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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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Wow, that photo of Alan D and Carolyn C's living room explain a lot as to why they love Michael Graves so much!


Wow Maybe "get your math straight", you may be right about the bullying


Amanda Knox

As he sputtered, "YOU, YOU, SLUT!!!"


Now I get the love for Michael Graves.
Hitler Tea pot : Hitler pin cushion.



You gotta be kidding me! This is the guy and his wife who are leading the crusade to use Michael Graves?


  The Bad Seed

Please don't blame Michael Graves. I loved his Alessi teapot from the 70's. After he lived with this group at 1500, he was had nightmares about Hitler.


Thank you for inviting us

Hey Alex,
So sorry your fun at the party was ruined. Is that why you never greeted the person who invited you? Yet, you put on your party dress and showed up. You ate, boozed up on the red wine, and left without thanking the host. You shoulda kept your headset on that sour puss, and stayed in the Tiki Hut.

She left her kids for HIM?!?!

OMG! I agree with Alex! I haven't heard such language since my husband threw me out for having an affair with the guy who owned the porn video store! I had flashbacks to the time my very chic ankle bracelet snagged on my tiara. I'm a good woman with friends in high places…and I also do volunteer work at the Coven. So don't judge me, neighbors!
Later that night I drunk dreamed I went to the party in my night gown. BAHHAHA


The Antigraves would not make room for the Graves crowd. The voting was limited to RGR and SOJO, so how can anyone claim Graves lost?? He was not even allowed in the contest. This is the issue. Why was he left out when many bought into 1500 because they love his design/style? Including Graves was the sensitive way to go to keep peace among neighbors. Sojo 48 to 50 against, the majority voted against SOJO. Why not take more time to build consensus? The common areas belong to all 114 residents not only 48.


The Antigraves would not make room for the Graves crowd. The voting was limited to RGR and SOJO, so how can anyone claim Graves lost?? He was not even allowed in the contest. This is the issue. Why was he left out when many bought into 1500 because they love his design/style? Including Graves was the sensitive way to go to keep peace among neighbors. Sojo 48 to 50 against, the majority voted against SOJO. Why not take more time to build consensus? The common areas belong to all 114 residents not only 48.

Get with the program

Stop with the lying. Graves was not included because no one recommended him. Recommendations were sought from all owners by the board, there are emails to PROVE it and you know it but you prefer to lie and mislead. The hysteria over Graves only began 6-7 MONTHS AFTER the entire process began which was already too late...and why should Graves be included when NO ONE recommended him until AFTER THE FACT? Only one person wrote Graves name in during the voting. And you want to impose his majesty over everyone else...so he can sell us some more crappy chairs at $6500 a pop?

Difficult it work with, dictatorial and doesn't do renderings...gee what a deal! And as a FORMER board member who can't keep up with which side he is on and is now posing as a concerned owner said publicly at several meetings: "Graves is too old, we need to move on"...yet now, he and his buddies are pro-graves....as a famous politician once said: "I was for it before I was against it....the majority decided they DO NOT WANT GRAVES. That means 58 out of 97 votes DO NOT WANT GRAVES. CAN'T CHANGE, OR AMEND THAT FACT CAN YOU? DEAL WITH IT OR SELL!

Hypocrisy indeed

Who exactly is the Graves crowd, the 38 out of 114 who DON'T WANT TO SPEND MONEY and 2 years ago were complaining about how UGLY and UNCOMFORTABLE the new Graves furniture was? You mean THAT pro-Graves crowd?

How fickle love can be when one doesn't want to spend their money to update a building that's 15 years old...all of a sudden the same people who HATED the Graves sliding chairs in 2011 NOW want Graves to be the "designer" for the whole building!

Love is fickle indeed when money is involved!


No the people who thought the board was irresponsible because they bought new furniture x $275k, now this same crowd wants to throw away $275K worth of condo asset?

Graves boo hoo

Care, at least SOJO got 48 votes, Graves got one...so the deal belongs to SOJO...or did you not learn math in 2nd grade?

And the intimidation of owners and threats are ALL coming from those on the Graves side...don't talk about "peace among neighbors" when your side is causing the havoc in the building. If you wanted Graves, you should have recommended him during the first few months you had the option to do it. But NOT one person did. The facts speak for themselves, your lies don't hold water....but guess you are used to that...


who decided what is late? 4 month into the process, on May 22 an owner told the board why pay a designer to imitate Graves? why not ask Graves? Brilliant idea but the ANTIGRAVES crowd will not make run for dissent. Any dissent is immediately label "a lie" very uncivil from the antigraves. As I said, they do not allow room for any suggestion, dissent....etc

What's the Rush?

What's the rush folks? Why rush into this renovation project? Why not wait another 15 years to complete the building...and in the meantime, just make sure you all keep doling out $55,000 "consulting fees" to Michael Graves while he tells us his work is pro bono... and dont forget to buy some additional chairs in different colors, ya know, to freshen the old assets with new assets....and make sure to vote the old board back in...ya know, the ones who bought the 42 chairs so they can buy some new styles, circa 1989 but have Michael Graves tell ya, they were "custom designed for 1500" and his work is "pro bono "... Yeah, really stop rushing in!

Finally Exposed

And why did this ONE person wait 4 months to recommend Graves??? Why wait soooo long if soooo many people were such Graves fans and why was it only ONE person AFTER 4 months? were you all asleep or did you not read all the emails whichwere sent out by the board asking for owner recommendation???

Perhaps because a certain designer (who is known to pay commissions to realtors and was recommended by a veteran realtor in the building) was out of the picture...now it all makes sense. We all know who that veteran realtor is and we all know how after she found out no commission dollars were coming her way, she decided to begin the Graves hysteria campaign singlehandedly. Yet all she wants is "peace among neighbors"... The same way Michael Graves does work pro bono...

The Graves hysteria began AFTER Steven G was out of the game...that's when the newly minted Michael Graves cheerleaders began their bullying, threats and hysteria. The pieces of the puzzle always come together...always.

Truth and Peace Go Together

Interiors by Steven G was out of the picture during the summer, a whole 6-7 months after the process began...and Mrs. Peace among Neighbors, why did you recommend Steven G if you were such a devoted Michael Graves fan...guess the commission dollars he pays realtors trumps all fake devotion doesn't it ! Cheers from the West Coast!

Orange is the new black

Finally Exposed:Do you mean Ines Flax? Her mangled version of English kept her from understanding she would get a payback.
Harold Rosenbaum: If a woman whose husband was the last board president kept a renter from returning because of a personal vendetta, is that a violation of the Fair Housing Act? That's a crime, and many people are willing to support the allegations. You're going have to address this in court soon, uh oh. I hear OJ Simpson's attorney is your butt boy, hire him to pervert the facts for you.
Sorry, not sorry. Alan Dershowitz thinks "we don't shame our enemies enough in this country", google that quote, and help him help you.

Just follow the pied piper

@finally exposed: that sums it up quite nicely. Everyone was asleep until someone who didn't get their way woke them up and recruited them.

It always comes out in the wash

Is the the same realtor that was also on the design committee? Hmmmm very interesting!


Ines Flax Does It Again

Shame your enemies

All you people that feel this is so unfair: take a break from walking on the beach and attend every board meeting when you're here. Don't just rudely enter the meeting for the renovation discussion and you'll learn to respect the commitment your neighbors have to all aspects of the building. Instead of taking your neighbors to court as a last ditch effort, pay attention to your emails and address any issues eariy. While your out trolling the beach, your neighbors are trying to make sure the pipes in the garage get painted.


We voted but were out of town for the meeting. Could someone please share with us the results of the various votes?

Voting Central

52 to 50 against renovation plans as proposed.

The Ballot Box

52 In Favor of renovations as proposed by Sojo VS 50 Against.

50 In Favor of Assessment and 52 Against.

No Money

Well well the plan was accepted but there isn't money to pay for it. Not a nice out come to promote harmony among the neighbors there.


Many thanks.

So we voted to do it but just not to pay for it?

Did the Board explain what that means for us in real life?

No Money

It means back to square one as if none of this happened.

Miami Maverack

Michael Graves building remains intact.
Ummm , can there be a special vote to remove the mural that Michael Graves was persuaded to include by the French builder ?

Obsessed with the naked fat ladies

Hey Maverack why don't you go get some high school kids to go paint you one like Michael Graves wanted of the rug with the phallic symbols and other assorted blobs! Or maybe some more murals of Central American Indian villages.

Too much kool aid for you sister

Or maybe have him paint one inside your apartment of you love him so much. I'm sure he can sell you some chairs while he is at it!

love thy neighbor

Funny how the Michael Graves disciples have to resort to bullying to get their way by threatening residents with frivolous law suits

John Henry

Hello everyone in this debacle. I am an Australian architect working in Melbourne. I have met Mr Graves on a couple of occasions and not only is he a great architect of his time but a man of high integrity standing up for his work and designing buildings and interiors that deliver high quality product. Rather than get into the area of inflammatory debate, I would simply say that what is proposed by the designer is tacky and what we would term as 1970's cheap American motel decor. I wonder if one of the residents wanting change had the interior designer say to them that she would like to re paint over their very expensive collection of artwork, so it compliments her aesthetics. I don't think so! So some respect and dignity in relation to Mr Graves goes begging.

Architects are not interior designers

You are an architect like MG and not a designer so stick to building building and leave the interiors to those who are qualified!

John Henry

So wrong sir, but they are. Architects are trained to design and that means exteriors and interiors. Mr Graves is one of the worlds most famous product designers. I think you need to understand this.

Architects are not interior designers

So you tell me why those before lobby pics designed by MG himself less than three years ago look like Disney Land or better yet an assisted living facility?

John Henry

I think that you are conjuring up your own images to better your argument that you are against Graves design and that's fine. Its ill informed and prejudiced. I prefer comfort and style as Graves has done to cheap decor that wont stand the test of time.

Architects are not interior designers

Comfort and style? Come sit on one of those chairs and try not to slide out of them. LOL!!!
And for a man of such integrity as you say MG is, then why did he write such a nasty and unprofessional letter bashing another professionals work? I invite you to visit ours lobby and see the epic fail that was a result of MG. I think then you may see things differently.

John Henry

I dont think our discussion is going anywhere now.
I have a number of Graves chairs like those and I find them very comfortable.

Miami Maverack

For all those so enamored with SOJO , maybe there is a building that she designed, that you can move to. You can take the mural of the big blubbery ladies with you.

Put them on a diet

Hey Maverack too bad you didn't vote for SoJo. She hated the blubbery ladies too. Guess you will have to live with them for another 15 years. Oh well at least they match the blubbery humpy chairs.

Put them on a diet

Al least we can agree on one thing. The murals suck!

Matter of bad taste

Funny how when the blubbery ladies came up during a designer presentation meeting how half of the residents in attendance screamed against removing them and how those exact same people are the pro Michael Graves group.

Matter of bad taste

So I have a good idea which way your special vote will go.

Nothing Got Done

Graves was consulted over the past 10 years about a redesign of these areas. Consulting fees were paid but nothing got done. It's not as if prior Boards didn't try.

Stop the madness

This Board got more done in 15 months than any Board has done in the last 15 years. All the past Boards did was spend tens of thousands of dollars to Graves in design fees to reject (yes that's reject) all his proposals!


You all ought to consider someone like Lorissa Kimm, an architect and interior designer whose work you'd be happy with, but is described as a protege of Michael Graves. Look at her website, http://www.lorissakimm.com/ and you may like what you see. The issue here is that you shouldn't just graft the SOJA design over the Michael Graves building, since it isn't related, it isn't in the same design heritage. But someone like Kimm who used to work with Graves, but is as up-to-date and aesthetically appealing as you could want, might be able to update the interiors the way they should be done. Obviously Graves himself isn't going to do it, but someone that is familiar with his aesthetic should do it.

Miami Maverack

Thanks Richard - I would agree that Lorissa Kimm would be a better design match than SOJO has presented for your reasons stated. No doubt, it is time to renew the board with people like yourself Richard. Please say the blubbery mural has to go and you have my blessings.
As far as the blubbery mural, that WILL eventually go. Mr Multi-name has made some good suggestions for its exit. Maybe the architect from Australia will be a good MATE and take it out of our country.

Buy some dark sunglasses

Someone is obviously obsessed with naked blubbery fat ladies without nipples!

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