Tired of white walls and monotonous spaces, artist and interior designer Kenzie Leon Perry launched Ze Haus Design Studio to transform Miami contemporary design and bring soulful richness to upscale tropical living in South Florida. With a career repertoire that includes hospitality interior design for Jamaica’s premier beachfront vacation spot, Sandals Resorts, Perry is no stranger to creating spaces that instantly feel like a personal refuge.
Perry brought these skills to new heights for one special family’s apartment located in the heart of South Miami. The clients had recently overcome extreme adversity and wanted to transform their outdated space into a healing sanctuary. Having two adopted children from China, they also needed to give their girls some semblance of consistency during a season of change. So for Perry, this project became more than making beautiful rooms. It was also about respecting the past and connecting cultures through thoughtful art and design. “When you’re working with a client for residential, the space is very personal to them,” he explains of his process.
“It’s really about learning their backstory and how they want to implement nostalgic pieces into a space that is new and refreshed.” What was first supposed to be a kitchen gut and remodel turned into a major renovation, with a new living and dining room offering a delicate blend of Miami contemporary design with traditional Asian art and motifs. Perry found a harmonious balance between both sensibilities by composing a serene, organic palette prominently featuring warm woods and botanical prints.
The custom kitchen functions as the heart of this home. So in addition to incorporating two new walls of crisp white cabinetry, the center island became the design’s true cornerstone. Illuminated by four brass Enkel pendant lights from Kuzco, this 12-foot long custom island features an eye-catching wood slab that was purposefully designed as “a showpiece where you can gather but also used as a kitchen block to cook,” says Perry.
“I also wanted to break up the space and introduce a different material. It was important that there was contrast there and that the kitchen flowed organically and naturally with the rest of the space.” Some open shelving allowed the bespoke creation to house live plants and Asian art reflective of their daughters’ culture.
Contemporary Breakfast Nook
Perry carved out an additional corner for intimate gatherings with this cozy breakfast nook, outfitted with Slope leather-clad dining chairs and a Liv Round lacquer dining table, both from West Elm. To punctuate the nook within the open layout, the designer also installed a custom red maple leaf wallpaper, which he commissioned from FrameWorks in Miami.
Perry, who recently launched his own wallpaper collaborations with Bijou and Spoonflower, chose the maple leaf as a subtle nod to its prevalence in traditional Chinese art and decoration. “I wanted to bring in that cultural aspect and a pop of color, because [the space] was just creams and beige before,” he explains. “I also wanted to create more layers, so I framed certain areas to feel like a three-dimensional art installation.”
Eclectic Living Room
Pulling from the family’s collection of existing furniture and Asian art, the living room has a more eclectic feeling when compared to the minimalist kitchen. However, seamlessly mixing the home’s overall contemporary style with these more ornate pieces wasn’t easy, says the designer. “A happy medium was keeping the space relatively modern with clean lines,” he notes. “The Asian pieces already have a lot of details and intricacies that cause your eye to want to look at [them],” he explained. So to balance the sleeker finishes with the older, more patinated pieces, the designer incorporated naturally warm tones for new additions like peel-and-stick wood panels and a custom TV console.
All photography courtesy of Justin Helmick, Howwls