Miami Green Homes

Best Miami Residential Architects list, March 2018 – ELA Studio/SEA @ #5

Excellent reference list by Miami Architects for their best residential architects list.

Thank you for the recognition. This is a great list with many esteemed colleagues. I am blessed and proud to be among them. Our quality and team approach really make every project great!


Ready to start your own project journey with ELA Studio?


Voyage MIA article – meet Sebastian Eilert

Thank you to Voyage MIA for the feature of the day! Nice to meet you, too.

What to do with a damaged wood fence from a Hurricane in Miami or South Florida.

A hurricane can leave much destruction in its wake, but even a small wind event may knock over some vegetation and fences.

Under the Florida Building code a permit is required to repair fences, so where to start? The good news is that after a strong wind event, such as Hurricane Irma, the governor has the ability to declare a state of emergency, as he did for Hurricane Irma. Besides federal aid, this status also allows municipalities to provide expedited permits for homeowners to get back to a normal stats of living.

Many municipalities accept a simplified permit application for simple items such as fences. Miami Dade has a standard detail that most municipalities will provide to homeowners to pull an “owner-builder” permit for minor repairs and replace missing sections of their standard wood fence.


wood fence

This detail is in compliance with the Florida building code and most contractors are familiar with this type of installation. In addition to the detail, you need a footprint of the home and boundary of the site, like an old survey. Mark or highlight the area of the fence to be replaced and provide the actual linear feet either as a side note or on a separate sheet. Make sure to reference the current building (as of this writing it the FBC 5th Edition) as the applicable reference code, again a simple note to be added to the plan.

Lastly some municipalities request an estimate of the cost of work. Get this from the contractor that is going to install the fence.


More damage than a wood fence? A permit will be required. Contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture to see how we can help. 305.253.5786



Design highlights. The Kitchen:

Kitchens are the number one request when looking to improve an existing home and are a vital key feature of any new design. New home projects allow to create kitchens as a feature of the overall style and are comparatively easy to design to the liking of the client.


L-shape kitchen with recessed refrigerator – design by Sebastian Eilert Architecture. More images from this project can be found HERE.

The larger challenge can be found in renovations and additions. In existing home projects, the kitchen typically represents the largest cost item, and the choice between working within the existing area versus potentially relocating the entire thing, is a first and important step to consider. A simple upgrade of finishes rarely is a viable option to bring an outdated kitchen to modern standards. Moving and removing walls to allow for an expansion typically require new plumbing and electrical work. Next are the selection of cabinet and countertop style and color. Styles are primarily defined by the doors and drawer faces as well as support legs, if applicable. Classic shaker, simplified shaker and smooth are some of the most popular choices. Look for our previous post on countertop options beyond the typical Granite.

As for the kitchen itself, the most common are L-shaped, island style, alley or a combination of them. Laying out a kitchen there are a couple of items to consider. In the design world we refer to the “kitchen triangle” as the relation between the refrigerator, the sink and the cooktop or stove; the 3 key items in preparing meals. These items want to relate in such a way that items can be moved, prepared and cooked without having to cross path with other users or long distances. Accidents happen, but when the sink and cooktop are at opposite ends, the probability increases for slips, drips and spills. Other items such as dishwasher, microwave, cleaning utensils and garbage, including separate recycling options, must also be located with thought. A kitchen is as much about looks as it is about function.


typical triangle relations for sink, cooktop and refrigerator.

In the design layout the next choices are whether to have an inward or outward facing kitchen. This depends on the user. Some users like to do their cooking in private and then turn around to entertain. Others prefer to see outward to keep a command center while preparing meals and more. Next, there is the question of incorporated seating; a wonderful functioning option. While the 80’s boasted raised bars to have family and guests peek into the kitchen, modern design is more likely to feature either a larger integrated seating area or a slightly lowered included section of the counter or island at table height.


kitchen with island and lowered seating/eating counter. glass and Quartz countertops – design by Sebastian Eilert Architectrure. More images from this project can be found HERE.

Lastly, there is the question of storage. When possible, a pantry is a great option to house food and other products. Installing a counter in the pantry also allows to get some smaller appliances off the main kitchen counter while keeping them in close proximity for use.

Whatever your choice, work with your design professional to create your dream kitchen. It is after all the heart of the home.

Furniture for (outdoor) Miami / South Florida

Miami is a trending town. South Beach and Brickell feature a plethora of high rises, one sleeker than the next; seeking cutting edge contemporary furniture to match. Other places historic charm calls for old world style and serene durability. Yet all of these styles still seek a unique place: the outdoors. Here the style becomes secondary and durability takes over. No matter the design, the South Florida outdoor climate is harsh. Heat and humidity provide minimal opportunity for protection as may be accustomed from northern more climates. What is outside, will slowly demise.


Designers have contemplated many solutions and each have their own success – and failure. Permanent installations out of concrete or keystone are frequently bulky and attract mildew. The latter can be easily cleaned and the essential shape and function of the design maintained. In some cases the aging by the weather may be intended as part of the design. One of the great long lasting examples can be found at Coral Castle (website).


Plastics and metals are typically deteriorating the fastest. They offer the most versatile designs, but at an environmental cost. Humidity really goes to town here and high design pieces are best kept conditioned when not in use.


Composite materials are another option popular with architects and designers. These materials are engineering to withstand extreme weather as well as mold and mildew. Most perform reasonably well. This approach has also grown popular with material choices for decks and patio finishes, as well as sleek 3D design elements and backdrops.


Lastly all natural materials such as teak and tropical hardwoods are a many designers favorite. These materials must be treated and maintained in order to continue to function and look as intended. Again the design intention may include a certain aging in place, but the functionality and structural integrity will be hard to maintain, even with selective rotting.

With many great examples that are picture ready when completed, maintenance and protection are key to ensure a long life for outdoor furniture in Miami.

Permits and board approvals! Miami overview and nuances…

Often referred to as the “necessary evil”, getting a building permit is a crucial part of any project. While the process may pose a considerable time impact, it is important to remember that the primary objective of a building permit is to ensure that safe structures are provided. Beyond the building code approvals, zoning codes also guide the local flair and style of many neighborhoods and cities. The check and balance of this process should instead be looked at as a safety net for the owner, to ensure that the hired license professionals are indeed doing their job – beyond just design.

SEA has been blessed with a plethora of approvals in the last weeks and we are celebrating alongside our clients;

The building permit process and requirements in the respective municipality are typically common knowledge, however some of the nuances that are required may not be completely known and can add substantial time commitment to the permitting process. Some of the more common approvals we help to obtain are the Coral Gables Board of Architects approval – a process that requires a preliminary and a full approval to present to a panel of volunteer architects, Historic board approval (typically in Coral Gables, Miami Beach and City of Miami) – and special Planning and Zoning approvals, such as the recent success in Miami Shores.


(Miami Dade County Building Permit Application)

Following are some typical permit applications available online in Miami Dade County; these must be singed and notarized by the respective parties:



Miami Beach:

Coral Gables:

S.E.A. awarded “Green Historic Preservation Award” by DHT for the Abbott Residence renovation & addition in Coconut Grove.

It is official:
S.E.A. was awarded the “Green Historic Preservation Award” by Dade Heritage Trust for the Abbott Residence renovation and addition in Coconut Grove.
Congratulations to the owner and the team. Thank you for this great honor!


Project Description:

The Abbott Residence is wonderful remodel and addition of a 1916 Grove house located in Coconut Grove. The original estate consisted of a two story residence with extension to kitchen, converted garage and maid’s quarter above, as well as a free standing guest house across the yard. The main building was erected with structural oolitc limestone. The building has a full basement with a concrete cistern that seemed to have been used for the adjacent grove.

The project addition includes a connecting covered breezeway to the guest house. The guest house was enlarged by converting a late addition to match the original roof line and finish. An outdoor BBQ area was also added to the guest house. Since the original garage was converted, a new 2 car trellis carport was added as well as an enlarged and improved entry to the main house. Finally a new outdoor eating area was added outside of the existing kitchen featuring a trellis cover.

The renovation included a full upgrade to the kitchen, new second floor layout including a master suite and 2 additional bedrooms with a jack and Jill bathroom and overall upgrade of the remaining spaces. The project received a full upgrade to the electrical system, improved efficiency HVAC systems and new gas lines.

The project combined a number of my key principles and passions. The historic building and its character were well recognized and maintained throughout design. The addition blends with the original structure to improve the overall feel of the house and site. The traditional building style and proportions are typical for that area in the Grove and South Florida. Coral rock, lots of natural features, including large windows for cross ventilation mark the direction for design.

Project Challenges:

A key challenge to this project was the integration of materials to comply with current code. Items included specifically were the upgrade of the doors and windows. The structure consists of 16” limestone without additional reinforcing and boasts oversized windows and openings to allow for natural light and cross ventilation. Finding a Miami Dade approved window to fit the required size was achieved only in combination with a minor reduction on the opening at the ground level. Further, the anchor into the limerock structure to allow for required anchoring was achieved only with the use of 12” anchor bolts.

As with many historic preservation project, matching the existing style and character of the house requires certain decisions that bring with them an increased price tag. Keeping the overall project in budget while also staying true to the original design and construction of the house was a major challenge.

During renovation, it was discovered that the roof had some damage. As a result, the entire roof was replaced with matching tiles to the original installation. Finding tiles that were compatible and within budget proved to be another challenge. The original chimney at the kitchen wing was structurally supported by the floor and as part of the redesign of the kitchen not feasible to be saved. A smaller version of the chimney was reinstalled to blend into the overall design.

The final challenge of the project was the site layout, landscaping and driveway. Being a rather large and very natural site, it was decided that the landscaping should blend as much as possible and that the driveway should be porous one rather than a solid material. The City of Miami did not initially approve a gravel driveway.


Green Features:

Beyond the green feature inherit by the project being a renovation and thus recycling the original building, there are a number of sustainable features that have been incorporated. The largest component and impact for energy savings was the replacement of all windows and doors. The original windows showed wear and leakage and were replaced with an impact energy savings option. Keeping the original size and location of the windows allow for maximum natural light as well as cross ventilation. This feature was especially welcome during the construction, before the installation of the new energy efficient HVAC units. Insulation was increased in the roof addict to improve the energy performance of the envelope. The interior features non toxic paint and adhesives. The existing wood floors were restored and refinished in the main house.

The site was predominately left undisturbed and native landscaping was installed to further enhance the beauty of the natural Coconut Grove site. The Driveway was lined with reclaimed brick pavers from a portion of the original driveway. Numerous outdoor living areas were added as part of the project scope, to include a new outside dining area at the main house and separate BBQ cover by the guest house. Car storage was designed as a trellis, rather than a garage to provide protection while reducing the amount of new material used as well as to integrate the new structure into the overall design and feel of the site.