Mid-Century Garden | Coconut Grove, Florida
PUBLICATIONS | DWELL Magazine | JULY 2019
Before & After: A Modest Mid-century in Miami Expands Around a Lush Courtyard
The backdrop to this contemporary subtropical garden is a 1950's Tripp Russell designed home and a new two-story steel and glass ribbon addition designed by award winning architect's Jacob and Mellisa Brillhart. The residence was awarded the AIA Florida Honor Award for Excellence for Renovations and Additions.
The outdoor living area is comprised of three separate spaces organized around the focal point of the single family home - a majestic 40’ height Ficus aurea (Florida Strangler Fig) tree. The tree canopy provides a shaded understory at pool level and views of tree canopy from the upstairs bedrooms. Accessible from the primary living spaces of the home via an elevated catwalk, the upper terrace wood deck is constructed of Brazilian ipe hardwood and is situated underneath the canopy of the majestic Ficus tree. Created as a pedestal to overlook the swimming pool and lower garden, the design team went through a meticulous approach of documenting the grid of wood deck pilings in order to avoid damaging the sensitive root zone of the specimen tree.
The result is a wood platform that seemingly cantilevers over a palette of lush, subtropical groundcovers and juts in and out of the characteristic aerial roots that support the canopy above. Visible through the living room, kitchen and bedroom windows, the massive trunk and aerial columns of the Ficus tree provide the perfect backdrop to curate a collection of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads and staghorn ferns.
Enclosed by a Brazilian hardwood fence and a dense planting of tropical palms and Caribbean natives, the entrance landscape was designed to emphasize the horizontal lines of the mid-century architecture. The wood fence provides privacy from the road and creates the illusion of additional depth and distance for visitors who walk along the linear walkways. Stepping stone pathways, created with architectural precast stone pavers, transverse a rich subtropical landscape accentuated with specimen palms, hardwood trees, bold leafed philodendrons, and large swaths of flowering perennials and groundcovers.
Long horizontal lines boldly transverse lush tropical plantings and provide the sensation that this garden is encroaching upon man made elements. The gardens wrap the perimeter of the steel and glass ribbon building and create the illusion that the building and exterior spaces were carved out from a veritable jungle.
The palette for the entrance garden was composed of winter and spring blooming species including Aechmea chantinii ‘Green’ and ‘Black’ bromeliads, Farfugium japonicum 'Gigantea' (Giant Leopard plant), Heterocentron elegans (Spanish Shawl), and Hemigraphis alternata (Purple Waffle Plant). The flowers of Calliandra haematocephala 'Nana' (Dwarf Powderpuff) are a natural hummingbird attractor and the Myrcianthes fragrans (Simpson's Stopper) attract cardinals and honey bees to the garden. Collector palms in the garden include colonies of Licuala grandis (Ruffled Fan Palms ), Dictyosperma album (Princess Palms) and Chambeyronia macrocarpa (Red Feather Palms).