Comfort vs. Charm – Buying the perfect Miami Home based on Style

When buying real estate in Miami, especially in the older neighborhoods like Miami Shores, Coral Gables, Miami’s Upper East Side, or Miami Beach, you will have to make a decision on style.

I know the first question you get asked as a buyer is how much you want to spend (obviously your budget will determine what kind of house you end up buying); but buying a house is so much more than just the number of bedrooms and baths, the size and the price – buying a house that you will live in, needs to fit your lifestyle and comfort level.

I decided to write about the major features of the 3 main architectural periods common in Miami so that you know what to expect when you walk in a home.   I can go into a property without knowing anything about it and tell you the period it was built and when it was remodeled by features and materials.

If you, as a real estate buyer, can define what’s important to you, it will be so much easier to find the perfect property (especially because there are so many properties for sale right now).

Miami 1920

The 1920’s house (Spanish Mediterranean or Spanish influence) will usually have the most charm, although I cannot generalize that all 1920’s properties will have the same features, this is what you can expect:

  • High textured stucco walls
  • Open beamed ceilings and grand living rooms
  • Quarry tile and hardwood floors
  • Wood casement windows with copper screening
  • High ceilings
  • Formal spaces (formal living and dining rooms)
  • Smaller rooms and smaller closets
  • Archways – separate cottages and carports
  • Perimeter walls
  • Decorative columns – voluted columns, ionic or Corinthian orders.
  • Barrel tile roofs (sometimes Historic Cuban Tile) and flat roofs with high parapets and decorative drain spouts.

Miami 30

The 1930’s and 40’s home will usually be smaller in scale but will still have charm.  They do not have the same attention to detail as the 20’s predecessors, but are more readily available and usually a bit more affordable.

  • High textured stucco walls
  • May have open beamed ceilings
  • Smaller kitchen and bedrooms
  • Quarry tile not as decorative as the 20’s and hardwood floors
  • Sometimes linoleum in the kitchen
  • Bathrooms are less decorative
  • Usually have steel casement windows

Miami Mid-century modern architecture

1950’s (Mid-century Modern) is when the modern movement began and although these homes don’t have a lot of charm, they have a different feel all together.  They will be more comfortable and sometimes it’s difficult to decide between comfort and charm.

  • Big common areas – usually a Great Room with large spans
  • No formal rooms – open dining, living and family rooms
  • Bigger windows – picture windows for light
  • Large bedrooms
  • Long, horizontal clean and crisp lines
  • Big closets, lots of storage
  • Split bedroom plan with master on one side and the rest of the bedrooms on the other.
  • Floor Finishes will be Cuban tile floors or Terrazzo and hardwood.
  • Smooth plaster walls and ceilings
  • Corner windows in bedrooms are typical but not always present

When I work with buyers, I can tell from the first couple of properties, even if they have not identified their needs, what they are looking for.  Most people love the comfort of the Mid-century Modern homes, but sometimes feel the space is a bit sterile and prefer the warmth of the 20 and 30’s materials.

Some people really need closet space and although they love the charm and the details of Spanish Mediterranean homes, cannot make up their minds because closet space is usually limiting. I have been able to redesign homes for our buyers so that they can have all worlds, but you have to be open to remodeling and making some changes.

If you are in the market to buy a Miami home ask yourself, Comfort or Charm?

*article originally posted on April 6th, 2008*

6 thoughts on “Comfort vs. Charm – Buying the perfect Miami Home based on Style

  1. Rita – there are 3 homes pictured above, which one are you inquiring about?

  2. I’m looking for a house to buy. Right now I have several tentative possibilities. There is this one property built in 1954 that is really appealing to me. Except for the roof which is now barreled tiled, everything about the house is mid-century. It needs a lot of work. I think what would sell me would be if I knew what was underneath the tiled floor. If the flooring is terrazzo, I’m in. Is there a way to find out? No one can give me an answer. I am tempted to go in there and break a floor tile off.

    I would like to know who the architect is on the mid-century modern house. Thank you.

  3. Hi Loli,
    Your Realtor should be able to help you with those questions and ripping a tile off would certainly be an option, but most owners would not be happy with that request – you can expect terrazzo or Cuban tile on a mid-century home.

    If you are not currently represented, give me a call to see if I can help. As for the architect of the above mid-century modern house – it’s unknown (there are no floorplans and I have done some research without luck – thinking it may be a Wahl Snyder home)

  4. I wish I would have found this website before. But, you never know since I like to mull things over. And, over, and over. It took me 9 months to replace my car’s tires. This will probably take me even longer.

    Well, this house is near northwest of the Gables and southeast of Westchester. My realtor is cluesless. I went to architectural school so often times I’m the one that tells him about the houses I see.

    But, I don’t think this is a Wahl Snyder house. It’s pretty small and not split level. More like a ranch style house built in 1954. I am 90% sure that this may be the house for me. If so I will need to change things around and if so, may be in contact.

    Thank you very much this is a wonderful site.


  5. Loli,
    Don’t let the “split bedroom” concept get to you….that’s for the everyday ranchers. The true Mid-century modern masters just had open plans and cool features. Good luck with your purchase and trust your gutt when it comes to how the space makes you feel.

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