Design HOME — 29 June 2013
Backyard sanctuaries: Outdoor design chic



We love outdoor living. Swimming. Cocktails by the pool. Al fresco dining. Reading in the shade of a tiki hut. It’s no wonder we want our outdoor living spaces to look as chic as our indoor design.

Forget the old ideas of scratchy outdoor fabrics and uncomfortable furniture. Seating is deep and comfy. Fabrics can mimic anything we use indoors – such as chenille or damask – and they stand up to sun, heat and humidity. Attractive outdoor kitchens have made the solitary barbecue grill seem so 20th century. And a fire pit is becoming the new must-have even in South Florida heat.

Four designers show us their interpretations of the “Great Outdoors.” Come with us, and get inspired.



When Dan and Loretta Forer bought their small three bedroom, two bath house in South Miami, it was the property, not the building, that made her see the potential for a haven they never would want to leave.

They walked to the back of the 20,473-square-foot lot past an interesting kidney-shaped pool and little formal landscaping. Her vision transformed the home and outdoors in three stages with tropical plantings, an outdoor kitchen, a chickee hut and a series of 28 French doors that opened on to a covered space for outdoor entertaining.

The goal was to make this a great outdoor party house and to make the Forers feel as if they were outside when they were inside.

“The only time Dan wasn’t shooting was over Christmas so we would rent a house in Key West through New Year’s,” she says. “I hated leaving those houses. I wanted a house I didn’t have to leave. I wanted our house to be Key West.”

Her idea for a fountain in the existing pool came from the Marquesa Hotel in Key West. She bugged the owners for their source and she creatively used the fountain upside down so it looks like a curved spray of water that flows into the pool. The brightly colored Spanish tiles surrounding the pool interior were replaced with a subtle blue tile. The Chattahoochee pool decking was covered with wood decking and a walkway.

She created a lush, tropical landscape with travelers palms, staghorn ferns, hibiscus and bougainvillea. But Hurricane Andrew had other plans.

“Nothing was left,” she says. “I was screaming. I looked anorexic and couldn’t eat. I started working on cleaning the garden and found bags and bags of beer bottles and a horseshoe. When I found the horseshoe I had an epiphany: We have to stay here and I have to put everything back.”

She redid the garden and kept that horseshoe, which she hung over the front door. But she apparently hung it upside-down. A friend told her if she wanted good luck she should hang it with the ends pointing upward. She complied and is thrilled with her version of Key West in South Miami.

“I told myself that when this design was finished I would never rent a house in Key West again,” she says. “We never have.”



Jack Fhillips has a reputation for designing homes with a tasteful aesthetic that never goes out of style. The lanai and pool seating he created on the north end of Palm Beach island defines his look.

The clients, who have other homes in Ireland and Majorca, wanted something comfortable and not too trendy where they could sit outside and relax. Fhillips gave them a design he describes as “unpretentious, unaffected and easy on the eye.” It looks like something you would see in a movie about an old-money family in Palm Beach.

The pool area is decorated with white Lutyens benches, a classic design inspired by 19th-century English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Fhillips, who has them in his own homes, describes them as classic as a white button-down oxford shirt. Around the pool, pink begonias are planted in white metal urns based on a New Orleans style.

“The whole house became blue and white,” he says. “From one end of the house to the other you don’t get jolted and shocked by color. I used different shades of blue throughout the interiors and brought out the crisp blue and white for the outside.”

The lanai is enclosed on three sides so he was able to use real wicker, not a synthetic facsimile. The two conversation areas are similar — one featuring an Indonesian table and the other a rope twist coffee table with thick bamboo legs. His favorite accessory is the old beat-up basket on the floor filled with old wood floats.

“That basket has more character and charm than anything,” he says.

“At times, we are all focused on everything being so perfect. There is something special in the imperfection of things. A chip or a ding gives it intrinsic value. I think it’s so sad that so many accessories are made out of resin. They are not real things. When you find something real it has tactile quality. It shows usage and weathering. It is real.”




William Wietsma’s snowbird clients hired him because he is an architect and a builder who could fulfill their vision of a house in Bermudian design with Flemish gables on a double lot in Gulf Stream. Wietsma’s company has designed and built 26 homes in Gulf Stream and it gave the Gulf Stream Golf Club, which was designed by Addison Mizner, a facelift.

“The husband is a builder in Virginia and he was very particular about quality,” Wietsma says. “We worked on the project together. We went through how they entertain and how they live.”

They entertain a lot so the outdoor covered area has dining and two conversation areas with teak furniture that the owners selected. All the main spaces – the family room, kitchen, dining room, living room and master bedroom — open up to the lanai. The small cottage facing the pool and hot tub has an outdoor kitchen with granite countertops and a dining area. Behind the door is a cabana bath. An artist painted a trellis design on the walls.

The pool, which has a hot tub, was designed with scalloped edges, blue tile to match the water and a cast stone from Herpel on the coping and deck.

“In our designs, the outdoor living spaces are as important as the indoor spaces,” he says. “People have been coming to Florida for over a century to be able to enjoy a tropical lifestyle. Our goal is to create a sanctuary for our clients that encourages relaxation, conversation and socializing.”




When Joseph Fava’s clients bought their 12,000-square-foot home in Jupiter’s Bears Club, they started by renovating the master bath and bedroom and then they wanted to add another 6,000 square feet. The wife is from California so they moved into the Beverly Hills Hotel for four months while the work was completed.

“They entertain a lot and four of their seven children live there full time,” Fava says. “They spend a lot of time outside and wanted something that was very cool and different. They wanted the design to flow well while they entertain.”

Not only did they expand the house, they also wanted a larger pool. This desire translated into filling in the old pool and creating one with a beach entry, a grotto and a hot tub surrounded with a pebble finish. Landscaping was redone to provide privacy to the property, which faces the golf course.

The wife liked the combination of red and brown, which was used to upholster the dark woven furniture. Fava selected mixed media for the furnishings adding stone and metal to the woven materials.

When cleared out for parties, the area can hold up to 60 people and 10 to 12 tables under the covered space. Their parties are legion. One time they covered the pool with Lucite for dancing and held a disco party. All the children were born around the same time so they have a combination birthday party outdoors that Fava helps them create. Themes have included a safari, animals, trains and a carnival.

One of the outdoor covered areas outside the master bedroom and home gym includes a fire pit surrounded by comfortable woven chairs.

“Two couples can have cocktails and enjoy the fire or the clients can sit outside and read,” he says. “It created a private area for the husband and wife.”

Fava says he is doing more fire pits, not for the warmth as much as for the ambience. And more people want to dine al fresco in their homes like they do in restaurants on Lincoln Road in Miami and Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.

“What we try to do is make the inside spaces flow,” he says. “Typically the design is an extension of the interior style and color palate. People are just looking for an interesting space. They like a variety of materials and they want comfortable fabrics that they can lounge on in a bathing suit and not feel scratchy.” λ



Joseph Fava: Fava Design Group, 7636 NE Fourth Court, #103, Miami, 786-536-5380,

Jack Fhillips: Jack Fhillips Design, 2611 Mercer Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-659-4459,

Loretta Forer: Loretta Forer Design Assoc., 305-775-0295.

William Wietsma: Wietsma and Lippolis Construction, 3100 NW Second Ave., Suite 404, Boca Raton, 561-274-4863,

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