Don't follow the (Mediterranean) trends when it comes to home design

BY January 16, 2012

Photo by Ed Chappell; Mark J. Leonardi, architect.

Perhaps I’m a little biased, but I think I have the best job at this magazine (and maybe outside of it, too). This is because I spend my days shopping for pretty things (clothes, shoes and various baubles) and hunting for breathtaking homes (of which there are more than a few in Southwest Florida).

About a month ago, I wrapped up the third edition of Gulfshore Life At Home, which is essentially an homage to beautiful living. From its beginnings, it has bucked tradition a bit as far as the standard Mediterranean-style architecture found in this region, instead lending its editorial real estate toward those designs with cleaner lines, pared-down color palettes and an overall sleeker aesthetic.

The reason was not because it’s easier to find that style in Southwest Florida—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I have a heck of a time finding publication-worthy contemporary or modern homes to feature. (And I get irrationally excited when I do—like I actually get to live there myself or something. I wish.) Instead, I like to think we’re leading by example.

Before each issue of At Home, the editors and art staff sit down with our advisory board, which is made up of a mix of architects, interior designers and landscape architects whose work we really dig. (Yep, that’s pretty much our main criteria for selection.) Each year at these meetings, there’s much of the same dialogue among our design professionals—“If I see another behemoth wannabe Mediterranean castle going up, I’m going to ____.” And I agree. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with that style but because—in the same way that I dislike the idea of wearing the latest trends solely because it’s what everyone else is doing—it seems to be the standard choice for homeowners who don’t really have an opinion one way or another. It’s the default option. And I’m not really sure why. Because we’re in Naples, Fla., and we like to pretend we’re in Naples, Italy? How did that become the go-to?

Back to At Home. It is my goal, in part, to show that contemporary design doesn’t have to be cold or unwelcoming. (Sometimes it gets a bad rap for that.) The homes we feature prove that all it takes is some thoughtful design and choice of materials and colors to create a home that’s fresh, up-to-date and comfortable.

If you’ve come to Southwest Florida and you happen to love elaborate, wrought-iron, orangey-yellow-bronze-ness, well, you’ve hit the architectural jackpot. But don’t forget there’s a lot more out there than what we typically see lining Southwest Florida streets. No matter what you choose, if you’re lucky enough to build the home of your dreams here on our sunny shores, make sure it’s the home of your dreams—not your neighbors’.

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