Annual Villagers’ Holiday House Tour raises needed funds for preservation

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Hundreds of history lovers came out on Dec. 2, in support of historic preservation during The Villagers’ 2017 annual Holiday House Tour.

Participants visited six homes in Coral Gables and South Miami built throughout the last nine decades, featuring classic preservation, contemporary re-mix, and vintage-inspired new construction.

Guests were guided through the festively decorated rooms by members of The Villagers who explained the art, history and unique features of each. A popular addition to this year’s tour was a box lunch included with each ticket. The lunch was specially prepared by Chef Richard of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and School which served as a stop on the tour and the site of the popular gift boutique and Attic Treasures vintage shop.

This year’s raffled Villagers’ quilt, “Sea Watch,” featured colorful Art Deco lifeguard towers of South Beach.

A special bonus was the opportunity to see the home of school headmaster Dr. Gregory Blackburn and his wife, Dr. Cathy Blackburn. Built in the mid-1930s, the home is an unusual Coral Gables example of Art Moderne with Mediterranean features and is in almost totally original condition. Guests entering the home were immediate wowed by the gorgeous, colorful Cuban tile stair steps.

Homes toured included that of Villager-member Marlin Ebbert whose love of history and attention to detail is evident in every feature and corner of the house. A visitor favorite was the beautiful 1930s Everglades-themed fireplace screen that Marlin salvaged from her first Gables home and is now prominently on display in her living room.

Following a lifelong dream, Sally and Duffie Matson have painstakingly restored and enhanced the home of Sally’s grandparents. After purchasing the home in 2014, they have successfully created a comfortable, yet elegant home with touches of the past and lighthearted nods to local history and design. One of the many fascinating elements is the dramatic use as wall art of Duffie’s collection of wooden gear forms, used in grist mills during the 1800s.

Raul Rodriquez’s home is newer, built in 2000, but fits in perfectly with its North Gables surroundings. Beautiful proportions and cathedral ceilings enhance spaces, and along with a gourmet kitchen, flow seamlessly into a charming patio and backyard perfect for entertaining. Architect Luis Jauregui was on-hand to help explain unique features.

Another North Gables gem was a stop at the residence of Herbert Brito. Built in 1927, Herbert completed an extensive renovation that not only totally modernized the home, but kept its sense of place and history. He even traced and used the original exterior paint color. Yet the interior of the home is a visual surprise, treating guests to bold, colorful art and decorated with important Mid-century Modern design pieces.

Suzy Fernandez and Neli Arias turned a non-descript 1961 ranch into a charming contemporary home filed with whimsical elements and loaded with personality. A complete renovation of the home demonstrates how vision and style can turn even a conventional space into a showcase. The large completely open kitchen dominates the living space which opens up to the beautiful garden and grounds. The bold use of color, including red, in the interior, is offset by the tranquility of the garden retreat.

Villager President Loyda Lewis and board members worked with House Tour chair Renee Betancourt and committee members Carolyn Reyes, Monica Fidel, Sweet Pea Ellman, Alexis Ehrenhaft, Marlin Ebbert, Sheila Revell, Ilaria Belloni Barrto and Bonnie Hutton to make the event a success.

In addition to their annual grants and scholarships, The Villagers recently provided emergency post-Irma recovery support to seven historic properties in Miami-Dade County.

The next Villager event is the annual Garden Tour on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018.

The Villagers, Inc. is Florida’s oldest historic preservation organization. Founded in 1966, the all-volunteer organization is a not-for-profit 501(c)3. By educating, advocating, fundraising, and documenting, The Villagers continues a tradition of dedicated service for the restoration and preservation of historic sites in Miami-Dade County.

Learn more about upcoming events, past projects and membership opportunities at

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