Frank McKinney eschews the terms typically used to describe someone in his line of work: builder, designer, developer. The way he sees it, he’s a real estate artist. And his canvas is Florida’s Gold Coast.
McKinney works in only one medium: luxury homes with commensurately high price tags. The 41 oceanfront mansions he’s built on spec along Palm Beach County’s southern coastline are not just big—they’re enormous, including a 3-acre, 32,000-square-foot estate with four stories, nine bedrooms and a 12-car garage, which sold for $50 million after only three days on the market.
Despite his success, McKinney (who at 53 pulls off an upscale rocker-chic look so effortlessly that you begin to question your own level of cool) says he’s never been one to settle comfortably into convention. Now he’s reinventing his brand, challenging the bigger-is-better movement that has been his mentality for the past 35 years.
So what do you do when you’ve maxed out mega? You go micro—as in micro mansion.
“The micro mansion is the newest concept in ultra-high end homes, and I’m the first one to tap into it here,” McKinney says. He knows he’s treading in market-making territory, and he knows it’s a risky place to be. Luckily, McKinney insists his risk tolerance is strong. “I flex it like a muscle,” he says, laughing.
The idea to create a home that’s small on space and low on maintenance (but big on luxury) was born when client after wealthy client expressed interest in downsizing.“We’re witnessing an evolution of the high-end buyer’s mindset,” McKinney explains. “They still demand artistry, quality, extravagance and leading edge technology. But now they want it all in a more manageable home.” To that end, the luxurious finishes that are McKinney’s stock in trade are still in play. But instead of spreading them across 40,000 square feet, he’s packing them into just over 4,000.
Four thousand square feet might not sound micro to you, especially when the average U.S. home clocks in just shy of 2,800 square feet. But this home at 19 Tropical Drive in Ocean Ridge is anything but average.
Consider, for example, its ocean views from the second story (the beach is a flip-flop friendly 345 feet away), its dining table crafted from a single piece of driftwood, its living reef aquarium featuring a lightning storm simulator, its sun deck that floats between a pair of tranquil pools, or McKinney’s favorite feature: its custom sea glass countertops. “They put us way over the budget,” he confesses, describing a rare moment of internal discord in which his artistic side prevailed over his entrepreneurial side, “But they were worth every penny.”
The home comes smartly furnished in a soothing wave of marine blues and sandy neutrals, and with sheets on the beds, towels in the linen closets and toothbrushes in the vanities, it’s move-in ready. Even so, the $3.9 million price tag is no small change. But Frank is confident there’s a buyer out there—someone, as he puts it, “who is done paying homage to their ego.”
After unveiling the property in February to a gaggle of real estate agents representing some of the world’s wealthiest people, McKinney is one step closer to finding that someone with each showing. “My job is to intoxicate the buyer, to lead them through my artistic vision,” he says.
McKinney knows that some will scoff at his new concept and at its moniker, which he acknowledges is “an oxymoron in the tradition of jumbo shrimp.” But he’s sticking with it. As McKinney points out, “Everybody loves jumbo shrimp.”
For the high-end buyer who wants a smaller house with luxury finishes in a prime location, McKinney views his micro mansion as a prototype standing alone in the face of what he’s certain is a rapidly rising level of demand. “Like Tesla’s first electric car, or Apple’s first iPhone,” he says, proudly. To help fill the supply gap, micro mansion 2.0 is already in the design phase, planned for a nearby oceanfront lot McKinney recently acquired.
“I’m in the business of knowing what the ultra-wealthy buyer wants before they know they want it,” McKinney says. “And then I’m in the business of providing it. That’s what I’ve done and what I’ll continue to do, God-willing.”
(Micro mansion photos courtesy ibi Designs Photography)