The Architecture of Seaside Florida

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Heather Jones
Heather Jones
I'm Heather, an author passionate about home improvements. My writing is your guide to making homes better. Let's explore easy ways to enhance your living spaces, from small fixes to exciting projects. Join me on a journey of making your house a cozy and stylish haven.

The charm of the Seaside Florida architecture lies in its dynamic structure. Every resident adds its distinctive note to the remarkable 18-mile coastline.

Each creator and planner intended for the lavishing architectural styles to fit their time and place. Hence, their architecture stretches beyond a narrow form and becomes profoundly rooted in the gorgeous Florida coastline.

The Founding Father

In 1946, Robert Davis’ grandfather J.S. Smolian purchased 80 hectares on the Northwest coast of Florida during one of the family’s summer walks along Seagrove Beach. He planned to build a facility for his workers, but his business partner didn’t want any parts of what felt like a pointless sandy tract. The Smolian family continued to visit the same beach annually. Often, J.S. took young Robert to the west end of Seagrove Beach and walked the waterway.

After taking over grandfather’s business, Robert Davis gradually earned a reputation as an award-winning builder/developer in Miami in the 1970s. When the thought of designing the neighborhood near Seagrove crossed his mind, he remembered the idyllic family holidays along that same coast and the small households in which the family had lived.

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The concept of Seaside arose from the need to resurrect Northwest Florida’s architectural tradition, which was responsible for divine wood-frame cottages. They were so well suited to the environment that they heightened the sensual pleasures of living by the sea. The main characteristics were broad roof overhangs, plenty of windows, and natural ventilation in all rooms. They were made of wood and other proven materials, and with proper care, they could last for many years.

The Dream Team

Robert and Daryl Davis approached Miami architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk to create a plan of construction. Before they put the master plan in motion, two houses were built in Seaside. The intention was to test the market demand.

Initial sales in 1982 were promising, far beyond expectations. Early press appreciation helped a lot. The Seaside concept was praised as very attractive and a potential model for transforming urban and suburban development trends.

The Seaside Urban Code

In 1982, Robert Davis and his partners on the project crafted the master plan and the Seaside Urban Code. These documents have progressed and modified over time, but they still contain the original basic concepts.

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The Code contains only the bare minimum of guidelines. For example, houses in Seaside have a standard range of architectural types and materials. However, there is also a lot of variation and variability throughout the area. Streets are both convenient and enjoyable for commuters. Walking is more accessible and fun than driving. Downtown Seaside is reserved for restaurants and lovely shops.

The idea of the Town Architect was created in 1983. It was decided that someone should oversee and evaluate the Seaside Plan and Code’s execution. Another intention was that anyone who bought homes in Seaside would contract the Town Architect to model their homes. Seaside has changed over time, and so has the position of the Town Architect. 

Since the Seaside is nearly complete, the Town Architect serves as the contract architect or collaborates on standards and legislation with the landowners’ preferred architect.

Seaside’s development has been impressive. There are now over 350 cottages, most of them available for sale. The cottages vary in size from compact and intimate for a couple to broad and sprawling, accommodating many groups and satisfying everyone’s needs.

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The Coast

The splendid 30A area includes numerous beaches, but a few of them had the most significant impact on the beauty of Seaside Florida:

Grayton Beach

Back in 1890, when Grayton Beach was built, the design was led by tradition and heritage. The eldest cottages in the 30A area are the nearest to authentic vernacular architecture. These old cottages still stand firm between newer objects, resulting in a unique mix of styles.

Seagrove Beach

Modern architectural techniques and designs had become the standard by the time Seagrove Beach was established in 1949. Although many of the early houses reflected Grayton’s colloquial patterns, some designers of that era brought Modern style to the neighborhood.


Founded in 1981, Seaside is defined by vernacular features: towers, fences, verandas, roof pitches. The pavilions at the lowest point of the streets, which enable pedestrians to walk through the dunes to reach the beaches, are among the most well-known.

Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach’s urban landscape, which dates back to 1995, represents a significant milestone for 30A. The houses’ mixture of materials was a typical vernacular style of architecture from the Caribbean’s tropical climates and American cities like New Orleans. The town’s Caribbean look was embraced, though it has grown into a distinctive hybrid style over time.

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Alys Beach

The architecture of Alys Beach, established in 2004, is a fusion of designs and elements from far away lands such as Bermuda, Antigua, Guatemala, Greek, Spanish, Caribbean, and Moravian style. The stylistic inspirations of this area are the Mediterranean. These are a different group of influences, but they are also smart adaptations to the 30A setting.

The Truman Show Setting

The iconic movie “The Truman Show” was shot in the Town of Seaside, and it’s still a lovely way to capture the architecture and the atmosphere of the place. The film features several sequences in Seaside’s own Modica Market, with the largest part of the film being shot along Seaside, FL. The distinctive design and district style of the Town of Seaside is what makes the beach community in Walton County one of the country’s most magnificent neighborhoods.

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