The 1920s stucco house was in desperate need of some TLC, from the fake wood paneling to the brown brick veneer across the fireplace. But Barbara Pope saw beyond the problems when she saw the vintage Cuban tiles on the porch.
James Fendelman and his wife, Wendy Joffe knew they would have to replace the plumbing, which ran around the outside of the house, and the old knob and tube electric wiring. No matter. They loved the tucked-in feeling of the 1910 cottage and the potential that could make it their own.
These are the people of Coconut Grove. They describe their homes as magical, tropical, historical, Old Florida.
Author Beth Dunlop and photographer Claudia Uribe documented their stories and 31 others in their new book, The Tropical Cottage: At Home in Coconut Grove (Rizzoli, $50). The homes range from tiny cottages to stone bungalows and Mediterranean casitas. Typical homeowners are artists, writers, designers, professors. Dunlop, who has written on architecture for The Miami Herald, is the editor of Modern magazine and the former editor of HOME Miami magazine. Uribe is an award-winning photographer with commercial clients as well as ELLE Decoration UK and Harper’s Bazaar.
When Dunlop took the book idea to Rizzoli, she pitched the Grove as a magical place that has always attracted dreamers — artists, sailors, writers, scientists, botanists and horticulturalists. She says not much has changed since the days of the pioneer Peacock and Munroe families in the 19th century. The neighborhood’s roots run deep — it is the oldest, continuously inhabited section of Miami.
“The Grove is a rare combination of the natural landscape, the terrain, the narrow little streets and the historic houses that, in turn, lure in very special kinds of people who care about living fully in the place they call home,” Dunlop says.
“The people who live in the Grove really live there. They nurture their gardens and they restore the houses. Some of the stories in the book are about those buying houses about to topple over. They hunted consignment and thrift shops to find the right bathtub or the right table. The connections between the homeowners and the houses are so strong and there is a connection between people in the community.”
That connection, as well as some good detective work, helped Dunlop and Uribe produce the book with 240 pages and 250 photographs. Uribe had already shot some of the photographs and Dunlop had some friends who lived there.
“One person led to another,” Dunlop says. “I drove around with my camera, did reverse lookups and property tax lookups. I got the names and went to Google and Facebook to see if we had any friends in common. I found several people through Facebook because of mutual friends. Claudia stuck notes in people’s mailboxes. We were lucky enough to meet up with people who love the Grove, were proud of their houses and proud of being part of this wonderful community.”
A TOUCH OF CUBA
Pope, a Realtor, is one of those who adores living in the Grove.
“When I first saw the house it had wonderful Cuban tiles on the front porch,” she says. “I love the front tiles and the old Spanish tiles in the bathroom. The house needed everything, but I could afford to buy it and spend time remodeling it.”