A Tropical Zen Retreat: Where Nature and Serenity Unite

View of a modern tropical home from the street in a residential canal development in Miami, Florida.
View of the residence from the street.

The Florida coastal city of Miami is characterised by extensive waterways, with roads and homes set amidst this aquatic expanse. In the thick of quintessential coconut palms and moored boats lies Coronado Residence, reflecting a calm and grounded lifestyle.

The entirety of the property, encompassing both the residence and its environs, is infused with a Zen-inspired ambience, thoughtfully designed by landscape architects, Studio Arth, to cater to clients who are ardent advocates of yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices.


As a nod to this theme, the landscape is designed to create a pause and connect with nature, to invite one to bask in its serene atmosphere and retreat. This approach is vividly mirrored in the choice of planting palette, where native trees take precedence, draped and surrounded by large leaf tropicals  fostering intimacy and connection with the surroundings.

The architecture of the Coronado Residence is an extension of the golden ratio, wherein every spatial decision adheres to the principles of this proportion, ensuring maximum beauty, balance, and harmony. This equilibrium is maintained through the judicious positioning of window openings, harnessing every opportunity to frame views along the water’s edge, creating a connection between the landscape and the built structure.

Entrance way to a tropical home featuring Zen-inspired landscaping.
The Zen inspired main entrance.

The majestic leopard trees with a unique branching artfully reveal the architecture through its veil-like structure while lending privacy from the street, along with tropical native ferns bordering the frontage, beckoning visitors into the property. In the front yard, a trio of trees stands as sentinels, comprising two Gumbo Limbo trees that provide dappled shade to the curved pedestrian walkway, accompanied by a Ponytail Palm. The Ponytail Palm holds a place of honour within the newly constructed home, cherished for its sentimental connection for about 20 years to the old house.

The entry steps feature a combination of stepping stones, stepped planters, and Corten Steel-held gravel, emphasising an au-naturel path. A Buddha statue is aptly located within the lusciousness of these plantings, of which Mondo grass, Wart fern, a Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys), Monstera plant, and the spineless Agave are some.

The Jade Vine with its enchanting bluish-green colours is used for the main entrance trellis, adding a layer of exoticity to the mix of natives and adapted species. The driveway is laden with pavers, interspersed with the softness of gravel and mondo grass. By the same token, a contrast is seen between the structured elements of the residence and the landscape that is carefully infused into an organic form.

Landscape planting plan of a Miami canal-side home.
The landscape planting plan.

Designed with an exceptionally verdant experience, a shaded meandering path along the property’s edge, leads one to the outdoor shower and pool area facing the waterfront. These peripheral pathways comprise dense clusters of Philodendron Burle Marx, Macho fern, and Shell ginger plants, seamlessly complementing the gravel path. Using stepping stones engraved with leaf patterns adds a distinctive and enduring touch, almost like a permanent imprint of the Zen essence.

The threshold of the main entrance serves as a precursor to a Zen-inspired garden, waiting to unfold its quiet artistry. Often referred to as the ‘dry garden’, it encompasses a taut balance between the five senses. Jasmine plantings appeal to the sense of smell, while certain plants provide a velvety texture to engage the sense of touch.

Carefully laden with loose gravel, the garden invites the use of a rake to create beautiful patterns reminiscent of water ripples. These soothing design gestures, together with a row of vibrant flowering Plumeria trees, cater to the sense of sight. In keeping with Zen principles, a bench is thoughtfully placed, inviting a moment of contemplation.

Outdoor living area at the back of a tropical home with swimming pool in the foreground.
The pool area at the back of the house.

The gentle sound of flowing water, though distant in the garden, engages the sense of hearing. Moreover, practical considerations come into play incorporating mosquito-repelling plants like lemongrass, grounding some of the landscape choices in functionality. The garden is a lesson in restraint, subtlety, and impermanence, exemplified by the calming patterns in the raked gravel designs.

As is widely known, Zen gardens were originally conceived as serene havens for peaceful meditation. The dry garden serves as a fitting prelude to the adjacent meditation and yoga space, with the two areas separated solely by a clear glass partition.

An illusion of depth is conjured with the strategic location of the pool beside the yoga room, transforming it into a seemingly infinite water’s edge extending from the pool to the waterfront. Unfettered vistas of the waterfront can be witnessed from the turf-laden outdoor balcony, accessible via a spiral staircase leading from the yoga pavilion to the upper level.

Stepping stones with palm leaf impressions along a gravel path with philodendrons growing alongside.
Stepping stones feature palm leaf impressions.

The pool area functions as a transient space, facilitating a connection between the intimate yoga room, the lush green surroundings, and the conjoining social space used to host gatherings. Corten Steel is used to anchor a pocket of green by the pool steps, leading the way to an expanse covered with Ferns, Bromeliads, and a carpet of grass intentionally selected to create a relaxed, unstructured atmosphere. In addition, a liberal amount of Pink Muhly Grass, spineless Agaves, and Monsteras add to the green to reinforce the edge of the pool.

In a bid to attain utmost privacy from the neighbouring plots, inexpensive and slender palms are employed on both sides facing the abutting homes, judicially placed to frame views of the contextual houses.

Evolution is a gradual process, as humans we have been innately bound to seek meaningful interactions that foster a sense of belongingness, especially in a place we call home. A renewed focus on well-being and integrating nature into our lifestyle has created a demand for designing landscapes that enhance the quality of our lives.

Corner of a swimming pool next to a canal with tropical plants around its edges.
The pool is sited close to the waterway.

Simply adding a seating space or a pause point along a meandering path through the yard, one can reconnect with nature and experience the therapeutic benefits of spending time outdoors.

In this sense, the Coronado Residence is a true retreat where the tropical zen landscape design connects you to your core, allowing you to take a pause from the hustle and bustle of urban life. It allows one to pause and dwell on the journey within and curates a mindful space with an ambience that relaxes the senses.

With the home as the picture and the landscape design its meticulously curated frame, the Zen ambience has been methodically woven into every corner of the Coronado Residence. The homestead is envisaged as a living space that is gently embraced by nature, or rather, one with nature. The client’s mindful disposition becomes the inspiration for the design journey; and with nature and the nest at such close quarters, the home becomes a sanctuary for the senses.

All images: © Studio Arth



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