Scott and Sonia Schechter are drawn to the indoor-outdoor feeling of the Sarasota School of Architecture. When they sought to honor that midcentury-modern spirit in a brand-new home, they turned to Seibert Architects, whose founder, Edward J. “Tim” Seibert, had been a key contributor. (Seibert designed such iconic 1950s and ’60s structures as the original Siesta Beach Pavilion, the Cooney House on St. Armands and the Hiss Studio in Lido Shores.)
“We wanted something architecturally important in Sarasota that echoes the past with modern systems and technology,” says Sonia Schechter. “Our charge to Michael [Epstein, project architect and designer] was, blend the best of the past with the best of the present.”
Their new home, which opens onto a wide bayou in an established West of Trail neighborhood, does just that. It is flooded with light, thanks to floor-to-ceiling glass sliders across the western side and an ingenious barrel-vaulted roof—echoes of Paul Rudolph’s curvaceous Sanderling Beach Club roofline. The home is finished handsomely in Southern pine and has clerestory windows that take the eye upward. “It’s uplifting to be in that space,” says Epstein, “and the house is so rectilinear that the curves help bring a lighthearted quality.”
Light pours in, too, through a glass courtyard just inside the foyer. The courtyard is planted with Korean bump grass, a lignum vitae tree that blooms with delicate purple flowers, and terrestrial orchids. The Schechters’ children use it as a play space. “You step into the foyer and you go from being outside to looking outside again,” says Epstein. “It’s a very transparent and welcoming entry; it opens itself up to the person coming in.”
As to the best of the present, the home is powered by a 10-kilowatt solar system that takes care of most of its power needs and is surrounded by a Florida-friendly landscape designed by Grant Beatt of Wilhelm Brothers Landscape Management.
Because the Schechters’ new residence is set among traditional homes, Epstein chose to clad it in Hardie board siding rather than smooth stucco, which has a tendency to appear cold. “Hardie board siding has a welcoming warmth and texture,” the architect says. “The scale is not overwhelming, and it has a friendly face to the street.”
Inside are stone countertops, concrete floors and other natural, organic elements. A cabinet with open shelves that divides the living and dining rooms holds Scott Schechter’s collection of Charles Catteau vases from the 1920s-’40s. Their vivid blue hue—called “Biche Bleu” or blue doe, Schechter explains—were the jumping off point for design elements like the dining room chairs and living room sofa.
“When Michael first showed us how the room divider for this space worked, we knew we wanted to find something special that could be seen from both rooms,” says Scott Schechter. “We acquired the vases and chargers with this in mind, well before the house was built.”
Now that the family is living in the space, Sonia Schechter says it’s everything they’d hoped for and more. “We wanted it to be evocative of the things that still work about the Sarasota School, and it is,” she says. “As the light changes during the day, you feel that in the house; it’s dramatic. The full moon shines through the clerestory windows, and the abundant windows bring in the texture and form, beauty and color of the landscaping.”