Architect Maricarmen Martinez frequently has advertising agencies come knocking at her door: They want to shoot their ads in the house she designed for herself and her family in Coconut Grove, Miami’s oldest neighborhood. They are drawn to what she calls “tropical modern” architecture, which embraces the region’s balmy climate.
“I knew I wanted to design a house that was very bright with natural light, and had a good connection to the outdoors,” said Martinez, principal of Upstairs Studio Architecture in Miami. “Our climate is tropical, with a lot of sun, warm breezes and rain. It’s really nice to have outside spaces you can use throughout the day as well as at night.”
With crisp rectangular lines and a white stucco finish, the house hearkens back to the celebrated mid-century designs of Florida’s Sarasota School. But the ample use of dark walnut gives the house the luxurious quality of a tropical resort. “I love the variation and tonality of the walnut — it has a sense of movement,” said Martinez. “It’s very modern and complements the white walls.”
Her 4,000-sq.-ft. home is surrounded by covered patios, for a total of 6,800 sq. ft. of living and entertaining space. The house is LEED Silver certified and relies solely on natural lighting during the day. The indoor and outdoor spaces connect through sets of aluminum-clad French doors. Overhangs over every window and door shade the interiors from direct light and allow the spaces to be naturally ventilated even when it rains.
Lydia W. Lee is an architecture and design writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Project: M House
Location: Coconut Grove, Fla.
Size: 6,800 sq. ft.
Architect: Upstairs Studio, Miami
General Contractor: James Cross Inc.
Consultant: Tom Moe
Photographer: Claudia Uribe
All of the house’s main living spaces open up to the pool; its narrow L-shaped plan maximizes natural ventilation. Martinez de- signed the house around an existing pool on the property, and made sure the old residence was carefully demolished so its components could be reused and recycled.
Gravel from the Chattahoochee River forms a minimalist, low-maintenance front yard/driveway. Between the main house and the garage, a covered walkway in walnut leads directly to the pool.
The custom cabinets and island are paneled in walnut. The countertops are Compac Technological Quartz, a composite material. The Sub-Zero flush- mounted refrigerator has a green chalkboard front.
Corner windows throughout the house increase the sense of transparency to the outdoors. Aluminum-clad wood French doors from Jeld-Wen lead to the pool.
The interior transitions seamlessly to the exterior, as the walnut-lined ceiling and poured-in-place terrazzo floors continue on to the patio. “Terrazzo flooring is ideal for warm climates since it is extremely durable and stays cool,” said Martinez. Ceiling fans from The Modern Fan Co. cool spaces both inside and out. The aluminum wall sconces are from Miami-based Remcraft Lighting.
The white walls and floors highlight the warmth of the wood ceiling and window frames. While strict modernists might choose metal frames, Martinez went with aluminum-clad wood frames. “My husband was concerned that the house would be too white,” she said.
A rug and Nelson ball pendant lamp help to delineate a formal dining space, which is separated from the kitchen and laundry room by an elegant stairwell. The stair treads and risers are made of walnut, forming a sculpture with the white stringer.
The Duravit tub is boxed in walnut.
PRODUCT SPEC SHEET
Structural system: reinforced concrete
Exterior cladding: stucco
Roofing: reinforced concrete
Windows and Doors: Jeld-Wen
Door hardware: Omnia
Flooring: Terrazzo and American walnut
Kitchen cabinetry: Custom
Kitchen appliances: Wolf and Sub-Zero
Kitchen countertops: Quartz
Kitchen fixtures: Dornbracht
Bath cabinetry: Custom
Bath fixtures: Grohe
Bath floor and wall tile: Daltile Architectural Series
Interior lighting: Elco
Heating/cooling systems: Carrier