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March 24, 2014

Of Graves concern: ex Miss Sweden's plans to redo legendary architect's signature SoBe building brings bitter battle to 1500 Ocean Dr.




A former Miss Sweden is trying to get the go-ahead to redecorate three areas of the building at 1500 Ocean Drive, otherwise known as The Michael Graves Building, and according to our sources, the renowned architect is livid. "He's very unhappy," says our source. "It is his signature building!"

Designed in 1993, the building is one of Graves' most famous. So much so that he has sent the building's residents a letter expressing his unhappiness. In it, he writes, "I’m not sure any of you know, but I have been in practice now for fifty years, and this is the first time something like what is happening at 1500 Ocean Drive has occurred in my professional life. . . .  I am quite frankly, devastated by all of this, but don’t know what I can do."

That former beauty queen, Sofia Joelsson, is the owner of SoJo Design, a 13-year-old interior design business. We asked her to chime in on the situation, but so far she remains silent. As of a March 13 vote, at least 49 residents voted against Joelsson while around 48 voted for her plans. 

According to a source at the building who asked to remain anonymous, "It's a case, in my opinion, of people with too much money and too little taste." Taste or no taste, it's also a tough sell for famous lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a resident at the building. "He is also against this redecoration travesty."

Rumor has it he even threatens to sue. Especially after a volatile meeting they had last week when Kevin A. Fox, the husband of board president Camille Polimeni, allegedly told Dershowitz to shut up.

Dershowitz's wife Carolynn Ann Cohen sent a letter to residents saying, "It is worth taking more time to do research on the impact of destroying something – the Michael Graves signature - that many of us think adds value to the building.  Many of us believe that the SOJO design will make 1500 an unsuccessful imitation of what is already available in the area - apartment buildings with high ceilings and grand lobbies and a slicker, hotel style. Our building was not made for this aesthetic and imposing it will look like an unsuccessful hybrid that will not compete with these higher priced buildings. Wealthy people who want that aesthetic will chose the buildings intended for that look.  We will be considered a second best imitation that people with less money can afford.  It will not increase the value of our building, but lower it. We will have destroyed a classic Michael Graves building that makes us special.  Instead, we will get an imitation of a current popular trend that may change again in five years. We will not be able to recover what we had." 

"Good luck with the repercussions," laughs the spy, adding "Dershowitz gets even." Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's the entire letter Graves wrote to the building's residents.


1332366456-michael-graves-438x500Sent electronically to the Residents of 1500 Ocean Drive


March 18, 2014


Dear Residents of 1500 Ocean Drive,


I’m not sure any of you know, but I have been in practice now for fifty years, and this is the first time something like what is happening at 1500 Ocean Drive has occurred in my professional life.  So, I’m new to all this and for that I am sorry.    I should tell you all that there is a different way architects approach problems like this than decorators and designers do.  Architects have a full knowledge about what things cost and the rules that govern certain changes.  For instance, the new covering that is proposed (if I am reading the SOJO drawings right) for the pool area is raised up from the present grade and therefore is not ADA compliant (ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act), in other words, this change is not lawful.  I looked at the proposed changes to the floor plan of the lobby and I don’t know whether you are all aware, but it is massive.  While I was a resident at 1500 Ocean Drive, nobody ever told me that they were dissatisfied with the way the lobby functioned, let alone its appearance. Therefore, I simply don’t understand why those changes were made.  It appears that there is an epoxy coating proposed for the floor finish in the porte-cochère, this too raises the height to a point where it will  not  be  ADA  compliant.    These  were  always  our  stumbling  blocks  in  former  conversations regarding the material in the porte-cochère.  The designers have made an addition of natural stone to one side of the porte-cochère with a large logo on its face.  This is the only place that stone would be used in the building and therefore strikes me as an anomaly and not in character with the rest of the building.  I feel the same way about the tiles that are used on the island in the porte-cochère, the only adjective that comes to mind for these changes is “glitzy”.   There are natural stones used as new flooring in the island – which will be very unwelcoming in regards to certain shoe types.  With regard to the lobby, do you all realize that upon entering the axis leads you directly to the assistant manager’s office, which has a glass façade? It seemed to me the original location for the reception area, where the assistant manager now is, is much preferred.

There was a mention of a $50,000 fee in a letter to me, I don’t know where this number came from as I gave my services pro bono.  My services had to do with the ocean room, the recovering of the furniture and drawings for the elevator cabs.  I am quite frankly, devastated by all of this, but don’t know what I can do.  It’s so strange to me to have gone through the reupholstering of the furniture throughout the public spaces and the installation of the gaming tables in the ocean room, for somebody to come along and say, “Let’s do it again”.  I am sure you are aware of the enormous cost to each of you.  I suspect, if a contractor gave you a preliminary bid, it would exceed the number you are now using.   Even the current number to me, would kill the deal for what you are getting.  Would it be more reasonable for you to take smaller steps in all of this and perhaps, do the porte-cochère first and see how that turns out, instead of the complete upheaval that would be caused by the changes to the lobby, etc. as currently proposed.  I would propose also that you make a distinction between material upgrades such as the resurfacing of the porte-cochere and what has been called “freshening”.  Freshening, I suspect is a euphemism for redesign.   That has nothing to do with material changes, but individual esthetics.

This is hard for me to say, but I noticed that the bottled water that’s given out to residents has on its logo, “The Michael Graves Building”, I was quite surprised to see that , but I’m sorry to say that it will no longer be true if the proposed changes are implemented.   There are elements of design throughout the proposal where I simply don’t understand the rationale.  For instance, there are two round columns in the lobby with a Venetian plaster finish I have always thought were quite beautiful, but the new scheme makes the round columns square.  For what reason would a designer do that? It is simply somebody’s taste, and perhaps changes for changes sake to build up the cost.

I have a fantasy that if you go ahead with all that is proposed, that in the next ten or twenty years the next well-meaning board will come along and put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  If I were still a tenant I would insist on bringing the contractor into the mix at this point to get a preliminary bid on the designs that have been proposed, as I think you will all be quite surprised, and I would hate for you all to get this bill after the renovation and have no idea what you are getting into now.  I would give this to more than one contractor as I don’t think it should be anybody that is proposed by SOJO, there is too much conflict of interest possible for that to take place.  The contractor should be made to bid on what would be ADA compliant, rather than just putting a surface on top of what’s there already with a step.

Finally, I read in one of your letters that SOJO was in contact with me relative to what they were doing. I should tell you that nobody from that firm ever talked to me.  I stand ready to help in any way I can and if there are any further questions you need answered, don’t hesitate to call me.

All my best,

Michael Graves


Update: Residents on the other side of the battle--those who wish to see the interior design spruced up--have chimed in loudly, explaining that "There are a multitude of buildings in Miami Beach, NY and other parts of the world whose structures are designed by first class world renowned architects, some even greater than Mr. Graves, and its common areas are designed by qualified INTERIOR DESIGNERS.  They seem to know the difference between the two disciplines." The battle, it seems, is over interior aesthetics. Graves, whose chairs adorn a lobby that some say is reminiscent of "an old age home," stands firm on his original decor. What follows is the first letter he sent to residents in which he expresses his ire at any interior tweaking:

February 6, 2014
Residents of 1500 Ocean Drive
1500 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
Dear Residents of 1500 Ocean Drive,
I have been sent copies of the proposed changes and I can’t imagine a worse fate for the building. I would have to characterize them (one in particular) as somewhere between a brothel and Las Vegas. I had always assumed from talking to Ines that the prices were elevated in the building because of my involvement; however the new board seems to think the opposite. From what I can tell the proposals have been made by decorators, not architects and designers like these have no clue as to the concept of domesticity. I am quite frankly devastated by all of this, but don’t know what I can do. It’s so strange to me to have gone through the reupholstering of the furniture and the installation of the gaming tables in the ocean room, for somebody to come along and say, “Let’s do it again”. Are the residents aware of the enormous cost to each of them, which would be the result of any of these schemes? The old board that I worked with was quite frugal, as they didn’t do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary for fear of the costs.
It really comes down to a question of taste; the glitz that they might have seen in a hotel versus the domestic character that we aimed for. If they are successful in making these renovations, I am afraid not only will the character of the spaces change so dramatically, but I think the character of the inhabitants will over time reflect the glitziness of the renovation.
If there is anything that you can think of that I can do to help the situation, please let me know.
All my best,
Michael Graves

And lastly, as we leave the battle to the building, the renovation proposal from the aforementioned SoJo:

Download 1500OceanDriveProposal_finallo


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Makes No Sense

Funny how every realtor and every designer (regardless of how experienced and talented they are) is called a liar if they didn't agree with the kool aid propaganda of the Graves worshippers...


David and Marjorie: Sounds like you got your realtors confused!


NO ONE IS against renovations. We just feel the proposed renovation is not the right renovation and/or the right price.


Sounds like you got your realtors confused...or maybe it's just old age setting in.

Stop the Madness

Ok Hazel...point taken...how about this: $275,000 divided by 42 chairs = $6547 Per Graves chair...now do ya think THAT was the "right price"? And did ya get to voice an opinion on THAT purchase by the old board?

Marjorie and David Mishkin

Duh and Makes no Sense chose fabulous pseudonyms!


Stay away from the people Kool Aide David Mishkin!


*PURPLE Kool Aide

Marjorie and David Mishkin


Marjorie and David Mishkin

Most civilized people do not minimize the creativity of physically handicapped brilliant people whose mission is to make this a better world. We applaud ADA initiatives!

Mark Chamberlain - UPH4

What an unfortunate situation. I find it distressing that people keep referring to our lobby as an old age home. That is so pejorative, and yet these same people are enraged that Michael Graves criticized SoJo designs? Why do we need such rancor? I for one admire Michael Graves (that he is a Princeton professor means something to me; his world wide acclaim is quite remarkable) and purchased in the building because I thought his design (inside and out) was beautiful and contextual. It appears that people do not like (even hate?) his taste and style, but it makes me wonder why they ever bought in 1500 in the first place. I also always liked Sofia, by the way, as she decorated parts of our apartment. I think she has a different skill set, that's all. Anyway, I hope we can all get along afer the vote on Monday, whichever way it goes.


maybe they bought because of its location and it's lower cost per square foot than comparable buildings?

nothing but the truth

If you like Michael Graves that much than why didn't you have him decorate your apartment?

Mark Chamberlain - UPH4

My apartment had been decorated by Sofia already, and we liked it and felt no need to change. What is your name, "nothing but the truth?"

Marjorie and David Mishkin

Why are people afraid of identifying themselves with real names. Scared of getting their eyes poked out or knees broken?

Marjorie and David Mishkin

Our unit is already fitted out. It does not need decoration.


I've seen your place Marjorie and David it's a dump. Looks like a gaggle of gypsies ransacked the place and what was left behind is what you call home. No wonder you are little "Michael Minions"


My wheelchair is Michael Graves, my toaster is Michael Graves by Target, my favorite thing about him is how economical products become when his name is attached. I like eating like a pig at the free resident parties in the Ocean room, I love having a good old time when it's someone else's dime. I'm not spending any of my hard earned retirement on a tasteful lobby, what do I care? My unit is on the market for a belly rub and 2 guinea hens. Screw it, let's paint the lobby walls with chalkboard paint and defame anyone who was part of the majority vote and call it an art gallery. Really stir things up. God, some of you are cheap!!!


I don't think anyone is fearful that knees will be broken, that would be a pleasant alternative to the hell the sore losers would raise if they had any idea who was speaking out against them. You are all very rich and honestly really jaded. You should be happy that your trust funds, investments, inheritance, embezzled or hard earned money affords you the luxury to love in one of the most desired locations in the northern hemisphere. Let's face it, you all need a hobby or to go back into the work force if an assessment is really going to put you out so much.

Marjorie and David Mishkin

Clearly a Case Of Flax Not Facts
If you were in our place when we were not present it was not legal. We have never had this place for sale or rent since we have lived here. We have never allowed it to be shown for those purposes. Granted, we had to lean on the developer to finish what he owed us, and we put in a lot of stuff (slab marble floors, custom closets, interior doors etc. before we took possession.) Whoever you are you do not know what your are talking about. Breaking and entering is a crime in Miami Beach and most of the USA. So is lying!

We have no trust funds. We earned everything we have.

Who are you? What is your problem? Maybe you should get back on your meds!

Mark Chamberlain - UPH4

Some of these comments are really beyond the pale. This is now not a civilized debate, unfortunately. There is a lot of "broker speak" going on here about higher per square foot levels etc. I view 1500 as a long term investment and the place I would like to retire, not as something to flip for the next hot condo. I also fervently believe that this building (if we do not ruin the aesthetic) will be worth much, much more in the future than today, as most works of art often go through periods of denigration/under-appreciation. Remember fellow New Yorkers when the city demolished the old Penn Station, and almost did the same to Grand Central Station (which fortunately was saved by people with foresight like Jackie Kennedy)? Ditto the Guggenheim. No disagreement from me that we need to update the public areas (especially the pool), and again, I think SoJo can do (and has done) some great work, but I really wish we had solicited a proposal from Michael Graves. Preserving his vision (architecture and design) is very important.


work of art? Are you serious? Who is demolishing the building? We are talking about redecorating!!

4 design

1500 Ocean Drive Penthouse
http://www.houzz.com/projects/248171 via @Houzz
Enjoy SOJO DESIGNS Penthouse creation


And Mark, whether or not you are planning on retiring at 1500 or flip your apartment, don't you want its value to go up? It's like saying I do not want my portfolio to increase in value. And stop trying to compare 1500 to a work of art because it's not.

Marjorie and David Mishkin

We want to increase the value, not decrease it.

Marjorie and David Mishkin



Marjorie and David I obviously haven't broken into your home. But keep hanging on that to distract from the supremely sensational opinion you have in regards to some common areas that only a few "Michael Minions" don't stop belly aching about. Frankly going back and fourth with you has given me irritable bowel syndrome it's so painfully boring. Excuse me while I enjoy a more stimulating conversation with my toilet.


Oh David if you want to INCREASE property values, why hire Michael Graves? We all know that he sold his two apartments for WAY BELOW the property values at the time of sale!


@IBSisBEST: You may not have, but what about that gaggle of gypsies?


David, Maybe someone broke into your apartment because they heard you had a stash of Kurig capsules that you took from the lobby.


Who is hiding identities?

No one house who has been here has ever characterized this unit as a dump or any negative way. Are you jealous?

At least we don't hide our identities.

Are you worked up or tweeted up yet?

If my house looked like yours I would consider hiding my identity.

Caffeine free, may be the best way to be

Are you worked up or twerked up yet? Must be all the complimentary coffee that's got you going.


Too Much Coffee for you, Sister!


Team Graves

 Dennis Dawson

My wife and I admire the architecture of Michael Graves. However, as a survivor of numerous surgeries, I must observe that my most significant pain returns after sitting on the chairs purchased from his firm. I also often observe people sliding around on the chairs during board meetings.
Good night and good luck


I love watching people slide out those chairs every time they sit down in them!


Funny I have read that at least two residents who live in this "MG building" have used SoJo to decorate their apartments, but I haven't heard from anyone who said they used Michael Graves! Even Mr. Mishkin admits he remodeled but never admits to using MG. Hmmmmmm.


Still waiting to hear from the MG Kool Aid drinkers if they had MG decorate their apartments. I recently redecorated mine and did not use MG. Good thing or I would gotten way too many chairs in many different colors that I would not be able to sit in. Just sayin'


Has anyone out there at 1500, and there are several of you who recently went through renovations, used MG? Bet not.


I wonder what Michael would say about the way you have all bastardized your apartments?


Michael Graves home for Sale in NJ $5.8M. Interesting comments below it... Interiors also designed by Michael Graves...is this what 1500 could look like with a MG designed lobby, pool area and Porte Cochere? Is this what he meant by "concept of domesticity"?


Ugly house

Thanks for posting the above link to that Michael Graves house for sale. Wow, couldn't find one positive comment from anyone saying they liked it. Wonder what they would say about the 1500 lobby?


Just a thought. Is "Graves" his real last name or does he just go by that since he designs furniture that belongs in a funeral parlor?

Miami Maverack

The only thing that needs be gone in the lobby is the multable blubbery blog mural. GET RID OF THOSE BLOBS. Other than that, the cosmetics are fine. Michael Graves has a point "Why spend the money ?". On the other hand, I think Graves is butting in on a building he thinks he owns so many are tempted to rebel at whatever he says because he acts like a design dictator. His furniture & building design is very cool but so what if it gets revised a bit. Furthermore, if Graves furniture does get updated, the pieces belong to the people of the building, not the architect or designer.
The main issue here - get rid of the FAT !

Rhoda Penmark

That damning letter from Michael Graves was requested by his realtor and personal friend Ines Flax. She uses her poor command of English as an excuse for mangling the facts every time she get caught lying. Her motive is greed.

Get a hobby!

I Wouldn't be surprised if she is the anonymous source in this article

Audit the books

Graves keeps saying he did everything for 1500 as PRO BONO! Any designer worth a chair or two will tell you all designers get a CUT on what they sell to you!! My suggestion is DO AN AUDIT OF Graves company and see how PRO BONO it really was! While you are at it, audit your own books at 1500 to see how money has been spent for the last 15 years by other boards!


Fact is other boards paid Graves over $50,000 for CONSULTING FEES...nothing in return for the owners of 1500, nothing, not even a Graves designed Hitler teapot sold at JC Penney..
Graves Brothel letter says how the other board was FRUGAL...what a joke..how Graves must miss these $50,000 "consulting fees" old boards doled out to him for nothing in return....aah, the good old days...

Frugal my ass

Frugal??? $6500 for each chair??? ($275,000 for 42 of them)!
That's frugal?!!!! I'd like to see what we would get of we gave him the money for the project?
Probably just some curtains and more Venetian plaster!

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