It's interesting how Florida has its own style of home. In fact, IMO, the Florida-style home is an evolving style and encompasses three different styles that you'll find throughout the state (and elsewhere). This Florida style house décor guide explains what the Florida style house is along with photo examples.
I still remember the first time I went to Florida for spring break in college. We drove all night from Michigan and hit the sunny state around noon. I loved the place immediately. I loved the endless stretches of stunning beaches, palm trees, tropical flowers and the spectacular beach houses as well as the modern Florida style “fortress-like” houses.
Let’s dive into what is meant by Florida-style houses.
Table of Contents
What is Florida decor?
The Florida style house has evolved and it often is referred to three distinct styles.
The first is a colonial tropical style home designed for staying cool and repelling light.
The second is an elevated beach-style house to deal with flooding and storms that’s casual and comfortable.
The third is a modern, open style home like the one pictured above (source: Architecturaldesigns.com).
This article attempts to showcase all styles – basically two types of iconic house styles you’d find in the State of Florida.
3 Florida-Style House Examples
1. Contemporary Florida-Style Beach house
2. Colonial-Style Beach House
3. Modern Style Florida Home
The modern “fortress” like Florida style home incorporates the Mediterranean look while retaining traditional tropical house features such as large balconies and an open layouts.
One the one hand the Florida style home is based on relaxation and effective use of sloping roofs, verandas, and windows to create a flow of air through the home. Everything from the shutters to the curtains, furniture, and decor, right down to the bricks and wood all work together to make the house cooler in the hot summer months.
This style is often referred to as “vernacular”, in that it uses the style and materials directly available in a community or region, rather than on the advice or direct involvement of professional architects or framers. Because the majority of the homes built in Florida during the 19th century were poor farmers and migrants, the homes needed to be basic and structurally sound with little additional fanciness. Moreover, they needed to be free-flowing and breezy because air conditioning didn’t exist and the Florida region can be extremely humid and hot.
Modern Floridian homes take these basic elements and combine them with other design aspects to create gorgeous, sprawling homes that are welcoming and comfortable.
Wide-open and sprawling, the Florida house style is perfect for a summer home in warmer regions, keeping you cool while still allowing you to enjoy the sweetness of the ocean breeze. The main designs in Florida houses are:
- Open floor plan
- Neutral colors
- Hardwood floors
- Connected front-to-back hallways for airflow
- Low roofs
- Deep-seated porches
- Redbrick accents to the neutral colors
- Wood frame on stilts or a slab, rather than a foundation with a basement
Interior style features
- Hardwood floors: Florida house decor uses hardwood floors in place of rugs, and this is for several good reasons. First, rugs trap heat, and the purpose of the low-slung, sprawling Florida house style is to keep things as cool as possible. Secondly, rugs trap dirt and debris, and if you’re near a beach, that means sand.
- Light-colored paint: Keeping with the theme of cool and calm, light paints are critical for keeping things cool and also making space feel even bigger and more free-flowing.
- High, concave ceilings: Preserving heat away from occupants and helping to keep everyone cool.
- Low slung lounge areas: the purpose of wide-open areas is to maximize the view of the beach and surrounding areas. Being able to enter the home and get a good view through the wide windows gives you a sense of surveying a beautiful domain.
- Shiplap cladding and sliding doors: The Florida house is never cramped; the doors are usually double-hung or sliding, intending to make everything feel breezy, relaxed, and as open as possible. Shiplap on the high ceilings creates an even greater sense of openness and adds a high level of style without being ostentatious.
- Mirrors: Florida house decor utilizes mirrors and neutral color palates to accentuate the beauty of the visuals through the windows, but also to further increase the feeling of wide, unhindered space within the home.
- Tropical themes: Naturally, any place lucky enough to be beachfront or near to it will utilize that tropical feeling in the way the house is decorated. Tropical patterns, paintings, and colors add pop and fun to Florida homes.
- Straight-thru hallways: This design allows air and people to flow through the house unimpeded. Often the front door opens into a foyer that directly runs through the house, either via a completely open floor plan or long, shady corridors, connecting to the backdoor and often, the beach. This allows for greater airflow and more cooling without air conditioning, a luxury that early Floridians didn’t have, and many still refuse to get.
Exterior style features
- Florida homes incorporate Mediterranean and Spanish styles, with sprawling frames usually built on stilts or a slab, and as such, are typically 1-story and don’t include a basement.
- Sloping, tiled roofs keep the heat of the day dispersed evenly throughout the house and keep as much shade as possible around the home, keeping the interior cooler.
- Florida houses utilize the outside as an entertaining opportunity at all times. This includes verandas, decks, and pool areas often, but regardless of the design, the exterior porch usually wraps around and extends further away from the home to maximize exposure to the outdoor beauty that surrounds them.
- Tilted wooden shutters allow for constantly open windows, inviting the cool ocean breeze to continuously flow through the home, another design element for beating the heat.
- An abundance of windows of all shapes and sizes provide beautiful views and ample wind flow throughout the house. Additionally, a Florida home will rarely have fixed-pane windows, as functionality is just as, if not more important than the actual look of the windows themselves.
- Low maintenance gardens help provide additional shade and beauty through elegant landscaping while also keeping water locked in the soil and away from the foundation or slab.
- White or near-white paint jobs on the outside reflect sunlight as another measure designed to keep the home cool in the warmest of summers.
- Deep-shaded porches create the perfect space for entertaining while creating a significant reduction in the temperature of the walls of the home.
Florida houses utilize Bohemian styles in almost all aspects, from the shack-style roofs to the sprawling, relaxed verandas. Inside the home, furniture is often made of cushioned wicker or a gorgeous cedar or other sturdy wood. These add to the elegance of quality hardwood flooring and the simple styling overall. Here’s an example:
Furniture is also stocked meticulously, as too much of it will clog up the flow of the space. You are not likely to find an overabundance of redundant furniture, chairs, tables, or other pieces in a Florida house for two reasons. This is for 2 reasons: 1, people tend to enjoy being outside as much as possible, so entertaining and relaxing is often not done indoors, and 2, too much furniture traps heat and clutters the wide-open feel of the home.
These homes often do not contain rugs and if they do, they’re usually relegated to the bedroom, but in these cases, a plush or shag carpet that contrasts the neutral colors is very welcome.
Reclaimed wood or driftwood furniture, especially tables, are common and fit with the overall design motif.
In both exterior and interior design, hard, resilient wood is king. Cherry and cedar possess the perfect color and hardiness to stand up to humidity while pairing well with the pastel color palette of the Florida home.
Metal accents are also common, with gunmetal and silver being the most common and most beloved. Remember, these homes are all about elegance through simplicity and functionality, so accents are tasteful. Shiplap cladding on the ceilings and stucco on the exterior are common, as are cedar shingles on the roof, but clay tiling reminiscent of a Spanish villa is just as welcome.
Tasteful red brick for pathways is often used both for its functionality and that it adds a pop of color to contrast the often neutral color palettes of the exterior and interior of Florida homes.
Essential Florida house materials include:
- Shiplap: A broad and often imperfect board material that’s used in boats, barns, and other outdoor structures. When used for interior design, it creates a homey, rustic look and it’s common in farmhouse, southern, and Florida home design. It usually has grooves at the edges to fit together.
- Redbrick: Sturdy, easily made bricks that contrast the whites often used in Florida homes, these are perfect for walkways and garden edging.
- Stucco: An exterior coating to protect wood and bricks, with an appearance a lot like plaster, but easier to work with and suited for exterior applications.
- Clay roof tiles: As often seen in Spanish villas, these tiles are beautiful and look great on the sloping roofs of these homes.
- Steel roofing: A sturdier throwback to the tin roofs of the original Floridian homes of the late 1800s, steel roofing protects longer, requires very little maintenance, and looks amazing.
- Hardwood: From floors to furniture to framing, a sturdy, hardwood is necessary to deal with the constant barrage of the sea, salt, and humidity.
Styles that mix well with Florida house decor
Both Spanish and Mediterranean styles mix remarkably well with Florida home design. These appeal to the cool, breezy feel of the region as both Spanish and Mediterranean homes have similar climates. The ideal decor will take advantage of the sprawling interior spaces, an abundance of wood and metal, and a high volume of window space.
Rustic farm decor is also highly prized in Florida homes, with barn-style sliding doors being one of the most common elements that Florida homes use. The desire for high-quality wood means a lot of the same recycled hardwoods that farm decor uses are also welcome in a Florida home, along with exposed beams in the ceiling. This dressed-down look adds a level of simple elegance that is typical for the Florida home but is immediately charming as well.
The sweeping verandas of traditional southern homes are a common feature in Florida houses, as are some of the other elements of high Southern class. This includes decorating with living plants, avoidance of clutter, and built-in bookshelves rather than cases lining the walls. Anything to create elegance while keeping the floor plan clear is a welcome addition to the Florida house.
History of the Florida house style
The Florida house style has its beginnings in the cracker architecture of the early 19th century when people settling in the Florida peninsula needed cheap housing that took advantage of the ocean breeze to help with the heat. The homes were wooden, with raised floors and hallways that connected the front and back, a style often called “shotgun houses”, as you could shoot a shotgun from the front through the back unimpeded.
As more affluent settlers moved to the region, these basic houses were praised and emulated for their simplicity and functionality but had more design elements from other styles added to them. Southern people added the verandas they were used to, providing shade to the walls of the structure and the inviting exterior gathering places they were used to.
Due to prolific shipping and trading, sailors and travelers from other ports across the ocean brought tropical, Spanish, Mediterranean, and island design elements. These focused on accentuating the access to the ocean and its gorgeous breezes while keeping the house cool. The basic, tin roofs of the cracker houses gave way to well-built steel roofing that functions the same but lasts significantly longer.
The Florida house, especially in the Keys, is very represented in literature and popular culture. The Hemmingway home, in addition to being considered haunted, is one of the most beautiful and widely visited homes in the Florida/Keys area and exemplifies this style perfectly. Florida houses are also the picturesque backdrop of many tropical and vacation-themed movies and books. Beautiful views, temperate climate, and tasteful design make the Florida house layout a relaxing and elegant addition to any media, be it video, print, or painting.
What makes the Florida house style look amazing?
The Florida house style is effortlessly classy and elegant while still maintaining a large portion of the rustic style that the original homes of the 19th and early 20th century had. Though modern Florida houses are far more structurally sound, larger, and far more expensive, much of the shabby chic and simplistic charm is still maintained.
Additionally, the efficient design elements of wide spaces, deep porches, and connecting hallways are still relevant to keeping the homes cool and shady. Neutral palettes contrast beautifully with deeply colored clay tiling or cedar roofing, as well as red brick walkways and garden edging. Tasteful, regional landscaping and huge porches for gathering together make the exterior of the homes just as inviting as the interiors, and minimalist interior design makes perfect use of the sprawling floor plans.
With their history in cinema and literature, the larger-than-life history of the Florida home contrasts nicely with its simple and rustic charm and functionality, creating an inviting, approachable way of living that would make almost anyone feel at home.