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Sarasota Magazine Founder Dan Denton's Lido Key Home Hits the Market

After three respectful renovations over a 35-year period, Denton created a sublime example of the Sarasota modern style. It's now on the market for $4.95 million.

By Kim Doleatto December 8, 2023

117 S. Polk Drive on Lido Key is for sale for $4.95 million.

Image: Ryan Gamma

Meticulous and inviting, trendsetting but timeless, this Lido Key home proves that midcentury modern style, and specifically that of the Sarasota School of Architecture, isn’t fading—it’s forever. Its owner, Sarasota Magazine founder Dan Denton, 71, knew that even before the look—now called the “Sarasota School” or “Sarasota modern"—had a name.

A seating nook in the almost 2,600 square-foot home.

Image: Ryan Gamma

Denton's four-bedroom, four-bathroom home at 117 S. Polk Drive on Lido Key encompasses the style borne of a group of young, progressive architects who achieved international recognition for their innovative work here in the mid-1940s through the ’60s. One of them, Gene Leedy, is credited with formally uniting them under the term “Sarasota School of Architecture” during a 1982 convention of the American Institute of Architects—which Denton actually attended while on assignment for Sarasota Magazine. At the time, he was living “in a more traditional home on St. Armands," but he was "interested in those architects.” Paul Rudolph and Victor Lundy are his favorites from the original crew.

Landscaping in the front of the home.

Image: Ryan Gamma

He bought the home in 1989 when the Sarasota School was a niche interest. "Mediterranean Revival was the ruling style," Denton recalls. "I knew and loved Paul Rudolph's buildings, but I never found a good one to buy. And I loved St. Armands and wanted to be on Lido."

The house he's in now, he says, "hit all those notes."

Floor-to-ceiling windows blur the lines between indoors and out.

Image: Ryan Gamma

Hidden behind a healthy wall of seagrapes, the home sits on a .39-acre lot on a deepwater canal. Denton was initially attracted to its flat roof, wide overhangs, terrazzo floors and midcentury characteristics.

A custom dining table and teak dining chairs echo the geometry of the room’s wall of white wooden squares.

Image: Ryan Gamma

"It was a Sarasota School of Architecture house in disguise—like a ranch version of the Umbrella House," he says. "The challenge was to make it a pure version of the style.”

That he did. Though Denton won't reveal the cost of his renovations, each decision was well-thought-out, and there are a slew of architectural drawings and plans that ultimately didn’t make the cut. (For instance, the idea of a second floor was scrapped.)

Long views of the back of the home, where there's a pool, spa and fire pit.

Image: Ryan Gamma

As for what he did do: The rooms in the home were originally concentrated on one end of the house, which ultimately needed a split floor plan. Now, the guest wing is configured in a U shape that creates a courtyard in the back; it corresponds to another courtyard in the front, offering lots of outdoor living opportunities. In the back are a pool and spa. A guest house is accessible through the kitchen in the main house's other wing. "It was a challenge for the architect to match it all," Denton admits.

The triangle window was added in one of the renovations.

Image: Ryan Gamma

The house also has floating overhangs for shade, plus expanses of windows and glass sliders to maximize cross-ventilation and views. Denton's first renovation, in 1990, under the direction of the late Sarasota designer Robert Beardsworth, added the new pool and kitchen. Ten years later, Denton asked Beardsworth’s partner, Robert Neal, to consult on stage two of the project with architect Michael Epstein of Seibert Architects, a firm founded by Tim Seibert, another leader of the Sarasota School. Fittingly, Seibert began his career as a draftsman for Paul Rudolph.

Rooms flow from one to the other thanks to lots of glass and open spaces.

Image: Ryan Gamma

Completed in 2021, the latest renovation added an open pavilion in the garden, further opening the home to our region's prized indoor-outdoor lifestyle. The front wall of the living and dining area was replaced with floor-to-ceiling windows, and the view through the screened porch to the pool, in the rear of the home, was opened up by removing screen-holding beams and allowing the new screening to span from post to post and floor to roof for seamless views. In 2022, the home won a Florida AIA Design Award.

An aerial shot of the home, which sits on .39 of an acre on a deepwater canal.

An aerial view of the home, which sits on .39 of an acre on a deepwater canal.

Image: Pix360

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors offer seamless indoor-outdoor living.

Image: Ryan Gamma

The home is lovingly decorated and includes Denton's beloved collection of art and midcentury furniture, which started when a design professor at Ringling College sold him a rare T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings coffee table for $50 that’s still in his living room. It's all going with him.

"I want to turn my new place into the same style, too," Denton says.

The home shows off Sarasota School elements like built-ins and original terrazzo floors.

Image: Ryan Gamma

Image: Ryan Gamma

The colorful garden sculpture of cylindric poles by James Renfro is staying put, but the rest of Denton's art and furniture collection is going with him.

Image: Ryan Gamma

Various sculptures in the backyard bring the art outside. The one in the front, made of copper, is staying—it was made by Jack Cartlidge, the artist behind the sculptures at City Hall in downtown Sarasota. In the back of the home, a colorful burst of PVC pipe cylinders by James Renfro is also staying.

The home is not historically designated, so there are no protections or limitations on what can be done with it—and there are no contractual conditions, either. But, Denton says, "I would like to find a buyer as enthusiastic about it as I am. I would pass on someone wanting to demolish it.”

One of four bathrooms.

Image: Ryan Gamma

"It's a balancing act—deciding at what point you replace things and keep the aesthetic of the vintage stuff," he says. "But that's been the most interesting part about it." For example, some of the aforementioned architectural plans include an update to one of the bathrooms—but Denton says he'd never dream of touching its original pink tile.

One of the bathrooms has the original pink tile from when the home was built in 1952.

Image: Ryan Gamma

So why is Denton leaving? He says it’s time to downsize, but he's staying local and probably moving to the mainland.

A deep water canal in the back connects to Pansy Bayou and beyond to the Gulf of Mexico.

Image: Ryan Gamma

The home from the canal side in the back by night.

Image: Ryan Gamma

Meanwhile, the next owner is in for a treat.

“This home is in one of the few locations where you can walk to the beach in the morning, get on the boat in the afternoon, come home for a dip in the pool and eat out on St. Armands Circle for dinner, all without getting in your car,” says Kim Ogilvie of Michael Saunders & Company, who is listing the property. “Midcentury-modern homes that have been expertly remodeled by a committed owner only become available once in a blue moon."

Interested? Contact Kim Ogilvie of Michael Saunders & Company at (941) 376-1717.

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