Most Gates Win, Some Gates Lose
I love my neighbourhood.
Since November 2010, I have been living in a beach community in Panamá, Central America. The town is called Coronado, and is one of the most popular beach towns in the province of Panamá (I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was to name the province after the country, but bear with me here…). Coronado has become one of the largest expat communities in Panamá due largely in part to amenities that are available. There are two major groceries stories (Rey and Supper 99) as well as a doctors clinic and hospital, a golf course, two major banks, several restaurants, a dollar store, some furniture stores and more. Coronado is a gated community – visitors must check in with the main security gate before entering the neighbourhood (a comforting security feature for homeowners).
I love being within walking distance of the beach. Shown here: Playa Serena in Coronado, Panama.
It is uncommon for beach towns around here to offer so many amenities, in fact, most of the neighbouring towns (Gorgona, Bejuco, Chame, San Carlos, Palmar, etc). use Coronado as their grocery store hub. There are smaller businesses around the beaches that sell some basic grocery items (called Mini-Supers which are more like convenience stores), but you won’t be able to find most necessities there on a regular basis. Plus, the prices at the Mini-Supers can be higher because the owners are unable to buy in bulk (but then again, some items are cheaper since they come from local farmers or suppliers).
A slightly out-of-focus view of the produce section in the local grocery store, Rey.
Either way, Coronado is now my home for the next several months, and today I’d like to share some photos of the community with you – specifically, the impressive (and not-so-impressive) entrances to the numerous mansions and summer homes in the area (the beach front houses are drop-dead gorgeous).
Every house features a security gate at the entrance. These gates are meant to offer homeowners some privacy from the road, but they have become an important part of a house’s architecture. A variety of interesting materials are used to build the gates, including wrought iron, metal, stone, wood and plaster, but not all gates are designed equally. Some are more magnificent (successful) than others. Let’s take a look:
SUCCESSFUL: This decorative wrought-iron gate allows passersby to admire this gorgeous lavender-coloured mansion (did you notice the cute fountain in the centre of the driveway?) but also incorporates solid walls along the perimetre.
SUCCESSFUL: Simple, yet well-done. Here we see plaster walls and another wrough-iron gate. Don't you love how the greenery has become part of the design?
UNSUCCESSFUL: I love the look of the chunky wood doors (although the metal grid behind it looks tacky, though necessary for security). I'm not a fan of the painted green plater work and the stone pillars - too many different materials together.
SUCCESSFUL: This gate is one of my favourites. I pass it on my walk to the beach and always love admiring the combination of materials that are slowly being overtaken by creeping bougainvillea vines.
A closer view of the beautiful menagerie of textures. The address on the painted tiles is a typical feature for this area (and most of Panamá).
SUCCESSFUL: Some of the mansions are simply too large to photograph - this gate is enormous - but offers great privacy and has beautiful decorative embellishments.
The wall around the house in the previous photo is so lovely. The heavy stone texture contrasts nicely with the plaster moulding. The hedge finishes the look and adds some much-needed delicacy to the gate.
SUCCESSFUL: Although this gate is not as luxurious as some of the others, it is still "well done". The stacked stone wall and the wood gate work nicely together. The hedges on either side of the gate frame the entrance nicely.
UNSUCCESSFUL: This gate is boring and uneventful, but check out the house in the distance! This modern residence has full floor to ceiling windows on opposite sides, which means I can stand on the street and look right through the house to the ocean on the opposite side. Beautiful.
UNSUCCESSFUL: While I appreciate the rancho-style gate itself, the chain link fence around the property could use some work. This gate would make more of a statement if there was a fence with horizontal wood beams and rustic stone support pillars surrounding it. The gate looks out of place.
SUCCESSFUL: The humble gate and fence are adorable. Sure, the house behind it is not one of the Coronado mansions, but it's downright cute and I love the broken tiles in the cement walkway. This gate is the perfect height too - it compliments the scale of the house and still provides privacy in the yard.
UNSUCCESSFUL: If Frankenstein were a gate, this is what he would look like. Combining different materials is a great way to add visual interest, but the stacked stone, plaster wall, almost-invisible-iron-grid-gate and short hedges just don't "go" together because they all stand alone. A better integration of materials requires repetition in order to create balance. Sorry, Franken-Gate.
SUCCESSFUL: While this photo may not do this gate and wall justice, take my word for it: it's stunning. Although there are a variety of colours and materials used, they all work well together and the repetition of forms creates a sense of balance and harmony.
Here's a better view of the wall that features a limestone inlay surrounded by a smooth plater finish. I love how portions of the gate protrude and the recesses feature Red Sealing Wax Palms. I also like that the designer chose to locate the iron lamp inside the limestone insert.
A better view of the iron gate and the beautiful swirly details. Don't the limestone pillars look wonderful?
Here's a close up of the iron gate. These swirly iron details are super cute, but they are a creeper's worst nightmare (although, I guess that means that the ultimate level of privacy has been achieved for homeowners). There is a very beautiful mansion beyond this gate that is equally as stunning.
SUCCESSFUL: This gate is a bit of a doozy - it is very cute and has a typical hacienda/rancho feel to it, but it is obviously in need of some TLC. A new paint job might help revive the perfect arch (but it still gets a "successful" vote for its potential).
UNSUCCESSFUL: Come on, people! Use a little imagination. No privacy, no decorative elements...this gate is a snore-fest and it's too bad because the house is so charming.
UNSUCCESSFUL: While this gate is pretty drab and boring, the house it protects is nothing short of impressive...so why skimp out on the feature that makes the first impression? My favourite part of this gate is the walls that surrounds the house (see the next photo).
LOVE LOVE LOVE! Now *this* is a unique fence. The base features a standard plaster finish (likely concrete blocks covered in plaster and painted white) but the top of the fence features criss-cross braces that are covered in leaves and vines.
This close up helps illustrate the tangled vines that make this fence truly unique. It seems as though the fence framework is wood. I will have to investigate how the vines were so carefully wound around the beams and how they remain in great shape year round!
There are so many beautiful details to behold in the Coronado community – you’ve seen a few examples here and I’ve only captured the details along two streets!
The architectural marvels of Coronado never cease to amaze me, and I’m glad that many home owners and/or designers have made an effort to carry the design out to the street at their gates. After all, the main gate of a house makes a first impression, and we all know how important THOSE are.