Composed of six pavilions overlooking Pink Sands Beach on Harbour Island, the house was completed in 2022 with Brillhart acting as the design consultant and Darren Sawyer serving as the project architect and Garth Sawyer as the architect of record.
The 6,700-square foot (620-square metre) home combines vernacular references with elements of tropical modernism on a sloping site featuring more than 70 mature palm trees.
Arranged on the site's highest point, each room is held within its own structure, each responding in its own way to the island's varied climate.
"Each space offers distinct experiential qualities shaped by the immediate environment surrounding it," said princiap Melissa Brillhart, citing orientations, views, landscapes, micro-climates, light and the breeze.
All circulation takes place on outside walkways or bridges, providing ample views of the ocean.
"The inseverable architectural experience of living both inside and out at all times is truly the focal point of and central design idea behind this project," the team told Dezeen.
The vernacular gabled pavilions are clad in western red cedar shingles and have exposed rafters and pavilions like nearby cottages, but use structurally insulated panels and tongue-and-groove cypress decking for climate control and hurricane-rated strength.
The stucco pavilions with copper detailing are arranged around a courtyard – a tropical brush garden with a pool and lounge area – to protect it from the strong offshore winds.
Known as the Ocean Room, the beach-facing pavilion offers panoramic views of the sea through 16 sand-colored operable shutters that capture the breeze and provide shelter from the rain.
The kitchen and dining area are in a covered open-air pavilion, while separate structures comprise en suite bedrooms, a living room, media room and indoor kitchen and dining room.
The rooms feature vaulted ceilings ranging from 15 feet to 26 feet (4.5 metres to 4.9 metres) in height and sliding doors and operable windows, bringing natural light into each space and displaying the surrounding landscape.
The interiors are defined by natural materials and an earth-toned palette with white walls, light wood floors, cherry millwork and locally made, white concrete countertops.
"The entire project is a testament to the craft and resourcefulness of the local builder," Brillhart said.
On the eastern side, a wooden walkway leads down the hill to the beach, and on the western side, the jungle landscape is more prevalent.
"Given the long and narrow nature of the lot, a separate two-bedroom guest cottage was located on the lower part of the site, designed to take in the surrounding lush and tropical vegetation," the team said.
Founded in Florida in 2007, Brillhart Architecture is run by Jacob and Melissa Brillhart whose work ranges from residential and commercial projects to design-build projects, exhibitions, and research.
Also on Harbor Island, Chad Oppenheim built himself a secluded beach getaway on a sandy dune in 2017.
The photography is by Brillhart Architecture and Stephen Goettlicher.
Builder: Higgs Construction
Design consultant: Brillhart Architecture
Local architect of record: Garth Sawyer, Darren Sawyer (Project architect)
Landscape consultant: Nielsen Landscape Architects, Tyler Nielsen