Dezeen Magazine

Brillhart beach house

Brillhart Architecture collaborates with Darren Sawyer for pavilion-like Bahamas home

Miami-based Brillhart Architecture consulted on the design of a pavilion-like island home in the Bahamas with local architects Garth and Darren Sawyer.

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.

Shadows cast on pavilion-like room in Bahamas home by Brillhart
The pavilion-like home is in the Bahamas

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.

Gabled roof and sliding floor-to-ceiling glazing and shutters on Bahamas house by Brillhart and Garth Sawyer
It was designed by architects Garth Sawyer and Darren Sawyer in partnership with Brillhart Architecture

"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.

Indoor-outdoor room with white shutters at Bahamas beach house by Brillhart
All circulation takes place on outside walkways or bridges

"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.

Central courtyard with lush vegetation and gabled roofs on pavilions
The stucco pavilions are arranged around a courtyard

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.

White kitchen under gabled roof with timber bar stools
The kitchen and dining area are located in a covered open-air pavilion

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.

Living room with geometric shelving unit
A separate structure holds the living room

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.

Gabled roof on beach house by Brillhart
Natural materials characterise the interiors throughout

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.

Project credits:

Builder: Higgs Construction
Design consultant: Brillhart Architecture
Local architect of record: Garth Sawyer, Darren Sawyer (Project architect)
Landscape consultant: Nielsen Landscape Architects, Tyler Nielsen

More images and plans

Site plan
Site plan
Site drawing
Site drawing
Roof diagram
Roof diagram
Bahamas house by Brillhart and Garth Sawyer
Bahamas house by Brillhart and Garth Sawyer
Bahamas house by Brillhart and Garth Sawyer
Bahamas house by Brillhart and Garth Sawyer
Bahamas house by Brillhart and Garth Sawyer
Bahamas house by Brillhart and Garth Sawyer
Bahamas house by Brillhart and Garth Sawyer