George Merrick is the founding father of the City Beautiful. In addition to the Mediterranean Revival style that is synonymous with Coral Gables, there are a few architectural gems that remain thanks to a lesser known project of Merrick’s – The Village Project. The Village Project was designed to create over 1,000 residences based on architecture from around the world. The idea was to provide a variety of architectural styles beyond the Mediterranean that had become the gold standard in Coral Gables.
Unfortunately the hurricane of 1926 and the depression which followed destroyed Merrick’s hopes of completing the project. Yet, today 80 homes from The Village Project remain in the Chinese Village, the Dutch South African Village, the French Provincial Village, the French Country Village and the Florida Pioneer Village.
Today I’m taking you to the Chinese Village. We will step inside 5125 Riviera Drive – an historic home and a Coral Gables icon that just hit the market for the first time in 32 years.
5125 Riviera Drive, Coral Gables, Florida - artwork by Laura Mullaney
Designed by Henry Killam Murphy, who was a scholar of Oriental architecture, the Chinese Village is one of the most exotic examples of 1920s residential architecture in the United States.
Here are the stats on 5125 Riviera:
· 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths
· 3,375 square feet
· Year built: 1925
· Style: Chinese Pagoda
· Location: Coral Gables, Florida
· Price: $949,000
The house definitely needs some cosmetics, which is causing my mind to run wild with possibilities. Therefore, I have called in Beth Connolly from Chinoiserie Chic. Beth is the queen bee of all things Chinoiserie, chic, and fabulous… and this Chinese casa has her name all over it.
STAY TUNED!!! On Monday, Beth will provide some incredible design inspiration, created to glam up this fabulous Chinese masterpiece. In the meantime, let’s take a look at its current state. All images from www.ChineseVillageHouse.com.
The cluster of eight homes in the Chinese Village is linked by a common wall and ornamental gates and details suggesting a "compound" arrangement. The homes feature bright yellow, blue, red or green glazed ceramic roof tiles, circular “moon” windows and gates, Chinese fretwork , and traditional statues of good luck animals (such as foo dogs).
These elaborately detailed houses with their brilliant primary colors accurately reflect the temple or palace architecture of the imperial "Forbidden City" of ancient China.
Every detail is imbued with Asian symbolism usually lost on Westerners and based on concepts of Chinese cosmology such as feng shui (geomancy) and Taoism.
The use of screen walls to face the main entrance of the house stems from the belief that evil things travel in straight lines.
Colors are chosen for their symbolism as well. Red is the most auspicious color and signifies luck, happiness, health and prosperity.
Formal dining room
Chinese brides wear something red on their wedding day and red lanterns are hung on New Year's Day and weddings. Also, talismans and imagery of good fortune such as "door gods" are displayed on doorways to ward off evil and encourage the flow of good fortune.
Main hall, downstairs