Welcome to our architectural review newsletter. This up-close look behind the scenes and the mind of Harry Gandy Howle reflects how each finished home is a project of energy and enthusiasm that represents an intense level of attention to details.
With its charming curb appeal and light-filled interior spaces, this John’s Island courtyard home was converted from a dark and dated dwelling to a contemporary beachside cottage.
When I first asked the homeowners what they wanted in their new home design, their resounding answer was: “We want it to be a fun home that’s comfortable and airy, and where our extended family can enjoy anytime of the year.” I was immediately intrigued because I had designed 29 of the original courtyard homes in the 1980’s and early 90’s and having an opportunity to design a renovation was more than welcomed. Equally intriguing was the chance to take a home that was originally designed in the Georgian context and redesign it to fit today’s lifestyle trend. The trend, termed “Transitional", features open floor plans that segue into outdoor living spaces that can be enjoyed year-round. It’s conducive for a more casual lifestyle, which homeowners today frequently request.
The couple, who splits their time between Cleveland, Ohio and Vero Beach, purchased the home for its location in an ideal community with close proximity to the beach. When their family is all together, it’s a full house of children and grandchildren, so having living spaces that seamlessly transition to outdoor entertainment areas is imperative. The clients were easygoing and understood that creating such a place takes time and careful planning.
For example, one of the challenges of building or renovating an oceanside villa or condominium in John’s Island is that actual construction can only transpire six months out of the year. Once the official opening of season happens, all construction must cease. Consequently, this renovation was not completed before the start of season. Rather than closing the house and delaying their family’s winter retreat, the clients creatively turned their unfinished living room into a volleyball court for the kids. That’s when I truly understood their “fun factor” requirement was sincere!
With exception of converting the original garage into a mother-in-law’s suite, the front exterior of the home remained largely unfazed by the renovation. But the entire 5,343 square-foot interior was redesigned and reconstructed. Once you walk through the courtyard and step inside, the light-filled living room and kitchen area are a pleasant, welcoming surprise. It’s literally a breath of fresh air as the floor-to-ceiling glass doors retract into the walls and open to the loggia, pool and outdoor kitchen.
My favorite architectural element is the double set of triangular transom windows between the living room and loggia. They are perfectly positioned to draw your eye toward blue sky rather than the neighbor’s rooftop. A bright blue sky is so powerful against the home’s white interior space.
Not everything can be a talking piece. Some elements are meant to be calming and grounding. For instance, the triple set of opposing skylights on the east and west sides, between the kitchen and living room, are actually special lighting features to create the illusion of natural light. It helps flood the area with soft light. The entire main living area is perfect for casual gatherings with family and friends, all of which exceeded our clients’ expectations.
Migration from South Florida and the Northeast continues to grow. I anticipate, due to people wanting to leave more congested and urban areas and striving for a less stressful lifestyle, that the growth in Vero Beach will continue steadily over the next decade. As the growth occurs, high-end homes west of the barrier island will also continue to increase as a result.
People who move to our coastal region are looking for a more carefree lifestyle and mild climate. Architecturally speaking, homes today are more casual. Clients who move from the North are coming from chambered, closed houses to more open floor plans that are designed to take advantage of our mild temperatures and outdoor living opportunities. It’s a refreshing change of pace for them and a trend I don’t see slowing down anytime soon.