The Architect's Eye
Avoiding shortcuts and quick fixes, Miller kept his eye on design.
Making the vision a reality: the architect and the crew discuss his plans as work begins.
The final two shoot days in Key West were a bit like being in a sculptor's studio. But instead of marble chips flying away to reveal the figure beneath, piles of wood, table saws and painter's drop cloths were gradually cleared from the jobsite, leaving an unobstructed view of what homeowner/architect Michael Miller and his crew of crafts people had wrought.
What was left was a deft transformation of the former structure into a cool, crisp and comfortable home. The difference between the two was design. Where the earlier building had been a rather awkward marriage of the original Conch captain house—with its formal layout and classical touches—and a long, narrow, one-room addition ringed with a rustic porch, this new space was unified, tied together in both massing and detail.
In varying degrees of loquaciousness, nearly everyone on the site observed how good the place looked and felt. A neighbor stood in the middle of the new great room, with its high pyramid of a ceiling, and marveled at the vistas. Behind her, through a back wall perforated by three sets of French doors, flickered the blue and green beauty of the landscaped pool, itself framed by the luminous, high-ceilinged, newly-painted back porch. To the left, a wall with a big piece of art separated her from the tautly efficient galley kitchen. To the right, a flood of late afternoon Key West sunshine came through the wavy old-fashioned glass of the new dining room windows, making the antique heart pine floor glow. And straight ahead, the vestibule gave up views through its three doors: into the dark wood cabinetry of the library, the warm tile shine of the entry hall and the soft, cool upholstery of the master bedroom.
To her and to us, it was clear that the architect had done a great job, and we were reminded of just how important an architect is when a house is being built or remodeled. In the mad rush to finish the job, Miller had kept his eye on a clear vision of the final result, avoiding shortcuts or quick fixes that would have compromised that vision. That care paid off in the end result. "You don't need an architect to do a project," says Miller. "But what we can bring is a sense of distinction—in siting, in proportion, in keeping out thick-thumbed details, in the sheer beauty of the damn thing."