At Ease

Texture, warmth and a true embrace of its waterfront setting make this Intracoastal home exceptional.

text John T. O’Connor
photos Myro Rosky

Instead of ignoring the angular lot they had to work with, the architect chose to play up the angles, enlivening the composition.

Rare is the home that is truly in harmony with its surroundings. For decades, new residential construction in South Florida has veered towards gargantuan, air-conditioned fantasies of mythical European origin or, at the other extreme, hermetically sealed white boxes. The home on these pages took the road less traveled, fulfilling ISLAND’s goal of unveiling places that reflect and revel in our spectacular location.

Recently completed for Laurence Combrouze, a woman who is managing partner of Delta Lighting, the Intracoastal-facing home was designed to meld seamlessly with its waterfront surroundings. This house embodies a contemporary, ‘only-in-South-Florida’ aesthetic, one to which we are drawn. To discuss this home, we met at first with its architect, Ruben Jimenez of R Method, then with Alessandro Potenti and Nick Terziev of Double P Construction to discuss the process.

ISLAND: The façade seems to tell anyone approaching: “This is not the white box which has become ubiquitous over the past decade… there is more going on here.” The house has a visual weight… a connection to the earth, doesn’t it?

RUBEN JIMENEZ: Exactly. The house is intended to be Tropical Modern using a palette of raw materials and colors. Its dynamic massing was achieved by utilizing the angles dictated by the property’s tapered shape. We allowed the juxtaposition of these angles to articulate interesting architecture and create unique spaces.

The pool and sunken lounge stretch from just outside the living room, past the house and towards the Intracoastal. Stacking glass sliders, when pushed aside, expand the liv- ing space almost exponentially.

Entering into the house, it’s apparent the design tips its hat to the best of the Modernist era greats like Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson and Paul Rudolph. So much of this house seems to have expanded on and perfected ideas like the floating staircase.

Wow, I’m humbled by your comparison here, thank you! This three-story cantilevered-tread staircase is a key element in the home’s design. The open stairwell, of course, makes evident the residence’s tri-level height, but it also acts as the node for the design’s massing angles.

The interior is absolutely alluring, without veering into opulence. But it’s not until you push away the stacking sliders in the living room that the home’s celebration of its prized, waterfront setting becomes fully apparent.

Well, as you can see, this home was designed to offer real, inside-outside connections. The client wanted an intimate, covered outdoor space surrounded by water and lush landscape. The solution was a sunken lounge within the covered patio intertwined with the pool design. Once seated in the sunken lounge, your eye-level view of the pool’s infinity edge blends seamlessly into one tranquil backdrop with the Intracoastal.

Leisurely spaces open directly to the sheltered pool and its fireplaced lounge.
One of the home’s Intracoastal-view bedrooms, with minimalist detail.
The kitchen is intentionally darker, with exposed wine storage.

Even the bedrooms in this house have a satisfying yin and yang, a headboard wall boasting a surface of rough concrete, while facing a wall of sliding teak screens hiding closets. No paintings on the walls, just the Intracoastal views as art.

Unique architecture is possible when a great team comes together. We were given the privilege of working with a great client. Her lighting industry background and eye for design brought another level of positive design feedback during the architectural design phase. The client and R-method were able to complement each other with great ideas through all phases of the project. Her exquisite taste was the driving force, inside and out. We also had a great contractor by our side on this project. Double P and their construction team took special care in the execution in the multitude of details and particulars that came about in this very unrepeatable design. The coincidental architect/client/general contractor team for this project was very atypical and the final result of that successful collaboration, I think, is very much evident.

ISLAND: Double P Construction has built some absolutely stunning homes, including some excruciatingly exacting minimalist homes in recent years. When responsible for such exacting detail how do you get it so consistently perfect?

NICK TERZIEV: Well, we take pride in understanding our client, their visions and we always try to collaborate to find the best execution of work that will stand the test of time. Sometimes the client leaves all the design and aesthetic decisions to the architect.  In this residence, the owner was making those final design decisions. This meant that both myself as well as Double P field and office staff were working with the client at all hours of the day and night to get the details just right, with the help of our various artisanal craftsmen. Ms. Combrouze also worked diligently with us to get the lighting details executed for optimal effect.

Steps of a “floating” staircase seem to emerge organically from textured stone walls.

Even though in a job like this the architect is responsible for design, there seems to develop –– on rare occasion ––  a synergy between the person who put ideas on paper and the team that has to make sure those ideas come to fruition..

Oddly enough, this project became a symbiosis just like that… All teams working together to perform the job within a budget for the outcome we see today. Originally, the job cost was much higher, and we were able to greatly reduce this by using alternate methods of construction and design, saving over 20% of the original design cost. Having an architectural background helps us understand and respect the designer’s intentions, while years of construction experience helps us find ways to save without compromise of that final design.

Now that this project has come to life, what part of the residence makes you most happy and why?

When the project first came to us, we knew the pool was an integral ––  and complex –– part of the design. Due to the complexity of the elements coming together, we employed Tim Van Kirk and the team from Van Kirk Pools to assist. Van Kirk’s designer, Mark Crew, Laurence, and I had several meetings designing the pool to get the details just right.

The intent was to stand inside, look out across the lounge and give the effect that the water of the pool and Intracoastal merged into one element. All of this was rendered to allow Laurence to see what the final outcome would look like. The final photograph taken from the living room looking out across the lounge with gas lanterns and fire feature in the pool is nearly identical to our rendering. A testament that we were able to make what was essentially a dream design a constructed reality, not only for the pool, but the house as well!