La Casa Blanca en Miami


La llaman la nueva Casa Blanca en Miami, y hay más de una razón para ello.
La mansión no sólo tiene la apariencia de una residencia presidencial en su fachada, en sus interiores y sus galerías y jardines frente al mar. De hecho fue la residencia de invierno del presidente estadounidense Richard Nixon entre 1969 /1974.
El único mandatario estadounidense que debió dimitir al cargo por el escándalo de escuchas conocido como Watergate, pasó varios inviernos en lo que entonces era una simple casa de cemento y madera donde residía con su familia y realizaba reuniones de colaboradores (foto, derecha).
De aquella residencia nada quedó en pie pues estaba ya en mal estado luego del paso de algunos huracanes.
La nueva White House de Miami, propiedad de Edgardo De Fortuna y su esposa Ana Cristina, fue tema de un artículo esta semana en el Wall Street Journal, que publicó fotos de los exteriores e interiores de la imponente residencia.
Los De Fortuna quisieron darle a la casa una mezcla del espíritu moderno de Miami con un estilo europeo, tradicional y refinado, que aprecian y disfrutan en sus viajes.
La casa con un estilo de arquitectura mediterráneo francés, tiene 22.000 pies cuadrados, seis habitaciones, amplias galerías, un gimnasio, spa y sala de pilates y hasta un elevador para recorrer sus cuatro plantas.
Uno de los sitios en que la familia pasa más tiempo es un moderno “quincho” en la parte posterior de la casa que mira al jardín y al mar.
La piscina, junto a la bahía, mira el perfil del downtown de Miami y la suite principal con una vista infinita del océano transmite la sensación de estar en el mar, como si uno estuviera navegando, dijo Edgardo De Fortuna, presidente y fundador de Fortune International, al WSJ.

El artículo completo en WSJ, en inglés.

Edgardo and Ana Cristina Defortuna purchased one of the best-known properties on this exclusive island enclave south of Miami—President Richard Nixon’s Winter White House—and tore it down.

The Defortunas, developers and managers of some of Miami’s priciest condominium buildings, had grand visions for the waterfront property, which features a rare private beach on Biscayne Bay. They built a 22,000-square-foot, six-bedroom white stucco home, inspired by Mediterranean and French architecture. A large patio with an infinity pool overlooks the beach and the Miami skyline.

“A site like this is hard to find,” said Mr. Defortuna, on a recent late-summer afternoon, shortly after the couple’s sons, ages 10, 7 and 6, returned home from school.

In 2002, the Defortunas paid $5.4 million for one of several adjacent properties that during President Nixon’s administration made up the compound known as the “Winter White House”—the retreat where the president typically spent the winter holidays. (President Nixon also owned a Southern California estate, dubbed the Western White House at the time.)

The Defortunas said they looked into expanding the former presidential getaway, but decided that permit restrictions and prior hurricane damage to the structure meant tearing it down and rebuilding made more sense.

The project grew over the years: In 2005, they purchased an adjoining property for $8 million and redrew the plans to accommodate a larger lot of about an acre. Mr. Defortuna estimates they have spent in the ballpark of $20 million to build and assemble their home. Nearby, an 11,000-square-foot, six-bedroom waterfront home on a little more than half an acre is on the market for $19.75 million.

Guests enter the Defortuna home through a rotunda entryway with 26-foot ceilings, marble columns and a marble double-staircase with wrought-iron railings and gold detail. A wall painting of the Virgin Mary hangs above a Baccarat chandelier. There is an ornately patterned marble floor below with leaves arranged in a circular formation.

“Our buildings are completely modern, but when we go on vacation, we tend to stay in more traditional places,” said Mr. Defortuna. For their home, they decided to mix both styles. “It’s Miami, so you don’t want to be too heavy.”

The Defortunas’ home is a departure from President Nixon’s modest vacation retreat, which was a three-bedroom, cement-block structure originally built in the 1950s. (A second-story was later added by a Spanish singer who owned the home in the 1980s and ’90s.) The former president vacationed at the home with his wife and daughters; visitors included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. The house was sold after his presidency.

Joan Gill Blank, an 85-year-old historian and author on the island, said there was never a concerted local effort to preserve President Nixon’s former vacation home, despite the fact that it was “unceremoniously bulldozed” to make way the kind of mansion for which the once low-key island is becoming known.

“It was kind of no love lost because the house was not particularly interesting and Nixon was, of course, so controversial,” she said.

For their new home, the Defortunas brought on Paris-based interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, designer of hotels like the Four Seasons George V in Paris and the Savoy in London. Mrs. Defortuna said she convinced Mr. Rochon, who only occasionally works on private homes, to take the project; the Defortunas have also commissioned the designer for interiors at their condominium, Jade Signature, under construction in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. Mr. Rochon said in an email that the couple wanted parts of the home’s decoration to be “in the same spirit of the Four Seasons Hotel George V,” which features rooms with marble floors, grand archways and furniture with gilded accents.

The Defortunas spend most of their time in the “quincho,” an Argentine term for a covered barbecue area. Their version overlooks the water and is designed in a contemporary style with earthy wood accents, terrazzo floors and panel doors that open to a big outdoor patio. A large cream-colored L-shaped couch sits in front of a 100-inch flat-screen television mounted in a lacquered Makassar ebony wall. There are commercial-grade grills for both beef and fish behind a Calacatta-gold onyx bar, lighted from within. “It used to be that everybody was enjoying their beers inside, and I was cooking outside,” said Mr. Defortuna.

Born in Argentina, Mr. Defortuna is the president and founder of Fortune International, the development and real estate group behind high-end properties such as the condo building Artech and the Herzog & de Mueron-designed Jade Signature, where one-bedrooms start about $2 million. (The company’s brokerage division employs more than 1,000 real-estate agents.) Mrs. Defortuna, originally from Peru, is vice president of sales.

Many features of their own home were inspired their condo projects. “Buyers are the ones who give me the best ideas,” said Mrs. Defortuna.

A sprawling lower level, reachable by elevator, includes a gym with Pilates equipment, as well as a spa treatment room and beauty salon with a pedicure station, amenities that are common in their condo buildings. On the main level, there is a large kids’ room with sturdy faux-wood tile floors and a Philippe Starck table accented with several small bundles of rustic crayons arranged like centerpieces. A signed LeBron James Miami Heat jersey and a wall-size Smart Board (a high-tech whiteboard) hangs nearby, a feature Mrs. Defortuna said she is adding to the kids’ room at Jade Signature.

On Friday nights at the Defortuna house, a large brick pizza oven manned by an Italian pizza chef turns out thin-crust pies. A large wood-slab table with seating for 14 was decorated recently with several dozen small glass bowls holding white roses.

Two wooden front doors with the presidential seal, items saved from the former house on the property, hang on a side wall, a nod to the property’s history.

The layout of the house, Mrs. Defortuna said, suits their formal, yet family-centric lifestyle. The kids’ room is near a separate courtyard entrance so nannies and children can come and go without traipsing through the rest of the house, but be within earshot of the main kitchen. The six bedrooms are all upstairs, with a master suite with ocean views so expansive Mr. Defortuna said gives it the feeling of being on a ship.

Mrs. Defortuna, who has loved antiques since she was a little girl, designed the house with them in mind. In a formal living room, off the entryway, there are gilded chairs with gold fabric that Mrs. Defortuna said is a reproduction of the Marie Antoinette’s bedroom fabric. Her other hobby, flower arrangement, is also on display. Nearly every room in the home is decorated with elaborately arranged fresh flowers, which Mrs. Defortuna said she enjoys doing frequently.

Jorge Pérez, a well-known developer and art benefactor in Miami, is a longtime friend of the Defortunas. Their children are about the same ages, and Mr. Pérez said the families often gather in the quincho during visits. “It’s a very European, formal house yet at the same time you can be very informal and relaxed,” he said. “But even their relaxation is not the type of thing where they wear beat-up jeans.”

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