The Natural Approach on Star Island

Landscape architect Christopher Cawley delivers tropical candor in a Star Island estate


When architects Francisco Llado Neuffer and Rob Moehring, and developer Todd Michael Glaser tapped landscape pro Christopher Cawley to spearhead the 22,500 square feet of gardens in a Star Island residence, they had one main decree. “They wanted my approach to blend in with the tropical surroundings,” says Cawley, “and for everything to appear as if it had just sprouted from the ground.”

Easier said than done, but it wasn’t anything Cawley hadn’t heard before. As of recent years, more and more of his clients seem to crave a genuinely lush look to their outdoor spaces, with greenery that appears to have grown there organically and hardscape that looks like it’s always been there, although the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes a seasoned green thumb to make a garden appear spontaneously natural.

Cawley and his team followed the aforementioned directive to a tee, and his approach is evident to anyone entering the home via the long driveway, which is framed by coconut palms, gumbo-limbo trees, and an assortment of large-leaf philodendrons. As one nears the front door, sculptural sabal palms frame the entrance as tropical plantings soften the home’s modern architecture. Above, purple bougainvillea borders the lower roof’s ledge and provides a pop of color.

In the back of the structure, the surrounding landscape flows from the ground level to a series of raised gardens that are completely integrated with the home’s architecture. A generously sized pool area features floating daybeds and a metal-slatted cabana surrounded by potted specimens. Not far, fountain grass was used to soften the groves of the trunks of coconut palms. Here, as throughout the rest of the house’s footprint, native strangler figs were protected and integrated within the overall landscape design.

The sum of the landscape team’s efforts is quintessential five-star Miami—this is just the type of garden component that estates in this ZIP-code are known for. For Cawley, it’s just another day at the office. “We wanted to create a seamless harmony with nature and the house itself,” says the designer. “The location by the water and the property’s superior architecture allowed us to do just that.” 

Story Credits: 

Text by Luis R. Rigual

Photography by Paul Stoppi


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