There was ample precedent for the development of the tropical home in postwar South Florida. Porches for living and sleeping, walled patios, terraces, balconies, habitable roof decks, loggias, verandas and exterior stairways were all elements characteristic of the region’s earlier architectural styles: the traditional wood vernacular, Mediterranean Revival and the “Art Deco” modern of the 1930s. Outdoor-oriented spaces were the building blocks of a distinct South Florida residential architecture, which postwar architects pursued in new ways. South Florida architects were also influenced by national architectural trends, such as the Case Study Houses-affordable modern homes designed by leading architects between 1945 and 1966 for the Los Angeles area.
For South Floridians, the tropical home was a vehicle for creating a domestic utopia: a world in which families fantasized of unfettered contact with the warm, lush environment. This environment, however, also posed many challenges: annoying insects, intense sun, frequent rain and overwhelming humidity. In providing shelter and protection, South Florida architects employed raised floors, overhanging eaves and cross ventilation, while experimenting with continuities in indoor and outdoor spaces. Narrow rooms, shed roofs and large louvered windows helped to move breezes through houses.
The most conspicuous feature of the tropical home was the expansive screened porch or “Florida Room.” These all-purpose outdoor living spaces became more affordable with technological advancements, including “Lumite” plastic screening (instead of wire mesh) and lightweight wood or aluminum frames. Although Miami’s ubiquitous grid of streets ran north-south and east-west, Florida Rooms were often oriented southeast for maximum exposure to trade winds.