Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Key West Classic: A Vintage Beach House with Modern Curb Appeal

Search

Key West Classic: A Vintage Beach House with Modern Curb Appeal

March 24, 2020

Welcome to Key West, where a four-foot-high white picket fence is part of the everyday landscape. By law. “In Old Town, our historic architectural review commission has jurisdiction and you have to do the white picket fence unless they say you can do something else,” says Florida-based landscape architect Craig Reynolds. And why would they?

But if you’re a homeowner (or a landscape architect), cookie-cutter conformity might not be your idea of curb appeal even when a house is designated “historic.” Luckily there’s a design loophole that will allow you to stick out instead of fitting in: It’s called a monster banyan tree.

Photography by Tamara Alvarez, courtesy of Craig Reynolds Landscape Architecture.

Edging a walkway is low-growing wart fern (Phymatosorus scolopendria), a graceful ground cover that adds texture and a layer of deep green color to the landscape.
Above: Edging a walkway is low-growing wart fern (Phymatosorus scolopendria), a graceful ground cover that adds texture and a layer of deep green color to the landscape.

For a client who also lives in Denmark, the mandate was to make a new tropical garden and the two new wings that were recently added to either side of the house look as if nothing was new. (Key West architects Bender & Associates gave the new wings peaked roofs, to echo the silhouette of the original gabled roof.)

Next to a gnarled banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), a ruffled fan palm (Licuala grandis) that&#8\2\17;s native to the tropical South Pacific adds drama to the front garden.
Above: Next to a gnarled banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), a ruffled fan palm (Licuala grandis) that’s native to the tropical South Pacific adds drama to the front garden.

With a mature banyan tree to work around, Reynolds “really didn’t have to add a lot of extra plants. The tree really made the front garden.” Banyans are epiphytes that begin life in a host tree. As a banyan grows, its aerial roots look as if they’re dripping as they reach down toward the ground.

As for the new picket fence? When Reynolds designed it, “we gave the pickets flat tops as part of our response to the architecture.” As visitors walk through the gate, a brick path leads to the front door; on the left and right are gravel walkways that lead to the back garden and the swimming pool.

The running bond pattern on the front path continues into the backyard, where brick is used as coping on the raised lip of the lap pool, &#8\2\20;a major renovation of the existing pool,&#8\2\2\1; says Reynolds. &#8\2\20;The coping is so high that it becomes a bench to sit on.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: The running bond pattern on the front path continues into the backyard, where brick is used as coping on the raised lip of the lap pool, “a major renovation of the existing pool,” says Reynolds. “The coping is so high that it becomes a bench to sit on.”

Key West’s historic architectural review commission also requires swimming pools to be located on the back half of a property. “They’re trying to control how things look from the street,” says Reynolds.

For a clean, uncluttered look, Reynolds edged the brick path with Mexican river rocks and planted Aglaonema ‘Silver Bay’, with variegated leaves to pick up and reflect the filtered sunlight.

Near the master bedroom is a Pila Wall Mount Shower from Calazzo&#8\2\17;s outdoor shower collection.
Above: Near the master bedroom is a Pila Wall Mount Shower from Calazzo’s outdoor shower collection.
Rhapis humilis (slender lady palm) shields the pool and filters sunlight through its fronds.
Above: Rhapis humilis (slender lady palm) shields the pool and filters sunlight through its fronds.

“We crammed in a lot of palms around the pool area because the homeowner wanted it really full—he didn’t want to see a guest cottage that is behind the house,” says Reynolds. “He wanted it very full to look like a jungle; those fronds fall over the pool and you feel like you’re in a river somewhere.”

 Neoregelia &#8\2\16;Bossa Nova&#8\2\17;, a bromeliad with dark green leaves with silvery undersides, creates an understory for the palms. Behind the bromeliads at water&#8\2\17;s edge is Alocasia, known as elephant ears (a popular houseplant in nontropical climates).
Above: Neoregelia ‘Bossa Nova’, a bromeliad with dark green leaves with silvery undersides, creates an understory for the palms. Behind the bromeliads at water’s edge is Alocasia, known as elephant ears (a popular houseplant in nontropical climates).
Visible at right is the guesthouse, which has doors that open onto the pool. The homeowners &#8\2\20;specifically asked for palms to be planted there so you have to look through trunks to see the pool,&#8\2\2\1; says Reynolds.
Above: Visible at right is the guesthouse, which has doors that open onto the pool. The homeowners “specifically asked for palms to be planted there so you have to look through trunks to see the pool,” says Reynolds.

With palms and other tropical plants strategically sited on the property, the garden appears much larger than its true size. “It’s a typical lot, probably 100 by 100 feet,” says Reynolds.

See more of Reynolds’s work at Key West’s Secret Garden: A Modern Landscape for an Author’s Victorian Cottage. For more design ideas and growing tips for our favorite tropical plants, see our curated guide to Tropicals 101, including:

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0