Design Idea File: Fresh Perspective

 Florida classics inspire California architect’s courtyard design for Gulf Coast gem.

March 01, 2006

Builder's Luxury Model Home
Design Flexibility Promotes Custom Personality

With its flexible floor plan, this home in Naples, Fla. is designed to offer the area's snowbird market something out of the ordinary, says Mark Wilson, who heads up London Bay Homes, one of the locale's preeminent luxury home builders. "I really felt that things had become too predictable, design-wise," he says, "and that it was time to come up with something different than the stereotypical plan with the grand entry and the pool out in the backyard."

Newport Beach, Calif.-based, Scheurer Architects, developed the design for the 5,460-square-foot home, one of four highly-customizable luxury plans offered by London Bay Homes at Mirada at Estuary at Grey Oaks, an upscale enclave of 16 villa-style secondary residences with multimillion dollar price tags.


Although this was the first Florida project for his firm, architect Mark Scheurer says that he was undaunted by the challenge. "Classic Florida architecture shares many of the same European regional influences as traditional California designs. It all comes from the same heart. Still, there are very distinct differences between the two markets and we wanted to avoid simply transplanting a California plan into a Florida setting. One of our strengths is to be able to take really interesting new technology in terms of plan forms and materials and wrap it in traditional architecture. So that's what we focused on here."

Scheurer began the design process by studying the area's Mediterranean-inspired architectural history, particularly the work of California-native-turned-Florida-resident architect, Addison Mizner, whose Spanish Revival designs continue to be a hallmark of South Florida's luxury lifestyle, particularly in such areas a Palm Beach and Boca Raton.

Design Concept

The home's U-shaped floor plan linked at its open end by a covered loggia is no wider than a single room at any point. "We designed it to function as Florida homes did before God created air conditioning," says Scheurer. "It has no enclosed internal living spaces. This results in exceptional energy efficiency because every room is naturally ventilated by windows on at least two sides. This permits each space to breathe and shed heat naturally." Multiple heating and cooling zones mean that guest rooms or other areas can easily be closed off when not in use.

The home's proximity to the community's golf course was a significant factor in influencing the design goal set forth for the project, says Wilson. "I really wanted to provide great views for the homeowner without sacrificing privacy. With a conventional plan, outdoor entertaining space is located at the rear of the home and tends to be much more exposed. For this home, on the other hand, the interior courtyard shields the outdoor space from the public. At the same time, the living space around it has beautiful views of the courtyard on one side and the fairways on the other. I call it 360-degree architecture."

The front entry opens into a dramatic, enclosed vestibule backed by a window wall that frames a view of the interior courtyard, including the pool. Actually a moving wall, the glass can be completely retracted into side pockets creating a seamless transition from indoors to out.

"Our designs are really all about the surprise factor," says Scheurer. "That is what I really love about this entry. The front door gives you the impression that it is taking you into the house, but once you're in the foyer, you feel as though you are outside again."

"The basic vision for this project was to offer a unique floor plan that could provide our clients with the same amenities that they would expect to find in a much larger home," says Raul Garnil, architectural design director for Romanza, London Bay's interior designer for the project.

The home's 5,460 square feet of interior living space is boosted by an additional 2,460 square feet of covered space outside, including a lanai, loggia and summer kitchen. This fusion of indoor and outdoor space is integral to the home's appeal, according to Wilson.

The foyer also serves as a link between the home's two separate wings, one which contains the daily living areas including the kitchen, dining and family rooms as well as upper-level secondary bedrooms and the other, a private, master retreat. The home also includes a separate, two-story guest house.

Formal entertaining areas have been eliminated in this design in favor of establishing a floor plan that complements the casual lifestyle embraced by Wilson's empty-nester buyers, who, he says, typically spend six months out of the year along the Gulf Coast relaxing and entertaining friends and family. Privately accessed guest suites permit the home to function as a family compound, says Scheurer.

The architect also did away with dramatic, soaring ceilings. "By design, the home has no two-story spaces and no 'Scarlett O'Hara' staircase," he says, "to create an environment that feels much more informal and comfortable."

Instead, ceiling heights vary between 8 and 12 feet depending upon where you are in the home. "This ebb and flow creates a hierarchy of spaces," says Wilson, "between the hallways and the main rooms and creates a sense of compression and expansion. One of the great things about this home is how intimate the interior living spaces feel without the huge volumes."

The Team

Wilson studied luxury housing in other hot markets across the country, including Nevada, Arizona, and California to find new inspiration for his own.

"We were looking for projects we really liked," he says, "but more importantly we were searching for a new architectural partner that we felt was as design and quality oriented as we were."

After traveling to California to tour Scheurer's work for himself, Wilson says that he was impressed with the firm's professionalism and portfolio and selected them to design the residential plans for Mirada even though he had not worked with an out-of-state architect before.

"We recognized that both the distance and our unique climate could present a challenge to a non-local architect," says Wilson, who says that he brought the West Coast-based team Florida several times to tour his other projects so that they could get a feel for his market. "It was important that they were willing to rely on us, as the builder, to let them know what our buyers would accept."

London Bay Homes' in-house design group, headed by architectural design manager, Ron Manzo, worked closely with Scheurer's team to evaluate their designs as well as to communicate variations in materials and construction requirements between the two states.

The entire team met monthly throughout the year-long design process. "Because we were bringing in people that were not local," says Wilson, "these meetings were exceptionally intense and productive. We worked hard to get as much accomplished as possible each time."

"Face-to-face team meetings are essential for any project," says Scheurer, "and in this case, it was even more important. Everyone looks at the same project in a slightly different way.

"It's important to get the whole team together in one room on a regular basis because each discipline brings a unique perspective to the process."

Hurdles & Outcome

From the outset of the project, says Wilson, it was critical for the architect to keep in mind the significant differences between designing and building a home in Florida, as opposed to California.

"While stick building is the standard method of construction for the West Coast, we use more block construction here. And, because of the possibility of damage from the high winds associated with hurricanes, local codes require much different methods of joining the roof to the walls."

Another key issue that had to be considered was the vast difference in climate between the dry California weather and the heavy rains of South Florida, according to Garnil.

"Extra precaution needed to be taken to protect all doors and windows from the possibility of extremely heavy rainfall and high winds.

"Windows and doors had meet local hurricane codes and outdoor circulation spaces had to be covered."

In addition, extra storage space had to be incorporated into the design for securing outdoor furniture and equipment during storms. "All of the stuff on the patios has to go somewhere during a storm. The home literally has to be able to seal itself up," says Scheurer.

"Because we were dealing with an out-of-state construction site," says Scheurer, "we also had to create much more complete sets of construction drawings so that we could minimize questions in the field."

"Although the design process for this home did take longer than normal," says Wilson, "you have to take into account that we were working on several models at the same time. In the end, the care that we took will simplify things down the line, not only as these plans are customized for each buyer, but also for future projects."

The home was completed in December 2004.

Author Information
Ann Matesi, is a graduate of Marquette University's College of Journalism and has over 20 years of production and writing experience for the residential construction publishing industry.


Builder's Luxury Model Home

Style of Home: Mediterranean

Location: Naples, Fla.

Total Square Footage: 5,460 sq. ft. (air conditioned); 7894 sq. ft. (total)

Estimated Market Value: $3.2 million; $4.62 million (furnished)

Architect: Scheurer Architects, Newport Beach, Calif.

Builder: London Bay Homes, Naples, Fla.

Interior Design: Romanza Interior Design, Naples, Fla.


Design Flexibility Promotes Custom Personality

Architect Mark Scheurer's design for this home utilizes the entire lot by "breaking the living spaces apart, spreading them out, and then linking them again using covered outdoor living space," he says. "Its flexibility just lends itself to revision. You can literally take this plan and do nothing but re-label the rooms to change the function of the spaces."

"While we are not intending this to be a 'free for all' by the client," says Wilson, who recognizes that his market desires a residence that is extraordinary, in terms of finish and personality, "we do provide numerous structural options and can easily add or delete rooms depending on what they want. We also have put together a vast selection of very high-end options for our clients to select from. In the end, no two homes will be alike."

"Our ultimate goal for this project," says architect Mark Scheurer, "was to create designs that provide all the cost and scheduling benefits of production construction but have the look and appeal of a custom home for a market that wants it now, wants it fast. We pride ourselves on being able to design homes that feel a lot larger than they are. We can make 5,000 square feet feel like 8,000."

Scheurer Architects developed four unique floor plans and three different elevation styles for the luxury homes that London Bay Homes is offering to discriminating, secondary home buyers at Mirada, and is currently working on several more, according to Jennifer Hjalmquist, director of marketing for the builder.

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