Taylor & Taylor, based in Miami’s colorful Wynwood Arts District, combines architecture and interior design in a practice adept at incorporating honored traditions into contemporary coastal and tropical environments. Fluent in both classical and modern languages of design, the firm’s work fosters a relaxed, comfortable lifestyle that constantly blurs boundaries between indoors and out.
Since its founding in 1983, architect William Taylor and his interior designer wife, Phyllis, have built a prominent firm earning high-end residential and hospitality commissions throughout Florida, the Eastern Seaboard and the Caribbean. The couple — William is a fifth-generation Floridian and Phyllis a “recovering New Yorker” — met at the University of Florida and although both are modernists at heart, Taylor & Taylor deftly navigates a wide range of genres, from English Tudor to Mediterranean Revival.
The firm accommodates a celebrity clientele for which an easygoing lifestyle is as important as sophisticated aesthetics, and while the Taylors may defer to clients’ personal style preferences, they ensure every project is sensitive to its local environment. “I just want to please our clients, designing what’s appropriate for their lifestyles and appropriate for Florida,” reports Phyllis Taylor, who insists even a French château can be compatible with local conditions in the Sunshine State. Even when there was no demand for the modernism the couple appreciates, she would maintain, “Our proportions always hold true, whether modern or classical, and we always infuse projects with what we know about the crystalline Florida light and our unique environmental influences.”
Mrs. Taylor explains that Miami was not always the world-class capital of design it is today. She describes a city with a long history of importing styles from around the world and suggests that an inherent insecurity about its own architectural heritage led South Floridian designers to dismiss indigenous styles as unmarketable. It wasn’t until Art Basel arrived in Miami Beach in 2002 that prominent international architects fell in love with the tropical metropolis, explains Phyllis, who states, “Only then did people start to embrace an international vibe.” Now renowned architectural firms from Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Latin America maintain offices in the city, whose creative energy is practically unrivaled.
Representative of Taylor & Taylor’s work is a 2,500-square-foot penthouse in Coral Gables designed for U.S. Congresswoman Dr. Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health & Human Services under President Clinton. William Taylor created an entirely new approach for the residence, which was totally gutted and reconfigured into an open concept encompassing the kitchen, living room and dining room. Phyllis Taylor introduced a signature design element, a partition handcrafted from maple that truly defines the space. She explains that with the new open floor plan, it was important to provide a visual buffer, something to slow the eye from gravitating immediately to the terrace and ocean views.
The partition’s Japanese-inspired basketweave motif — it invites light into the space while keeping lines of sight unobstructed — pays homage to the residence’s pioneering owner and women around the world. “We wanted to consider where women’s hands have been evidenced from the beginning of time,” explains Phyllis Taylor, noting that throughout history the woven basket has been a vessel for carrying goods that sustain families and communities. A Bokhara rug, which Shalala acquired in Iran when serving in the Peace Corps, was reimagined as pillow covers for a breakfast banquette.
Donna Shalala was first introduced to the Taylors’ creativity when she began her tenure as president of the University of Miami in 2001. The couple, collaborating with the dean of the university’s school of architecture, was commissioned to design a sophisticated home that would serve as a place for Shalala and her successors to entertain everybody from Nobel laureates to championship athletes to Fortune 500 CEOs.
For the university’s Ibis House, featuring more than 10,000 square feet of living space, the Taylors created an environment not only suitable for conducting official business, but also retaining a sense of intimacy for the families that would reside there. “President Shalala wanted a very organic, sustainable house, but didn’t want a granola look,” reports Phyllis Taylor of the challenge in creating the couple’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) -certified project.
The Ibis House is clad in sustainable, locally sourced or repurposed materials — a dining room chandelier and kitchen backsplash are crafted from recycled aluminum cans — to minimize its carbon footprint. The eco-consciousness of the project did not, however, diminish the elegance of the presidential residence, for which Phyllis Taylor selected both traditional and contemporary furnishings. The home’s prevailing green-and-silver palette was inspired by the hues of the stately oak trees that lend character to the site. But in deference to President Shalala’s personality, the city’s vibrant attitude and the spirit of the academic institution, bold accent colors were scattered throughout the home.
“Passing Time” is the name the Taylors’ longtime clients — none other than NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and his wife Claire — gave their oceanfront house on Kiawah Island near Charleston, South Carolina. Opting for a look that was not a hackneyed or clichéd adaptation of Southern stereotypes, the Taylors conceived a contemporary nautically inspired theme. A home permeated with the color blue was a personal request of Dan Marino, who played a more active creative role in this project, the latest of five Taylor & Taylor commissions from he and his wife.
Light floods through clerestory windows into a blue-and-white great room, a space reminiscent of a private club, and its multiple seating areas provide versatility. Family members playing games or watching sports can seamlessly coexist with others choosing to quietly chat while enjoying the waterfront view. “All of the artwork and accessories came from local vendors,” explains Phyllis Taylor, who adds, “I wanted the home to have a real Charleston vibe and wanted the community to feel invested in it.”
As avid travelers and history buffs, a sprawling compound on Lake Thonotosassa, northeast of Tampa, captured the Taylors’ imagination. North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate and Versailles outside Paris, two of the world’s most palatial residences, resonated with the owners of this 36,000-square-foot mansion, but Taylor & Taylor recommended less formal French Country-style interiors. Rooms are not as gilded as Versailles, but the designers were able to effectively showcase features like a grand vaulted foyer, ornate sitting rooms and endless spaces for entertainment. Custom hand-painted silk wallpaper in the dining room depicts orange trees, a natural Floridian reference, while palms represent a tropical interpretation of the classical pine, bamboo and plum design from China’s Ming Dynasty.
For a 5,500-square-foot Miami penthouse, the Taylors took joy in framing panoramic views of Biscayne Bay, Coral Gables and the sexy Miami skyline. Those vistas were enhanced through generous terrace spaces, contributing to the indoor-outdoor lifestyle demanded by the client, a former journalist who had acquired exotic objets d’art from around the globe. Incorporating art, especially large eclectic collections, can be problematic for interior designers, but Phyllis Taylor embraced the challenge.
“I loved that this client had an extensive collection, as it inspired me to create something very special and beautiful,” she reports, recognizing that clients bring with them possessions accumulated through diverse, often fascinating lives. The interior designer concedes, however, that some homeowners need to be encouraged to edit their inventories or be willing to relocate favorite pieces.
The penthouse’s living room is a study in simplicity and serenity, with bold African artifacts energizing, rather than distracting from, an idyllic space seemingly floating in air. With the room’s neutral palette, views from its floor-to-ceiling windows become the focus, but a rich shade of cinnabar provides a compelling accent color. An earth-toned area rug delineates the seating arrangement in the nearby dining room, mirrored by a complementary wooden grid overhead. In the home’s master bedroom, panels of bamboo framed by contrasting sapele wood slide back to reveal spectacular wraparound views from a two-tier pedestal bed.
The firm’s first monograph, Classic Florida Style: The Houses of Taylor & Taylor, published by The Monacelli Press, is a coffee table book featuring lavish photography of 10 projects representing the couple’s distinctive applications of both architecture and interior design. The firm is considering an encore edition, Classic Florida Condo Style, documenting the Taylors’ signature approach to those living spaces. Much of their body of work is inspired by the quintessential Miami lifestyle and perpetuates the city’s enviable status as an incubator for world-class innovations in design.
Recently, the firm launched T3 Homes, which designs, builds and sells turnkey residences that reflect the signature design of Taylor & Taylor. Largely an initiative of son Jeremy Taylor, who joined the firm in 2016 as Studio Director and Architectural Designer, T3’s product lineup incorporates the family firm’s gracious tropical lifestyle with cutting-edge technology and luxury sensibilities. The concept recognizes the tremendous value that exceptional design brings to real estate and packages the two together.
One of Phyllis Taylor’s greatest passions is working in the nonprofit sector on behalf of disadvantaged children, teaming with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and KidSanctuary Campus. “Good design and enriched environments are essential for the wellbeing of all children, not just for those whose families can afford it,” she states. Phyllis Taylor is now mobilizing an army of interior designers to address these issues through a new project called “Where Children Dream.”
By Roger Grody
This article originally appeared in Homes & Estates magazine.