Expert Design Insights for the Guesthouse

Charlotte Dunagan, Tom Diverio, and Brittany Farinas reveal their signature approaches when it comes to the guesthouse


Based in Coral Gables and led by Charlotte Dunagan and Tom Diverio, the Dunagan Diverio Design Group boasts some of South Florida’s most impressive estates in its portfolio. Its winning approach? Timeless understated elegance that delights all senses.

Do you tackle guesthouses very often?

CD: Yes. Most of our clients have guest accommodations, which is one of the perks of owning a palatial home.

Is there a particular way you approach these parts of an overall project?

TD: Often, these structures are smaller versions of or a nod to the larger home’s architectural design and style. Both are personalized and indulgent experiences for guests with attention to every detail. 

What’s the one thing you always keep in mind with an ADU? 

CD: The high-end guesthouse provides a sumptuous and indulgent experience with emphasis on comfort and privacy. [The one you see here offers a] five-star hotel suite approach. The furnishings are attractive and comfortable while the walls proudly display the owners’ fine art collection, both reproducing the same ambiance as the main home. 

How important is the architectural/design relationship between the guesthouse and the main property?

TD: Crucial because it sets the overall aesthetic and functional tone for the property. A harmonious design relationship ensures that the guesthouse blends seamlessly with the main house. 

What did you know about how the guesthouse we see here would be used?

CD: We knew the wife had extended family from abroad who visit regularly for long periods of time. Those guests prefer private accommodations with ample living space and high-end amenities. 

Did that make a big difference?

TD: Very much so. Knowing that informed all our decisions. 

At House of One in Wynwood, principal Brittany Farinas has quickly cultivated a devoted following thanks to spaces that are reflective of Miami and its tropical elegance.

Is tackling the design of a guesthouse a chance for you to try something different?

Yes! We’ll take much more risk with a guesthouse than we would in the main property. Just like we would design a powder room, a guesthouse needs to have interesting elements to serve as a great experience for guests.

Give us some examples.

We’re not afraid of including fun and bold moments, whether that comes from the artwork, wallcoverings, paint color, or furniture choices. Playing it safe is out of the question.

What are the main points you consider before starting work?

Understanding how the space will be used is always the starting point. Once we nail the space plan, it’s time to bring the personality into the design. This will come from a combination of inspiration from our ideas, the client, the architecture, and any other related elements within the scope of
the project. 

How do you address privacy in cases where the guesthouse is very close to the main residence?

There are many ways to address privacy in a guesthouse that may differ from the way we would typically do so in a main house. For example, the use of screen partitions, drapery, and glass can be implemented in a more fluid way. 

What can you tell us about the design direction you took for the guesthouse we see here?

We went with a midcentury-eclectic aesthetic by layering in bold pops of color and pattern to a neutral palette. The goal for this project was to create an oasis for the client that felt lived in and well-traveled, with colors that evoke feelings of peace and happiness.

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