The Inside Out: Rafael's DIY All the Way in Miami

The Inside Out: Rafael's DIY All the Way in Miami

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Maxwell Ryan
Apr 24, 2006

Name: Rafael
Location: Miami
Favorite: taking a floor in bad shape and reusing, almost exclusively, all of the original wood to create a wonderfully restored and uniform hard wood floor

For three years, Rafael, a male model by day, construction worker, electrician, mason, gardener, concrete pourer, cabinet maker by night has been diligently turning a banal ranch house in Miami into a open, airy, comfortable and beautiful home for himself and his wife Heike, also a model, and their 2 year old son.

Rafael hails from Argentina and Heike hails from Germany. Rafael does not believe in building permits per se.

He also doesn't believe in hiring any specialists of any kind. He designed and built his father's house in Argentina at the ripe old age of 18.

Over 20 years later, he remembers a lot and has more than proven his ability to do very skilled labor. For some tricky solutions such as how to eliminate the need for a bearing wall, he called in a number of contractors to look at the problem, suggest solutions, and offer bids. Rafael gleaned the answers he needed—align 3 beams adjacent to one another—and then sent the contractors on their way.

The only help he got this time around was some work from a plumber and a couple of books on framing from the local library.

What an image Rafael depicts when he explains his daily schedule. While mixing concrete, plastering walls, ripping out floors, or redoing the ceiling when suddenly, he would suddenly be called in for a casting call and have to run into the backyard and clean himself off with a hose. (There was no working bathroom at the time.)

In a matter of minutes he would transform himself from a dust covered construction laborer to a suave and debonair model in an audition for a Calvin Klein ad. Rafael told me he would, on occasion, repeat this ritual a couple of times in the course of one day. He wanted to get his family into the house as soon as possible, so he had to fit the remodeling into every free moment of his day.

Rafael's philosophy on house renovation is to start from the inside and work one's way out. This is why when we pulled up to do the tour, the front of the house looked uninviting and in desperate need of a paint job. It created for dramatic effect when I finally saw the inside of the house. When he gets around to it, he will paint the front of his house.

Unlike many of his new American neighbors, Rafael doesn't really care what reputation he develops in the eyes of his immediate geographic community. His hard work is to please himself and his family foremost.

Throughout the process, Rafael told me, he knew exactly what he wanted and did it. Fortunately, what he wants and what he is capable of doing is one and the same and of great caliber. JS

Originally posted June 8, 2005
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