Star Island, Miami, Gains Its Most Sophisticated Smart Home Yet

ELAN at the helm, Stewart Filmscreen in the theater and Niles, Sunfire and JBL embedded in the ceiling make this waterfront Mediterranean villa a smart home masterpiece.


Situated just off the coast of Miami’s South Beach is Star Island, a stretch of land is home to some of the brightest stars from the worlds of sports and entertainment: Sean “Diddy” Combs, Shaquille O'Neal and Gloria Estefan, to name a few.

At the heart of the island sits its crown jewel: a newly built, 25,000 square foot waterfront Mediterranean villa that boasts:

  • Vaulted ceilings
  • Voluminous domes
  • Gazebos
  • Fountains
  • Dual-winged grand staircase
  • Two-story piazza courtyard lined with Roman columns and loggias

Despite the villa’s many architectural triumphs, John Forte, founder and president of Forte Properties, says his home’s ultimate X-Factor is its sophisticated smart home infrastructure completely controlled by an ELAN Entertainment and Control System that is seamlessly and invisibly woven through every thread of the palatial villa.

“Owners of high-end, luxury estates such as the Forte’s Star Island villa expect their home to be outfitted with next-generation technology that is easy-to-use and fully-functional, but virtually invisible to the eye,” says Raul Gonzalez, president of technology integration firm R&M Systems Group. “That’s precisely what we delivered: a sophisticated network of cutting-edge, interconnected A/V, security, climate, lighting, and pool/ spa subsystems, united and managed with a seamlessly integrated ELAN control system.”

Control Reaches 25,000 Square Feet

Forte wanted a control system that covered the entire 25,000-square-foot villa without jeopardizing the home’s architectural and design aesthetic.

“I need to be able to control the villa’s audio, video, lighting, climate and security system from anywhere in the home,” says Forte. “And I want to do so without sacrificing the classic beauty of the home’s architecture with clunky technology.”

Luckily, no sacrifice was required – just a bit of savvy design work from Gonzalez and a next-generation control system from ELAN.

“To build the villa’s ‘brain,’ we integrated over sixty-five separate ELAN components including seven Systems Controllers, seven Integrated Multi-Room Audio Amplifiers/Controllers, two Communications Controllers, twelve handheld remotes, and twenty-six in-wall touch panels,” says Gonzalez.

To successfully integrate A/V technology throughout the home without infringing on its architectural integrity, Gonzales collaborated closely with the project’s interior designer, Perla Lichi, ASID, of Perla Lichi Design Luxury.

“In a residence of this caliber, technology should be experienced to the fullest, but not necessarily noticed,” says Lichi. “One must hear music, without seeing speakers; know a television is available, without seeing a black box hanging from the wall. This is the challenge we face regularly, and it's a challenge that we conquered with this home.”

To make the villa’s 112 Niles in-ceiling speakers disappear from sight, many were embedded in the ceiling’s hand painted Venetian frescoes or wood-panels and painted flush, by the artist himself to perfectly match their surroundings.

Additionally, components of the family room, bar and master suite’s surround sound system, including Sunfire subwoofers and amps, sit behind Moroccan filigree, or perforated screens, hiding the technology without inhibiting the audio performance.

Epitomizing the villa’s convergence of state-of-the-art technology with masterful design is a $500,000 ELAN-controlled home theater, outfitted with nearly a dozen cinema-quality in-wall speakers and subwoofers that are virtually invisible to the eye. Cinema Design Group Int. (CDGi) designed, manufactured and installed the theater.

Take It Outside

In the piazza courtyard, roof deck and outdoor pool area, speakers and subwoofers are tucked within bushes and fixed in tree canopies, creating the effect of an invisible sound system that blends naturally with its surroundings.

Beyond entertainment, ELAN allows Forte to manage a sophisticated security system comprised of hi-res dome cameras, photoelectric smoke detectors, mechanical heat detectors, and professional-grade sirens with stainless steel enclosures.

“From anywhere in the world, Forte can view real-time footage of his property on his ELAN app,” says Gonzalez. “He can turn cameras on and off, control the laser grid that protect his boats, dock and surrounding property, and if suspicious activity is detected, he’s immediately notified via the ELAN app.”

Photos: Inside This Star Island Villa

The roughly 38 rooms of the property boast an A/V system including:

  • 112 Niles in-ceiling speakers
  • 10 Sunfire subwoofers and amplifiers
  • 23 televisions, ranging from 55” to 70”
  • 10 surround sound systems

A cinema-quality home theater is equipped with the following:

  • TheatreScope Classic projector from Digital Projection
  • 133” CineCurve screen from Stewart Filmscreen
  • Power filtration and conditioning system from Furman
  • Sophisticated Panamax power management system with BlueBOLT remote energy management 

“A sophisticated ‘smart home’ is hidden within every crevice of a 15th-century Mediterranean Villa,” says Forte. “That’s the effect Raul and Perla created through their perfect blend of technology and design. That’s what makes this home magnificent.”