Regional variations on International Style architecture helped evolve a subtly rich Midcentury Modernism in the United States. From William Wurster in San Francisco to Paul Rudolph in Sarasota, Florida, young postwar architects inventively adapted residential designs to particular climates and materials.

Jacob Brillhart, an architect and teacher, and his wife, Melissa, a trained architect, continue to improve on that legacy in Miami. The energy-efficient, one-story, 1,500-square-foot house that they built for themselves in the city’s downtown sits on a narrow lot amid towering oak and palm trees. Because the property is close to the Miami River, the firm, Brillhart Architecture, elevated the single story 5 feet off the ground to meet flood regulations. 

The most distinctive feature of the simple, pristine house is the front porch, where folding louvered shutters screen a 50-foot-long glass wall (repeated on the back, but without the shutters). The steel and glass structure incorporates a robust variety of woods: ipé for the exterior siding, fascia, and columns; red cedar for the shutters; and white oak and cypress for floors and decking—plus dimensional lumber for short structural spans.

Instead of resorting to reinforced concrete, as is popular in hurricane-prone South Florida, the couple decided to address building-code requirements and climate concerns in other ways. For example, they specified 9⁄16-inch thermal glass, much safer in high winds than the typical 1⁄16-inch glass used back in the heyday of Miesian pavilions. Icynene spray foam and rigid insulation prevent moisture buildup in the walls and the roof: even the elevated floor is formed of plywood, insulation, and plywood deck on top of 2-by-8-inch wood joists and steel beams.

Working with the technically improved materials for the one-story cottage, the couple not only stayed true to the nature of materials and vernacular architecture but also advanced the cause of Regional Modernism. And living in the jungle-like growth appeals to the couple. “ It just gets better and better,” says Melissa.


Owner: Jacob and Melissa Brillhart

Brillhart Architecture
25 SE 2nd Avenue, Suite 900
Miami, FL 33131

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Jacob Brillhart (Architect of Record) and Melissa Brillhart

Architect of record: Jacob Brillhart (Architect of Record)

Interior designer: Melissa Brillhart

Engineer(s): Zvonimir T. Belfranin (structural); Energy Sciences  Inc. – Esber Andiroglu (MEP)

Landscape: Brillhart Architecture

Lighting: Brillhart Architecture

General contractor: Jacob and Melissa Brillhart

Stefani Fachini – 305-333-9814
Bruce Buck – 212-645-1022
Jacob Brillhart 786-280-7769

Seiji Anderson, Renderbucket

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Autocad, SketchUp, 3ds Max

Gross square footage:

1,500 Sq.ft. (under AC); 2300 Sq.ft. with front and back porches

Total construction cost:


Completion date:

November 2014



Structural system
Steel/glass superstructure. Medley Steel (manufacturer)

Exterior cladding
Rainscreen: Ipe

Wood: Ipe (Shiplapped) for all siding, fascia, columns

Moisture barrier: Peel and stick roofing paper

Built-up roofing: Built up Asphalt Roofing

Glass: 9/16” Insulated Glass – Storefront Sliding Doors. ES Windows (manufacturer)

Entrances: 9/16” Insulated Glass - Storefront Doors. ES Windows (manufacturer)
Wood doors:16 Exterior Louvered Doors (built along the outer edge of the front porch  for added privacy and protection against the elements). Material: Western red cedar, purchased from Howell Logging.

Sliding doors: 9/16” Insulated Glass – Storefront Sliding Doors, ES Windows (manufacturer)

Locksets: ES Windows

Other special hardware:custom fabricated louvered door hinges

Interior finishes
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: American Cherry

American Cherry was used for all interior millwork - including door frames, interior louvered doors (designed to be the vented AC door and vented pantry door); bathroom and kitchen cabinets. 

The American cherry had been provided by Jake’s father and uncle, who had amassed an incredible stock of cherry boards over the years, which they bought at auctions and stored in their barn in New Hampshire. Jake and his father loaded up the wood and drove it down to Miami at the onset of the project, and we milled each piece of wood as was needed.

Jake and Melissa designed, built and installed all millwork.

Paints and stains:
Interior Walls: Benjamin Moore – White Dove
Bookshelves/Wall: Behr – Gentle Rain

Special surfacing: White Himalaya Marble – for kitchen countertops; fireplace surround- purchased from Marmol, Inc.

Cypress (select grade) decking for porches – purchased from Howell Logging

6" White Oak Floors  - throughout interior of house, except bathrooms – purchased from Tidewater Lumber

Grey/White Encaustic Cement floor tiles – Guest bathroom

24x24 Porcelain floor tile (Color Lavagna) – master bathroom

3x6 White Subway wall tile – guest and master bathroom

Downlights: 4” recessed lights throughout

Dimming System or other lighting controls: dimmers throughout