A Transitional Miami Home with Old Florida-Style


Transitional White Living Room with Dark Blue Accents

Interior designer Charlotte Dunagan used a lot of white in the house, but also utilized outdoor fabrics that can be easily maintained. “Sometimes there are several kids inside the house (not to mention a dog), so we designed with that in mind” said Dunagan.

Transitional Gray Exterior with Balconies

The Old Florida-style home was given a metal roof and generous balconies and porches. The design team experimented with several exterior paint colors to achieve the perfect shade. The site’s existing oak trees were supplemented with citrus trees, palms and flowering vines. Winding pathways allow the kids to ride their bikes throughout the yard.

Transitional White Kitchen with Rattan Barstools

The kitchen features custom cabinetry by Kirkwood Design Studio and leather-finished countertops from Opustone. Rattan barstools from Pottery Barn offer seating for casual dining. Sub-Zero, Miele, Wolf and KitchenAid appliances are ideal when preparing meals. The Hudson Valley Lighting pendants were purchased at Farrey’s Lighting & Bath.

Transitional White Dining Room with Herringbone-Patterned Rug

The dining room table, made for the owners in the Dominican Republic, centers Thomasville chairs. The custom, herringbone-patterned rug, conceived by designer Charlotte Dunagan, is from Niba Rug Collections. A Ralph Lauren Home chandelier from Circa Lighting lights the space, and lamps, also from Thomasville, flank a painting by Claude Dambreville.

Transitional White Family Room with Ceiling Fan

In the family room, custom sofas wearing Lee Industries fabric from Jalan Jalan lend a tropical vibe beneath a painting by Frank Louissaint. The sea-grass rug is from The Carpet Boutique.

Transitional White Sitting Area with Built-in Shelving

British colonial cane chairs by Drexel Heritage, a tufted ottoman from Thomasville and a pair of comfy lounge chairs from Bernhardt create a cozy conversation spot off the living room. The painting is by Jean Bernard Etienne.

Transitional Cream Hallway with Walnut Flooring

Crisp white millwork contrasts nicely with the hallway’s rich, wide-planked walnut flooring from Deco27.

Transitional Neutral Exterior with Hammock

The idea of a retreat tucked away in the canopy of oaks drew the owners to the property. Hammocks suspended from trees dot the grounds to provide shady points of relaxation for the family.

Transitional White Staircase with Dark Wood Banister

Stair Builders of South Florida fabricated the stairway.

Transitional Cream Bedroom with Tufted Headboard

The master suite features a bed with a tufted headboard by Bernhardt; J. Alexander bedside tables are from Brian Austin Collection. A Dalton shag rug from Pottery Barn provides softness underfoot.

Transitional White Bathroom with Custom Cabinetry

Polished counters from Opustone top custom cabinetry by Kirkwood Design Studio in the master bathroom, and a Waterworks sconce adds an elegant touch.

Contemporary White Trellised Pergola with Tropical Feel

Landscape architect Michael Sapusek created a trellised pergola, housing a spa that flows into the pool. To enhance the tropical feel, he then added plenty of greenery admired by the owners, including date and coconut palms. The outdoor furniture belonged to the homeowners.

When a Haitian couple who had been living in Cape Town, South Africa, decided to relocate to Florida, they were captivated by a lush, sprawling lot in South Miami that was dotted with towering old-growth oak trees. The original home no longer stood, so they intended to build their own—a sanctuary that would suit them and their three daughters, as well as extended family in Haiti, who would now be just a short flight away.

“This property has the most incredible oak trees that you can imagine, so the number one priority was having the largest windows possible,” says Charlotte Dunagan, who designed the couple’s interiors. “When relatives come, they come and they stay—with lots of kids—so they wanted something that was welcoming and fresh, and accessible so kids wouldn’t feel intimidated.”

The couple hired architect David Wearne Johnson, who specializes in designing modern homes in the Old Florida style, with horizontal siding, metal roofs, prominent front porches and wraparound verandas. He drew up plans for an expansive home and a detached two-bedroom cottage that would artfully tuck into the oak trees so none would have to be removed. “The layout is based on the Georgian square,” says Johnson, whose vision was executed by builder Frank Mackle. “You have an entry hall, which has an axis that goes through the house, with a secondary hall that is perpendicular and crosses it. So basically, you’re not walking through spaces to get to other spaces.”

Because the couple was still living in South Africa during the planning process—with the husband traveling the globe for business—Johnson e-mailed architectural renderings, and Dunagan mailed finishing samples for them to review. “We sent them a big box with tiles and wallpaper,” Dunagan says. “For the plumbing and lighting packages, we sent two binders full of pictures and descriptions.”

To ensure the oaks would be safe as construction began, landscape architect Michael Sapusek helped site the building. “I went around the house with a tall pole and instructed the trimming of the trees,” he says. “We actually notched part of the roof out in one area to receive a big tree limb because we didn’t want to cut it.” Sapusek then added a trellised sitting area by the pool and meandering paths on the property, so the kids can tool around on their bicycles.

In the spirit of Miami’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle, the kitchen opens to a large patio that wraps around the back of the house and overlooks the backyard and swimming pool. “The owners love to cook and wanted a big kitchen that was open to the family room, so the children could be nearby while they were preparing meals,” says Dunagan, who designed the crown moldings, fireplace surround, cabinetry and other millwork. “There’s no fluff to it,” she adds. “There are not a lot of curves, which creates this very sophisticated and understated elegance.”

The designer kept the furnishings simple as well, mixing Anglo-Indian pieces and slipcovered upholstery to create a feeling of comfort and ease. “Sometimes there are several kids inside the house (not to mention a dog), so we designed with that in mind,” Dunagan says. “We used a lot of white, but we utilized outdoor fabrics that can be easily maintained.” The slipcovered pieces have zippers so the covers can be removed and washed.

Though the palette is neutral, Dunagan relied on the couple’s collection of Haitian art to add touches of color and whimsy throughout the home. Meanwhile, Sapusek worked with the owners to create natural art. “Looking out of the bedroom, there are tree limbs everywhere, and we hung orchids in strategic places that can be seen when they look out the windows,” he says.

As serene as the home might be, it’s also wired to be whip-smart. “It’s a traditional home from all appearances, but it’s very high-tech behind all of the wall paneling and ceiling treatments,” says Mackle. “It’s got a full-blown home theater and home automation system, with lighting and air conditioning controlled from your iPad or smartphone. And there’s audio/video automation, so you can share data banks of movies from one central location to all the televisions in the house.”

The family moved nearly halfway around the world, but Miami is now feeling very much like home. “It was a big transition and an emotional time for them,” Dunagan says. “But the result gives them happiness and comfort.”

—Kimberly Olson