Text by Andrea Fanning
In the early 1900s, citrus groves and pine trees covered the land now known as Coral Gables, Florida. This acreage had been given to developer George Edgar Merrick by his father, and in the years that followed, Merrick assembled a team of talented artisans and invested millions to turn the area into an aesthetic masterpiece, complete with Spanish Mediterranean–style architecture. He then branched out and developed ensembles of villages with a range of diverse styles, including Chinese, Dutch, and Venetian. For his village with a decidedly French flair, he recruited Mott B. Schmidt—an architect known for Park Avenue designs popular among members of the New York social scene—who agreed to do this singular project for Merrick.
This French village is one of the historic districts of Coral Gables, and though most of the homes bear the marks of Merrick and Schmidt, one was built in the new millennium, an original by world-renown architect Jorge L. Hernandez. This professor and practitioner of architecture has built his career on creating designs that reflect the best of the past and present and that help shape communities for the future. So when ownership of the only remaining unbuilt lot in Merrick’s French village landed in the hands of a businessman who was ready to break ground, Hernandez was at the top of the list to design the structure.
“The townhomes in this area are exquisite,” says Hernandez. “The people who buy and live here are protective of the village, and justifiably so.” Though taking note of Schmidt’s work on a number of the existing townhomes, the architect did not want to mimic those structures. Instead, Hernandez incorporated other details inspired by French neoclassical architecture to ensure his plan would stay in harmony with the community. The architect and his team brought the structure to the sidewalk, following suit with the surrounding abodes and community standards. Artful landscaping by Miami’s Robert Parsley of Geomantic Designs, Inc., also helped give the structure a sense of place, purpose, and belonging among its time-tested neighbors.
Inside the home, the architect applied his signature finesse, tailoring living spaces to suit modern lifestyles while showing an honest appreciation for classical influence. Says Hernandez, “The home has French details and finery, but the plans are much more open than they would have been in a Parisian townhouse of the 18th century.” Light plays an essential role in the effectiveness of the expansive spaces, thanks to soaring windows and French doors that fill the abode’s extremities. Hernandez positioned each one for optimum illumination, including the window in the butler’s pantry that cleverly brightens the middle of the home. Such ingenious details, paired with a gourmet kitchen and luxurious baths, make the townhouse one of the village’s most captivating dwelling places.