All homes in the Tampa neighborhood of Avila must adhere to Spanish Mission architecture, which posed a fun challenge for builder Bobby Alvarez and architect Jeff Smith. The two-story Florencia features the clay barrel, low-sloping roofs, smooth plaster façade and arched colonnades that characterize this style while also accommodating the homeowners’ desire for special touches. These include a freestanding casita and a courtyard with a pool.
Take three design professionals and challenge them to create a compact, luxury, energy-efficient Spanish Mission home with a detached guest quarters and a courtyard pool. What is the result? A gorgeous award-winning house in Tampa’s Avila Golf & Country Club.
The entryway invites guests to have a seat on the bench or to walk through the custom-designed wrought-iron gate as they approach the courtyard. The electric lanterns resemble vintage gas lamps. The stonework comes from Syria. Alvarez says they selected the Cuban tile details “to mix a Mission look with a modern feel.” Interior designer Michelle Miller consulted on the one-of-a-kind front door. “We wanted your first impression stepping into the home to be of high luxury,” she says. “The carving details, weight of the door and hardware let you know that you’re entering a very special home.
Spanish Mission has more specific characteristics than the more common Mediterranean-style architecture. “Spanish Mission homes have more authentic styling to them with corbels and brackets,” explains architect Jeff Smith. Other elements consist of clay barrel tile roofs, exposed rafter tails, heavy timber framing and a smooth plaster finish.
Smith and builder Bobby Alvarez collaborate often. Interior designer Michelle Miller of Michelle Miller Design rounds out the team who worked together on this project, named the Florencia.
The Florencia has won several awards, including an Aurora Award from the Southeast Builders Conference and the Best in Green Single-Family Custom Award from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
“An efficient and healthy house is what we try to accomplish,” Alvarez says of his company, which focuses on building eco-friendly, smart homes.
Miller’s aim was to make the inside of the home comfortable. “We wanted the interior decor to evoke a feeling of warmth and coziness,” Miller says. To achieve this, she combined traditional Spanish Mission colors and furnishings with the Danish concept of Hygge, which she defines as “a feeling that encompasses fulfillment and well-being by enjoying and surrounding yourself with simple things.”
The furnishings and materials used within and outside the 3,550-square-foot, three-bedroom home and its one-bedroom casita, reflect the dual missions of maintaining Spanish style and providing modern conveniences.
The Cuban tile mosaics, coffered ceilings, and carved wood furniture speak to the architecture, and the high-end kitchen appliances and wine cellar address the homeowners’ needs for entertaining.
The living room boasts 12-foot ceilings with oak beams and recessed LED light strips. Miller and her team carefully chose and often customized each piece of furniture for the desired effect. “We incorporated old with new to create a balance in the space, then added unexpected accents of colors with the pillows, rugs and artwork,” she says. Miller sourced the sofa from Vanguard Furniture, sketching the layout and selecting the fabric. Century Furniture tailor-made the chair and the coffee table, made of cerused oak. The Vanguard Furniture side table’s small scale and slight arch made it ideal for the room. The hand-made console table is by Mexican company Alfonso Marina.
An extension of the living room, the kitchen and dining area can seat 12 for meals or casual gatherings. The dining table’s unique frame detail is perfectly complemented by the simple parson-style chairs from Vanguard Furniture. Above the table hangs a Currey & Company Houndslow eight-light fixture in satin black. The bar stools in soft orange leather were customized by Century Furniture to complement the rug and serve as a contrast to the quartz countertops and white Wood-Mode cabinetry. Three Pluto Mini Pendants from Hubbardton Forge illuminate the bar. Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances are from Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. The hand-knotted Loloi jute rug ties together the entire great room.
Both Alvarez and Smith enjoyed solving the puzzle presented by the many requests for the space, including the requirement that the pool be in front of the house. “We had to pack a lot of stuff in there to get it to all work out,” Smith says. And Alvarez proclaims his favorite part of any project is turning a clients’ wish list into reality, from the initial paper plans to the finished product.
The team of three exceeded everyone’s expectations with the Florencia and delivered a home that looks and feels like a larger property. Their mission was definitely accomplished.
Originally a storage closet, the wine cellar was laid out by Miller with wine cellar designer Julie Lanning. Wood-Mode cabinets and a stainless-steel cable racking system can hold approximately 300 bottles of wine. The tile floor matches the artisan Cuban mosaic tile used in the entryway.
The upstairs landing leads to two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a loft space. The coffered ceiling is of maple, and the floor is oak. The Jan Barboglio wooden mirror is sculpted at top with a beautiful iron cross and flowers. “Its massive size is very impressive in the stairwell and we love how it reflects the image of the custom railings,” Miller says. The painting on the landing is from John Richard. A Hubbardton Forge Double Cirque chandelier from Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery completes the space.
The serene bedroom has a soothing color scheme, thanks to the Bernhardt Furniture headboard upholstered in linen, as well as the custom bedding. “We used natural linen and cotton in neutral tones then added accents of purples and aubergine within the accent pillows and throw,” Miller explains. A wool and silk blend rug from Surya Rugs covers the floor. Matching nightstands from Stanley Furniture flank the bed. Framed pheasant feathers from Uttermost adorn the wall with a Currey & Company light fixture from Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery casting shadows nearby.
“We liked how the soothing earth tones worked with the Spanish Revival feel of the home,” Miller says of the color scheme in this bedroom. The linen-upholstered bed was custom ordered from Vanguard Furniture, and the bedding is specially made, as well. The bronze stain finish of the Vanguard Furniture nightstands creates the illusion of metal. The Kravet draperies make a statement. “This fabric, Bejo Sheer, has a lot of texture and almost a metallic look to it,” Miller says. Two Made Goods velvet-covered stools at the foot of the bed add an element of surprise. The Currey & Company light fixtures are from Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, and the painting is from Delano Art.
The Florencia was laid out to meet several needs, from the neighborhood’s restrictions on pool placement to the homeowners’ request for separate guest quarters. The solution devised by Alvarez and Smith was to build off of a Mission-style courtyard plan featuring a standalone, one-bedroom casita. Syrian stone, electric lanterns, wood beams, and a wrought-iron gate give off a Spanish vibe.
The private courtyard houses the pool area toward the front of the home, due to setback regulations that prevented it from being in the backyard. Fountains and specialty lighting, along with the lozenge shape and colorful tiles, lend a level of uniqueness to the small pool. Seating from Ratana’s Madison collection provides comfortable lounging.
The rear of the house overlooks a small pond and wooded area. A screened porch that runs almost the full length of the home doubles as a second dining room and an outdoor kitchen. On the patio, pairs of Adirondack chairs allow for cozy conversations or just relaxation. The lanterns from Janus et Cie provide a warm ambiance for nighttime gatherings.
Written by Kendra Gemma
Photography by Jorge Alvarez
Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery
302 North Willow Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
Michelle Miller Design
14603 Gulf Blvd
Madeira, FL 33708