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This clever front-yard pool “window” stops traffic along Anna Maria Island. 

The couple who own this contemporary new residence immediately across the street from a sandy bayfront beach on Anna Maria Island’s North Bay Boulevard enjoy a front-row seat to the parade of paddleboarders, power walkers, shell seekers, flocks of pelicans and floods of fishermen and tourists heading to the Anna Maria City Pier.

And all those people (and pelicans, and dolphins, too, while we’re at it) have something to stare at, too: the home’s swimming pool—seen through a five-foot by five-foot “window” made of three-inch-thick plexiglass. It’s a true Florida showstopper, like watching the swimming mermaids at Weeki Wachee.

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“It does stop traffic; it’s crazy,” says architect and builder John Pichette, who, with his business partner, architect Michael Halflants of Halflants + Pichette Studio for Modern Architecture, designed and built the two-story home that was completed in 2016 for a well-traveled couple.

The flood zone that required building the residence 11 feet above grade gets credit for the aquarium pool. From the raised first-floor living room, a series of outdoor steps leads to the elevated pool deck, then steps down again to another elevated deck four feet above grade. “The intent of the design was to reconnect the elevated house with the yard below,” says Halflants.

A shaded deck was created by cantilevering the second-floor master bedroom over the pool. Also on that floor are an additional two bedroom suites and a home office, with a desktop view that stretches past the Sunshine Skyway Bridge all the way to downtown St. Petersburg.

At 3,200 square feet (plus rooftop deck with Jacuzzi), the home feels larger because of the 22-foot-high ceiling in the living room and the floor-to-ceiling glass walls that open up to that stunning bay view. “It’s a very livable house,” says Pichette. “No big volumes that you’re lost in. It flows really well.”

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The design details are sophisticated yet spare: a dark stacked slate wall at the ground-floor entry and on the wall around the pool, creamy shell-stone floors throughout. The kitchen has dramatic, highly textural schist granite countertops; schist granite also covers one wall in the powder room. Pichette is quick to credit the homeowner for her keen design aesthetic in selecting fixtures, appliances and finishes.

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Besides all the local hubbub over the house and its cool pool, Halflants + Pichette won several unbuilt design awards for the project in 2013 and 2014: a national award from the Association of Licensed Architects, and two American Institute of Architects (AIA) Awards —one from the Gulf Coast chapter and another from Tampa Bay AIA. The AIA Florida/Caribbean chapter also honored John Pichette this summer as its Builder of the Year for “outstanding craftsmanship and workmanship” of the Anna Maria house and other projects.

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