speculation, whose chief attribute was proximity to the water, now faces a whole new problem: There’s not enough land, high enough above the water, for its residents to pull back from the rising seas. By the end of the [21st] century, database company Zillow Group estimates, almost a half-million Miami homes could be—literally—underwater. That’s more than anywhere else in the country.”

Fast forward to December 21, when The Real Deal newsletter reported that home buyers and builders in Miami Beach have seized upon one immediate, if not visionary, solution to rising sea levels and the growing threat of flooding:

Higher stilts.

Elevated living quarters already a building requirement in the Florida Keys and on Key Biscayne, in July last year Miami Beach eased its restrictions on the height limit beneath single-family homes, which was set at seven feet (2.31 m). With approval from the city’s Design Review Board, owners and builders can now use pilings, or stilts, to raise the first floors of their homes up to 15 feet (4.95 m) – as architect Rene Gonzalez is proposing for his own house in the Venetian Islands.

“For now, Miami Beach’s elevated home designs mostly cater to luxury construction because of prohibitively high costs,” The Real Deal article states. “But in the future, industry experts said, those projects will become more common as designs are modified, prices drop and flood insurance rates rise.”

Patrick Dwyer, a wealth advisor with Merrill-Lynch, hired the renowned Miami firm Arquitectonica to design his two-story, $5 million house, which will sit high above Lucerne Avenue. Asked about the elevation he required, Dwyer said, “This seemed like a no-brainer. If you’re in Miami Beach and you’re not thinking about sea level rise, then you don’t really understand what’s to come.”

Difficult subject? Certainly. Can we – owners, buyers, Realtors, the public – close our eyes and make it go away? Most certainly not.

My question to Florida home owners and buyers: does this subject influence your purchase or ownership decisions, and if so how?

Looking forward to hear from you, here in the comment section or at tobias@modernsouthflorida.com.

Photo: Modern beachfront/waterfront home by architect Toshiki Mori on North Casey Key, Florida, with 7,100+ sf, six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, den and bonus room on the interior, swimming pool and guest house. Off-market.

01 January 2019

Re-Introduction, The List

It's that time of the year again – time to greet the New Year, but also time take a moment to introduce myself to new readers and add a bit of background.

Proper Introduction

I'm a passionate fan of modern(ist) homes since I was quite young. According to my mum, as baby I was parked in my little crib in my parents' dining room, jazz playing in the background, while they discussed with their architect friend the modern house they were going to build, in which I would grow up in (modern vs. modernist is another post I regularly schedule, as it is a bit confusing. But there is a correct answer).

Unfortunately never having studied architecture, I snuggled up to it by opening my own office (now located in Boca Raton, Florida) as an independent real estate broker and consultant for modern architecture in 1990, approximately covering the area between Vero Beach and South Miami on the Atlantic coast.

It took me a bit to find my focus in real estate, and that in a market flooded with real estate agents. After being licensed I worked several years in all sorts of residential and commercial real estate: a generalist. But I found my calling over 15 years ago: modern homes, from mid-century to today's modernism. My real estate background is commercial, so I also know something about NNN-investment properties and still work in that field as well.

The List

One of my most important tools and part of my secret sauce is The List.

For many years, I have been documenting modernist properties in South-East Florida: observed, accidentally found, searched out, or through our Realtor property database MLS, they all end up in my Master List of contemporary and mid-century modernist properties - mostly single family homes, with a condo building, a supermarket or even a car dealership included for good measure.

Our MLS database is a bit tricky; since there is no “Modern” filter I devised my own. Consequently, I have as many as nine special searches running parallel, handpicking modernist properties for my list several times a week.

Over the course of the years, this list has grown to more than 4,500 unique modernist properties in Southeast Florida, covering roughly the area between South Miami and Vero Beach.

It is a labour of love and real work to keep the list updated, including sales prices. However, it's not only an excellent educational tool but truly invaluable when it comes to finding modern houses for buyers who know what they want, or for sellers who need an expert to properly evaluate and market their modern home.

My Invitation to You

I warmly invite your comments, questions and inquiries, independent of you being a seller, a buyer or a simply a fan of modernist architecture.

21 December 2018

New Year's Resolution: To Take Better Care of My Modern Florida Home

If you’re a stickler for home maintenance, completely committed to making sure your modern home is healthier than you are, come back later to see what our next post will be. You don’t need this one. In fact, you may be unduly shocked by the notion that not everyone is as committed (read: anal) as you about home maintenance.

If, however, you’re like the rest of us who are guilty of letting certain tasks slide, sit down and get comfortable. We need to talk.

Unlike our friends in Northern states, those of us who live in warm, sunny, Southern Florida don’t spend a lot of time, energy, and money on “winterizing” our homes. We’re more concerned about damage from rain and summer humidity. And hurricanes. 

Until the temperature dips below 70. OK, 65. To a South Floridian, that’s chilly, right? That’s also when those tasks you’ve let slide will make themselves known in very uncomfortable ways.

So get out whatever device you use for note-taking and prepare to write your first...

I Love My Modern House Checklist

(1) Have a professional check out your heating system. (Yes, Northern neighbors, houses in Florida have heating systems.) A pro can assess the health of your system, repair flaws, and order and install parts if necessary. Don’t wait until the first 60-degree day to call because everyone else will be doing the same. Call an HVAC pro when the weather is sunny and warm.

(2) Take a long, hard look at your roof. If your modern house has a flat roof, there are several issues you need to be aware of. Click here to read about them. If any of those issues are present, call a flat-roof expert right away. If you have a tile roof, check for broken or cracked tiles. Again, if you find a problem, call a pro. And take pictures so you can text or email them to your roofing pro so he or she will know exactly what you’re talking about. Don’t delay, either. You don’t want to wait until a leak comes through that could damage a host of things in your house. Also, cleaning your roof at least once or twice a year, from debris such as leaves or from mold with a pressure cleaner, is good maintenance.

(3) Speaking of cleaning roofs, when was the last time you cleaned your gutters? Clogged gutters allow water to stay on your roof. Water that stays on your roof will eventually cause trouble. So get up there!

(4) Is your modern house well insulated? Are you sure? Attic insulation is imperative in Florida homes for so many reasons. We tend to think of it as a way to keep our Florida homes cool, but when chilly weather hits, it means everything when you want to keep your home warm. Please take a minute and check out this excellent article: “Why Insulation is a must-have in FL Homes.” And don’t forget: An under-insulated house uses far more energy than a well-insulated house. Not only is that bad for the planet, it’s also bad for your budget. You don’t want to be an energy hog, do you?

(5) Check your windows and glazing for gaps. You know how awful it is to feel hot air seeping through the gaps around your windows, glazing, or sliding glass doors. Chilly air will seep through those same gaps. So proper caulking is a no-brainer. (Go back to #4 and re-read “don’t forget…”)

(6) Finally, if you have a fireplace in your modern house and you haven’t had it cleaned in, well, ever, a beautiful sunny day is the perfect time to call a chimney expert and have it thoroughly cleaned. You’ll nip a fire hazard (creosote build-up) in the bud and be ready to build a beautiful, crackling fire on the first chilly night that creeps into warm, sunny Southern Florida. That is likely to be right around the time this post is published.

Of course, there are a host of other home maintenance issues to consider. But if you resolve to start with these, your modern house will love you for it.

Happy New Year!


Remembering Mima, 1920–2006

23 November 2018

Deck The Halls Like A Modernist

Photo from Stefanie Hartman, a blogger in Wilmington, NC

(Disclaimer: The Modernist Angle has not and will not receive any compensation for products or websites mentioned in the following.)

Decorating your home for the holidays is a very personal thing, isn't it? You have traditions that span decades and warm memories arise, like a genie from a bottle, the moment you open that first box of ornaments. It just wouldn’t be Christmas/Hanukkah without the presence of that big wooden nutcracker…ceramic crèche…Bubbe's elaborate brass menorah. If young children are in the mix, multi-colored lights and miniature Disney characters are mandatory.

But if you love modernist design  -- and especially if you own or plan to own a modernist house -- modern, minimalist merriment for the holidays is so compelling. And it won’t clutter up clean lines or compromise open, airy spaces. 

We’re not going to talk about mid-century modern/vintage holiday décor because the subject is bountiful on the Internet. Google it and you’ll see. You can find just about anything you want, including MCM Christmas tree skirts.  A modernist approach to holiday decor is much less obvious and tangible. It’s informed by a love for simplicity and order, rather than the ornate flourishes of other decorating styles. It suggests paring down everything. And it's beautiful in any home, modern or not. 

That said, here are some alternatives to a few traditional holiday items, Christmas and Hannukah, that we’ve gleaned for you – to emulate or inspire. (You know, the kids might love a small, Disney-filled tree in their own bedroom. Just a thought...)

Modernist Alternatives to the Traditional Christmas Tree
Green branches in graduated sizes
form a little minimalist tree that
requires no floor space, just a
section of crisp white wall.
(From Brit + Co)

Birch branches bring nature inside. 
They also create a 
minimal place on which to
hang a few ornaments that
reflect the natural, muted 
colors of the 
(From Fashion

A  serene, monochromatic approach
to a fresh green Christmas tree:
A sparsely branched fir tree is a
minimal presence in the space.
White lights and a few white
snowflakes are all the
trimming it needs.
(From  One Kings Lane)

No Mantel? No problem.

A bare branch and two
clusters of greenery
create minimal magic
as they offer a natural
alternative to hanging
Christmas stockings -- 
especially if you don't
have a fireplace!
(From Brit + Co)

Little paper trees hung in rows create
 a serene holiday decoration over 
a sleek, modern fireplace.
From Brit+Co)

                                                   Shape, Color, Texture
Leaf segments along a string of white lights
are the opposite of ornate and frilly.
(From Brit + Co)

Modern minimalist decor
pays attention to shape,
color, and texture. To
let these fundamental
elements shine through,
extraneous flourishes 
must be peeled away.
At Christmas, this
sensibility creates such
stunning decorations
as these.  (From
Brit + Co and 

Towards a Modern, Stylish Hanukkah
(with apologies for not finding more examples)

Creative, contemporary Hanukkah Menorahs are in abundant supply, made of everything from stainless steel and fused glass to fine wood, marble, and stone. And the shapes are virtually limitless. 

What we sought out instead were modern, innovative, alternative options for the sacred candelabrum that you create by combining beautiful, non-religious objects. Of all that we found, these two are resplendent in their simplicity. 

Black candle holders in four different
sizes await pure white candles to 
transform them into a modern 
Hanukkah menorah. The group 
includes a ninth shamash holder 
for the candle that's used to light 
all other candles.

Eight small jars, one taller narrow-necked bottle,
olive oil. floating wicks and a birthday

candle come together on an elegant tray

to form a Modern menorah.  
(From MarthaStewart.com)

Wall Decor

A simple composition of white twigs, blue and silver balls, and a white
flocked berry wreath complement the modern Hanukkah table decor.


If you know of other excellent examples of modern, minimalist alternatives to traditional holiday decorations, please share them with us in the Comments section.