In the World of Traditional Gables Homes, Innovation is all About Retrofitting with Smart, Modern Interiors
Walt Disney was fond of saying that the Carousel of Progress was his favorite attraction. This theatre-in-the-round with robot actors – originally part of the New York World’s Fair in 1964 – is today located in the Tomorrowland section of the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. Walt wanted the Carousel to portray the American family going through the 20th century, experiencing all the wonders of evolving innovation and technology – from the new electric bulbs of the 1920s to the voice activated appliances of today.
Disney said he loved the attraction because it embodied two things that he considered paramount: the American family and the idea of progress. We still hold those values dear in the City of Coral Gables, where home life has become increasingly central in the time of the pandemic. And if our world is now more home-inward than ever, we may as well make the most of it with innovative spaces.
So, what do we mean by innovation when it comes to the home? There are really two answers to that. The first is in terms of design, the second is in terms of technology. “For me, home innovation means the change toward more open spaces,” says Juan Poggi of Gables-based Poggi Design. “Little by little we are going to floor plans where everything is open and integrated, so that you use your entire home.” Poggi says the days of the isolated kitchen are over, for example, and that innovate design connects that space with other rooms, such as the dining or living room. “We have more areas now where you can interact with the family… There is a communion now among families.”
Another aspect of innovative design is seamlessness – that everything is hidden behind panels that are themselves sleek and free of handles or protruding hinges. On the technology side, innovation means linking it all together so that the homeowner has remote control over everything from audio and lighting to temperature and security. “Innovation means technology, and installations where you don’t know it’s there,” says Spencer Hauldren, the founder and managing partner of Acoustic Architects.
Hauldren’s firm has retrofitted numerous Gables homes, as well as engineered complete installations for new homes, installing high tech sound and security systems, and controls for temperature and lighting. “There is a lot of buzz in my space regarding health and wellness as it is related to technology – air, water and circadian light,” says Hauldren. “But the most important system in any home, when we are talking about innovation, is having a robust, wireless backbone throughout.”
With that in place, innovation comes with the touch of a screen – and can be upgraded seamlessly. As the song goes in the Carousel of Progress: “There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day…”
To create this captivating living space, Gables interior designer Maritza Capiro focused on making it the centerpiece of the home. “It was designed with entertaining in mind,” says Capiro, “and what emerged is a functional and beautiful space where friends and family can gather.” The designer transformed every inch of the space, making way for a contemporary bar area, a series of futuristic light fixtures, and a quartet of punchy abstract artwork. But there is more to this redesign than meets the eye; Capiro also integrated state-of-the-art audio and video systems, as well as a streamlined automation system in the home. In-ceiling speakers were installed in the living room and throughout the other living spaces, and the lighting and air conditioning thermostats can easily be controlled by the touch of the homeowner’s iPad or cellphone.
MODERN NATURE DESIGN
The Ultimate Bureau
“We take space very seriously,” says Frank Rosell, one of the principals at StudioBecker. “Some people describe our designs as very James Bond, because a lot remains hidden… For me, it’s that we all have a little OCD, and we like things to be where they should be.” Being in the business of building and installing luxury installations, he says, “We feel that the ultimate luxury is not only that it looks [impeccable] but that it functions as such, and that you know where everything is, in order.”
StudioBecker is also fanatical about details for the kitchens, wall units, wine cellars, closets, etc. they design and build in Germany. Even the insides of the drawers have veneers, not just the outsides, with engineering that can take 150 pounds of contents but glide open effortlessly. One of their installations – the dressing room bureau pictured here – has a cabinet that rises from a center console, revealing small shelves for everything from watches to colognes.
4216 PONCE DE LEON BLVD.
Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting stocks an enormous array of appliances, including the most advanced bathroom accessories, such as bidets with “smart toilet” technology and voice-enabled vanity mirrors (both by Kohler). But they are most excited by their Jacuzzi Arga Bath Collection, which provides a multi-sensory bathing experience. Controlled by a glass touchpad, the Arga bathtub combines the swirling water of a Jacuzzi with softly colored lighting “to evoke a warm embrace of well-being,” according to the good folks at Ferguson. Bathers can adjust the jet streams, the lighting and a blend of Epsom salts as their “Whisper+” technology allows bathers to hear only the peaceful sound of a slow-moving stream. “It does everything except your laundry,” says Peg Hall Williams of Ferguson.
FERGUSON BATH, KITCHEN & LIGHTING GALLERY
4119 PONCE DE LEON BLVD.
Back to the Future
Despite their namesake focus, “We can pretty much take on any room of the home,” says Julie Shvedyuk of California Closets. “It’s all about maximizing the use of space and organizing it so that it has the most efficient storage possible.” This can apply to not just closets, but to garages, bar areas, pantries, laundry rooms – or an office that wants to serve as a guest room.
“People are turning rooms into multi-functional spaces – a yoga space with an office, or an office space with a Murphy bed,” says Shvedyuk. A Murphy bed? Once popular in the 1950s, a Murphy bed disappears into the wall during the day, leaving the space functional for another purpose. California Closets custom-designs the shelving to fit existing or newly designed space.
CALIFORNIA CLOSETS MIAMI
SEVILLE OFFICE SUITE:
INSTALLED FOR BETWEEN $5,000 AND $10,000
MELAMINE, AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
When tasked with creating a bedroom and entertainment center for a teenage boy, Miami and Dallas-based interior designer Hillary Littlejohn Scurtis decided to channel a hip boutique hotel. “I was inspired by a screen that I saw in a yoga studio in SoHo in New York City,” says Scurtis, whose goal for the built-in cabinets was to hide a gaming console, processor and printer, while allowing for ventilation. What materialized were custom-made oak herringbone lattice panels, giving the setup an architectural flair.
According to Scurtis, another important aspect of the design was the choice to incorporate nano lights. “We positioned them in patterns at the room’s entryway and throughout the space,” she says, “and they became its principal source of color.” The coolest part? When music is played, the triangular panels illuminate in time with the rhythm, creating a personal light show.
DELTA LIGHT DELTALIGHT.COM
THE FUTURE PERFECT
HILLARY LITTLEJOHN STUDIO DESIGN
The Sleek Kitchen
“The options that we have are the finishes we offer, and the solutions we design,” says Scavolini USA’s national brand manager Daniele Busca. “We have very functional kitchens for small spaces, and we can build kitchens with a bar and a butler’s pantry. Thank God they have large kitchens in the Gables.” Busca says that yesterday’s trend toward dark colors has been usurped by a post-pandemic leaning toward light or white, “for something that looks clean and fresh and neat.”
This includes high-impact porcelain surfacing, which is easy to clean and comes in 25 colors. Bryson Cook, manager for Scavolini’s Gables showroom, says that part of his firm’s innovative approach to design is “minimalism without being stark.” No hardware is visible for drawers or cabinets, which integrates the handles into the design. Another innovative element is their use of reflective bronze glass in cabinets: when the recessed lighting is on, you can see what’s inside; otherwise it fades behind the reflective surface. Everything is built in Italy and custom installed for prices typically in a $30,000 to $60,000 range.
2600 PONCE DE LEON BLVD.