Soften Your Modern Home Using Natural Elements

Who: Stephanie Halfen of SDH Studio
Where: Aventura, Florida
In her own words: “I love watching a structure rise from the ground and reach for the sky.”

Modern architecture is hot in Miami, and so is the climate. If you’re seeking sleek lines, lots of glass and a home that fits on a small urban lot, you’ll want to look at design concepts to help manage sunlight, as well as wind and water from the region’s tropical storms. “You need to integrate your architecture with your landscape,” says Stephanie Halfen, the founder of design-build firm SDH Studio in Aventura.

client_14_Southwest_Ranches - SDH_STUDIO

Life in the tropics. While studying residential design in Caracas, Venezuela, Halfen created homes for nearby El Avila National Park. “I was able to develop innovative ways to live in a tropical environment,” she says. She went on to teach design. When her family moved to Miami in 2009, she designed their home and homes for friends. “I love helping people explore possibilities,” she says.

475 Center Island Drive - SDH_STUDIO

Design for all seasons. Building in South Florida means following extensive building codes designed to prevent flood damage and protect from hurricanes. “The lots in Miami are not huge, so you really have to make everything work,” Halfen says. To maximize livable space, orient your home to the lot and the light, and design for the weather and the seasons, she advises.
Halfen offers the following tips to help you enrich your modern home with natural beauty.
 

480 North Parkway - SDH_STUDIO

1. Integrate the Interior and Exterior
If you can create an easy flow between the inside and outside of your home, you can enjoy a much larger living area. “The idea is to maximize your outdoor living space and then create indoor-outdoor integration,” Halfen says. “In Miami, it’s not usable if you don’t have shade.”
She shaded the patio of this contemporary Golden Beach home using a wall lined with ipe, a natural wood that resists heat, sun and moisture. Glass doors and windows give the feeling of one large, unified living space. A key to making this work, Halfen says, is to ensure that the area has southern exposure: “The sun is overhead at midday in the summer, with the roof providing shade, but in the winter you are getting light.”

2. Choose Natural Materials
Modern means more than just concrete, glass and bright accents. Your urban home can draw inspiration from the natural world around it. You can soften the lines of a modern building using materials such as wood and textured stone. “Your home should feel like a home,” Halfen says. “Natural materials bring warmth to the house.”

For this home in Bal Harbour, she used ipe on an exterior wall and cedar on the eaves, staining the two durable outdoor woods so they matched. The hurricane-proof front door is mahogany, another tropical hardwood with an attractive grain. Instead of a concrete slab driveway, Halfen installed a lattice of pavers and grass that drains well and helps prevent flooding.

3. Capture Indirect Light
Take advantage of Florida’s bountiful light by designing your home with open space and large south-facing windows. While generous roof overhangs protect your rooms from direct sunlight, indirect light can fill the house during the day. “Indirect light is environmentally friendly and it gives character and warmth to your home,” Halfen says.

She designed this Boca Raton home with double-height windows to give the client maximum light. “If you design with a southern exposure, you may not even need to place shades or curtains in the windows,” she says. “This gives you a very clean look.”

This story was written by the Houzz Team.