In her most recent book for Rizzoli, The Tropical Cottage: At Home in Coconut Grove, Beth Dunlop explores the characteristic style of Miami’s most-loved neighborhood. Here, she calls out smart and beautiful design ideas from its pages that any of us can incorporate. If you wonder whether seriously upscale houses can offer design ideas that will work for you, consider Dunlop’s own perspective. “When you write about architecture and design, most everything you look at bears the imprint of a professional, and is expensive,” she says. “And much as I admire what I write about, it’s really a look-but-don’t-touch situation. I’m not part of the One Percent! Yet I tenaciously cling to the idea that good design, and more importantly, meaningful design, is not an elusive goal. We can all get there!”
Make your mark
Distinguishing your entry way in a manner that anyone passing by can see helps you put your best foot forward in a neighborhood. Says Dunlop, “This front gate with the cutout palms tells me so much about the way we should live — in a neighborhood. You know immediately that gate doesn’t mean “keep out,” but rather “come in!” It’s a simple personalization (though I myself would probably have to beg a friend who’s handy with a jigsaw to do it for me) that opens up the possibilities of place, and begins to make a house into a home.”
Display collections proudly
When we bring collections out from enclose cases or down from high-up shelves, we live more intimately with them and create conversations with our guests about them. “What I loved most about doing this book was seeing the artistic imprint so many of the homeowners were able to put on their houses,” Dunlop says. “I love a house that can tell a good story, and so often that story is of a life well lived in a house well loved. A collection of baskets from various world travels is just a collection of baskets until they are grouped together — then they become a design statement! They also offer a narrative, and an immediate insight into the homeowner.”
Paint bold strokes
Like a collection proudly on display, bold paint also gives immediate insight about the homeowner, as this kitchen with cabinets painted in bright colors does. “You know that this is a kitchen of good cheer, and you can only imagine the delicious, fresh meals that are prepared here. Color is a great communicator, and it is also a great spirit-lifter. And paint is cheap, too!”
A special thanks to Claudia Uribe and Rizzoli for the permission to use these beautiful photographs.