A design-minded couple sets out to bring California mid century style to Fort Lauderdale.
How to bring the mid century spirit to a new build in Fort Lauderdale, Florida? Part of the allure of a Mid Century Modern home is the history that’s seeped deep into every corner. Trying to replicate that feeling can be a challenge when it comes to a new mid century-style build, and when that home also has strict rules about setbacks and it needs to be built to withstand a hurricane, well, that’s a challenge that’s not for the faint of heart.
None of that deterred Janie and John-Paul Micek of Studio 818 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As California transplants, the couple were intimately familiar with Mid Century Modern architecture and design. When they began looking at the homes in the city—seeking those with the openness, natural materials, connection to the outdoors and soaring rooflines mid century homes in Palm Springs are known for—they were stymied. Undaunted, they decided to build what they couldn’t find on the market.
Palm Springs to South Florida
“I’m obsessed with Mid Century Modern architecture,” reveals Janie. “JP and I met in California and we spent a lot of time in Palm Springs, and I just fell in love with the mid century architecture. I think I gravitate towards that when we’re looking at projects to take on.”
Janie designed the home with support from an engineer and, together with John-Paul, oversaw its construction in 2019. The 2,782-square-foot new build in the Wilton Manors neighborhood has been named “Midmod” and features three bedrooms and three bathrooms all under a cantilever-style roof that juts toward the sunny Florida sky.
The roof posed a significant challenge for Studio 818. Florida’s strict building codes are meant to ensure even hurricane-force winds do only minimal damage to structures. A traditional cantilevered roof didn’t pass muster, so Janie, in conjunction with engineer Gary Powell, designed a roofline that would mimic the roof floating above clerestory windows.
“Everything in south Florida has to be concrete and steel reinforced, with hurricane strapping,” John-Paul explains. “That roof structure was built with drop-in box trusses; then it was all hand-framed on the outside to give the illusion it was overhanging the perimeter.” Janie says, “We probably got a few snickers, but we knew we wanted clerestory windows, so we started investigating how we could make this happen. We knew it’s not going to be a mid century-looking house if we don’t do this, so we didn’t move on until we could figure it out.”
A detached garage structure also posed a significant problem for the couple. The original building was small and interfered with the ideas Janie and John-Paul had for the backyard landscaping including a pool. But tearing down the building would have meant having to set any new buildings back further off the property lines—space Janie and John-Paul just couldn’t spare on the narrow 50 by 125-foot lot.
“We basically rebuilt it but kept the same footprint,” explains John-Paul. “There’s now a guest suite at the back with the two-car garage. Putting the pool in was an architectural challenge because it was only two feet off the garage, but Janie was adamant about having the pool right up against it. It was a visual thing, and you can see it worked out very well.”
Tactile Elements of Mid Century in Fort Lauderdale
The visuals were important to the project, and considerable effort was put into the choice of materials. A support wall, which runs right down the center of the home and out to the exterior, was clad with a product known as shell stone. While the stone comes from a quarry in Spain, it’s a fitting Florida material.
The sleek wood panels on the front of the home aren’t wood at all, but a creative solution to Florida’s hot sun: they’re wood-look porcelain tiles by Coverlam.
“It’s fossilized shells. But you can see just the outline of the shell. It’s a stone that looks like it’s got crushed shells inside it, and it’s got a matte, satin finish,” says Janie. “Anybody that walks through the house can’t help but want to touch it.”
Naturally the fixtures and furniture were chosen to complement the finishings. A Sputnik light beckons visitors in the main hallway, while over the island in the kitchen Studio 818 wanted something that provided plenty of task lighting and still let the house shine during the day—and a light that wouldn’t compete with the neo-space age chandelier over the dining table. A minimalist, black, thin-line pendant from Sonneman fit the bill. “We wanted something very streamlined, that kind of disappears. Once you turn it on, the whole island lights up, but if you were to walk through the house without the lights on, you probably wouldn’t even know it was there,” Janie reveals. “It’s an awesome fixture.”
John-Paul and Janie say they feel like they achieved their goal to create a seamless flow between interior and exterior spaces so that the home feels like a part of the outdoors and vice versa. “We designed a hardscape that combines solid walls, breeze block, linear wood fencing, grade changes and varying materials to complement the architecture of the home and further reinforce the feeling of outdoor rooms. It’s also a nod to many Palm Springs Mid Century Modern homes that maximize privacy while creating a sense of openness from inside the property.”
For more on the challenge and rewards of a new build mid century style home, read up on Project House Austin. And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Atomic Ranch articles and ideas!