At Home in Miami
The owners of the Design District’s beloved Mandolin Aegean Bistro and Mrs. Mandolin shop and café prepare to part with their longtime Buena Vista abode.
Words: Kelly Phillips Badal Images: Mary Beth Koeth
Call it fate: In 2009, former New Yorkers Anastasia Koutsioukis and her husband and business partner Ahmet Erkaya were exploring Miami by scooter when they stumbled upon Buena Vista, a leafy, historic neighborhood tucked between the then-emerging Design District and Little Haiti.
Fast-forward ten years, and the duo not only own Mandolin, the exquisite Aegean bistro that’s become both a chic anchor and one of the notable catalysts for the Design District’s meteoric growth and gentrification, but also the new Mrs. Mandolin down the street — a lifestyle store and cafe named for the moniker bestowed upon Koutsioukis by Mandolin regulars. Koutsioukis credits the beautiful Buena Vista ‘hood, their haven for the past seven years, as the start of it all. That’s why the decision to sell their 1939 ranch-style sanctuary at 31 Northeast 43rd Street— “Casa Mandolin,” Koutsioukis has dubbed it — is so bittersweet.
“We were immediately charmed by Buena Vista,” Koutsioukis recalls. “I just kept seeing streets filled with tropical plants. I felt enchanted, as if I was in a Hemingway novel. We fell in love with the neighborhood first, and then our home.”
Much has changed in the years since Koutsioukis and Erkaya arrived. What was once the fledgling center for design in Miami is now a trendy, art-fueled, luxury destination with international appeal. And as an adjacent neighborhood, Buena Vista is a destination in its own right. “Buena Vista is like Nolita is to the SoHo Design District in New York — it has a local feel and an independent spirit,” says Koutsioukis. “It has everything: art, culture, food, fashion, right at your fingertips.”
While the husband-and-wife duo will remain heavily involved in the area due to their thriving businesses — “this is my neighborhood without a doubt,” declares Koutsioukis—they’ve partnered with Compass agent Geane Brito to usher their much-loved Buena Vista abode into new hands.
Tell us about your Buena Vista home, and why it’s been such a good fit for you and your family for the past seven years.
The neighborhood is historically designated, and that is reflected in our home’s original character. It’s comfortable yet stylish, a bit eclectic, yet charming and soulful. What really got us initially is the private tropical oasis of a backyard. We entertain all the time, and that space is what makes this house so special. Once you walk through the home out into the backyard, you feel transported. You don’t even realize you’re in the urban core of Miami, surrounded by a whole mini-city. We use our outdoor table all the time and often have meals out in the warm breeze. The house sits on a double lot, and we considered that outdoor space a natural extension of the home.
Have you made any modifications to the home over the years you’ve lived there?
Anything we did, we tried to keep close to the original floor plan and within the same style as the house. It’s got so much vintage charm, and we wanted to respect that. We restored the beautiful terrazzo floor in the entryway, we maintained the pine floors, we kept the large vaulted ceilings, and we added more of a tropical feel to the backyard. It’s now a very low maintenance design with banana trees, palms, and agave, and I think there’s still so much potential for someone new to do even more in the backyard.
What are some of your favorite things about the house?
The energy of our home is something our guests mention the minute they enter. The house has a great flow. Even though it’s a very manageable space, it feels large and airy because of the layout and tall ceilings. The design is so smart: the bedrooms are in one wing and the entertaining space is in the other. There are also two doors leading to the backyard, one off the kitchen and one from the family room, so when we hosted, we kept everything open and people moved inside and outside. My favorite place is near the living room’s huge picture window. I’d curl up every morning with a cup of coffee and take some time for myself before walking to work. Being able to walk to fantastic restaurants, cafes, and shops, and sparing the time spent in traffic is the other really amazing thing about living here. That’s a real luxury.
This has been such a great transitional home for us, and it’s a hard place to leave. It’s a wonderful starter home to understand where you want to be while having an entire city right at your fingertips. But we have a son and we always have a ton of visitors — our family lives out of town, and we joke that Casa Mandolin is regularly booked from December through May. So we decided we needed more space, a place that fits our needs as a growing family and can better accommodate our guests.
How did you first meet your Compass listing agent, Geane Brito?
We met Geane at Mandolin and she has been a dear friend for many years. We’ve worked with her in the past and had an incredible experience— she helped us sell an investment condo we had. Since then, we’ve nicknamed her “the unofficial Mandolin realtor” because we’ve referred her to our staff, to many of our patrons, to our friends, and to people from out of town. She’s found houses for at least a dozen people we know. We’re always introducing her to someone.
That’s amazing. And what exactly did Geane do that’s earned her that title?
So many of our staff members have worked with her, from our executive chef to our general manager who bought a home with her. She really looks for the right fit for each person. She has honesty, patience, a fun approach, and great listening skills. Plus, she deeply understands Buena Vista and the Design District, and spends a lot of time here. She lives at the beach, but her husband’s business is here, and I always see her having lunch in the area with her family or jumping on her bike.
This is the first home we’ve ever bought, so it will always have a dear spot in our hearts. We have so many great memories here — when our son took his first steps, his first swim in our pool, and we’ve had so many people over after amazing nights at Mandolin. We didn’t hesitate for a moment when we told Geane we wanted to list it with her exclusively — we just knew she was the right person to help find the next people to live in Casa Mandolin.