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The pool

Proven at many a house party, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Not so at Carole Smith’s oasis in Coconut Grove. When she and her husband, Steve, renovated and expanded their 1940s cottage on a leafy acre, a rare piece of property indeed for the dense neighborhood, the heart shifted to the pool area surrounded by new landscaping designed by local legend Robert Parsley.

“Besides enjoying it every morning with our coffee and The Miami Herald, we host countless events there—showers, birthdays, weddings, holidays, office parties, Chinese New Year, you name it,” said Smith, one of the city’s top luxury real estate brokers, affiliated with EWM. The most memorable, she said, was President Barack Obama’s first election victory when the celebration lasted until 2 a.m. “Everyone stopped what they were doing and came together. How often does that happen?”

Though her children had viewed the overgrown backyard as paradise long before the pool’s installation, it took that focal point to welcome everyone—though a chickee hut with a bar and a television set helped too. Smith’s preference for pools that sit away from the house lends a grand effect further dramatized by a pair of royal palms flanking its rectangular shape and hardscape in a grid pattern accented by river rocks. “Not only is the pool great for swimming laps, but it’s easier to work off a linear layout,” she said. The only two bumps she experienced during the installation: needing a majority vote from her street to relocate an FPL electrical wire that ran directly over the pool, and getting stubborn zoysia grass to take. “We joked that it was like the Sahara back there. It seemed that no matter how many plants we planted, we always needed more.”

Today the once puny palms have shot up to towering heights, and a prolific mango tree could supply a juice bar. Along with bromeliads, plumbago and shrimp plants, a native plant garden attracts butterflies. Yellow finches occupy a multi-tiered birdhouse, while green parrots and cardinals fill the trees. “Now,” said Smith, “it’s also our slice of paradise for the rest of our days.”