When architects Melissa and Jacob Brillhart set out to design their new home in downtown Miami, they drew inspiration from Florida modernism and the dogtrot model to create a tropical oasis in the city. The couple designed and built most of the home themselves, making it a truly personal haven.
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The 1,500-square-foot home features a striking interplay of sharp glass and soft wood shutters, creating a simple and practical building that’s rich in cultural heritage. The home takes inspiration from many native building styles, including postwar tropical modernism, glass pavilion typology, and Florida cracker architecture. The dense ipe wood that clads the exterior and columns was chosen to withstand potential termite attacks and the damp tropical climate.
Lightweight shuttered doors made of western red cedar line the outer edge of the front porch, providing privacy and protection from the weather. The wood is left unstained, so it will age naturally in a way that’s similar to the surrounding ipe wood. Just behind the shutter system, 50-feet of glass walls broken into four sets of sliding panels open to eliminate the barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces.
The shutter system creates a stunning interplay of light in the front patio space. At night, the shutters glow in the streetlight, "creating the sense of a magical Japanese tea house,” according to resident Melissa Brillhart.
For the kitchen, American cherry wood was used to create cabinets that establish a warm and sturdy tone. Each piece of lumber was purchased at auction by the Brillharts and stored in New Hampshire, before being shipped to Miami and milled on site. The wood island is painted black to provide a point of visual contrast.
Himalayan marble countertops and stainless steel appliances lend moments of clean modernism to the kitchen, which is flooded with bright light thanks to patio windows that open to the yard.
The master bathroom extends the same visual themes found throughout the rest of the home to keep the overall scheme unified. Ipe wood was used for the shower flooring and lightly oiled cherry wood forms the cabinets.
In the living room, the Brillharts created a “unified, simple and clean design” that incorporated a bookcase and fireplace along the continuous 30-foot long anchor wall. The shelves are inset several inches away from the glass walls on either side. Each individual layer cantilevers outwards to create a floating effect that mirrors the way the house itself floats above the ground.
Between the front and rear exteriors, over 800-square-feet of patio space extend the living areas into the outdoors. From this angle, the references to Florida cracker architecture are obvious. The sleeping quarters are connected via a central corridor and kitchen to the living space on the other end of the building, a modern interpretation of the classic dogtrot house.