Once an affordable place of refuge for seasonal residents looking to build a second home, the barrier islands off the coast of Sarasota, Florida have become a hot spot for real estate high rollers. Although builders often are quick to tear down the original midcentury houses to make way for condominiums and new construction, a few local designers recognize the unique value of projects born out of the Sarasota School of Architecture, the launch pad for the city’s modernist movement.
The Armstrong House, located in the coveted Sandy Hook development, is one such gem. Designed by architect Edward “Tim” Seibert and built in 1962 by Frank Thyne, the home was returned to its former glory though a year-long renovation project spearheaded by a team from Seibert’s namesake firm. Although many similar homes in the area suffered structural damage as a result of poor maintenance, the Armstrong House was in good shape overall, notes Sam Holladay of Seibert Architects.
The new homeowners also cherished the original design concept, which sought to integrate the indoor living space with the natural beauty outside, and saw no reason to tinker with the layout. The builders set out to preserve elements that spoke to the home’s mid century heritage—including floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors in the main living and dining areas, fir ceiling beams, and terrazzo floors throughout the house—while updating the kitchen and bathrooms for modern living.
“A lot of it was finishes and materials,” says Holladay of the renovations. “It was looking at things that were in bad shape and making them better.” The greatest challenge was keeping costs low while bringing the roof, electrical and plumbing up to code, he notes. Construction criteria for Florida’s coastal areas limits work on existing houses in a flood zone to 50 percent of the home’s appraised value. “For a lot of these older homes, the value is really in the property and not in the house,” explains Holladay, noting that upgrades requested by the bank quickly put construction costs over the limit.
Exceptions can be made for homes that have an historic designation, so the homeowners, architects and designers pursued this option to fully realize their vision. Thanks to their collective efforts, the Armstrong House was spared from the bulldozer and once again shines brightly as an example of Sarasota’s modernist movement.
Find the full story of the Tim Seibert’s Armstrong House in the Atomic Ranch Summer 2019 issue and more on the architectural heritage of Sarasota, Florida. Buy your copy here, or at your local newsstand.