Key West Home Combines Modern Style With Tropical Landscape

Architecture, interior design and lush, tropical landscape harmoniously come together to bring a touch of modern style to Key West


When an outdated Key West home in dire need of renovation caught the eye and imagination of one couple, they turned to interior designer David L. Smith for consultation. “I think I shocked them when I suggested tearing it down and starting anew,” Smith says. “But they mulled it over, assembled an amazing team and jumped in with both feet.” The result is this truly iconic Key West tropical modern home that dazzles.

From the moment the gate opens, it becomes apparent that indoor/outdoor living is a priority for this residence with its harmonious architecture, design and landscape that beckon guests to traverse the pool’s stepping stones to the front entry. Key West-based architect Haven Burkee, partner at Bender & Associates, designed clean open lines within the home that are reflected by dynamic geometry throughout the open-air spaces.

With a vast background in designing and rejuvenating homes in this highly sought-after area for more than 20 years, Smith opted for a simplified, modern design within a tropical setting. “Inside, our work was inspired by the couple’s impressive collection of fine art,” he says. “In general, I pair my client’s personal style of living with the unique character of the Florida Keys.” However, these new owners — he a modernist, and she a traditionalist — were stuck in opposing corners which created a unique challenge for the designer. With a mantra that asserts design is 20 percent decorating and 80 percent counceling, Smith’s negotiating skills prevailed, allowing both sides to claim victory.

Outside, indigenous plants that act as sculpture and an abundance of Florida sunshine provide the perfect setting for lush gardens by Craig Reynolds Landscape Architecture. Tropical breezes flow while casual furnishings shape a social grouping on the floating lounge area … an ideal spot to kick back and enjoy Key West’s glorious sunsets at day’s end.

FD Miami: What is your design philosophy?

Smith: Our style is laid-back and relaxed, just like our island. Even when we’re creating something modern and dramatic, it has to be a welcoming environment that is centered around comfort first. Key West is a friendly, social town that loves to entertain, so our work has to lay the foundation for that lifestyle.

FD Miami: From where do you draw your inspiration? 

Smith: I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel extensively with my work. Experiencing unfamiliar cultures and surroundings has provided me with alternative approaches to my design work. I’m more willing to take a chance on something unconventional as a result of seeing the world and all the diversity it offers.

FD Miami: What influences your work today?

Smith: All the things that surround us here in Key West on a daily basis: turquoise waters, perfect sunsets and lush tropical gardens. We have an ideal backdrop for tropical modern design. In whichever direction we take a project, you will always see the influence of our island represented.

FD Miami: Do you have a favorite decorating source?

Smith: I obsess over textiles, fabrics and rugs. Our swatch library is completely out of control. However, nothing is more exciting to me than when I step off a plane in an exotic place and go on a treasure hunt. We always stumble upon unusual found objects that we try to repurpose into something functional for a client.

FD Miami: What is your signature trademark?

Smith: I rely heavily on the editing process … if you remove the clutter, you can emphasize the important, thoughtfully chosen pieces that contribute to the overall design statement.

Story Credits:

Interior Photography: Barry Fitzgerald, Richmond, VA

Exterior Photography: Tamara Alvarez, Key West, FL

Text: Kim Mosley

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