Point of View

By staff October 1, 2007

Do views make the house or does the house make its views? It’s impossible to decide in this Manasota Key beachfront home, where architecture and outdoor vistas inextricably intertwine.

Nature was the muse for Guy W. Peterson, FAIA of Guy Peterson/Office for Architecture, who has created a 5,450-square-foot modern sculpture, a canvas for waterscapes continuously repainted by sea and sky.

Unwilling to part with the luxuriant tree canopy on this rare piece of undeveloped barrier island property, Peterson designed a layout different from most waterfront homes. The second floor is a grown-up incarnation of a secret tree house—an intimate guest quarters with separate family room and kitchen with a glass curtain wall that overlooks green tropical foliage—while the homeowners’ kitchen, living room, dining room and master suite are on the third floor.

On this third floor, the tree line is obliterated from view and memory, and all one sees is the endless Gulf of Mexico, as if standing on the captain’s bridge of a cruise ship. The living room looms into sight first—an axis has been drawn to lead the eye through an angled open niche to the deceptively simple, clean-lined fireplace. The device helps the large, open space function effectively as both family room and formal living room. A seating area to the left of the fireplace is dedicated to TV viewing and outfitted with comfortable sectionals; to the right, a conversation grouping focuses on a wall of glass with an uninterrupted Gulf panorama.

Nature is the star here, not possessions; nothing about the furnishings distracts from the sunsets, waves, dancing dolphins or endless horizon. Living room flows into kitchen and a dining room that needs no furniture other than table and chairs. The perspective is evocative of a window table at sea, or of vacations that linger in the dreams these homeowners awaken to every day.

Peterson’s Midwestern clients found an ad online for the undeveloped acreage that would become their retirement home after they had been scouting the entire state of Florida. Interior designer John Bendel of J.S. Bendel Design of Albuquerque, N.M., who had worked with them on residences in Indiana, says that with one visit, they immediately recognized the site’s enormous potential. “They loved the peace, serenity and laid-back attitude of Manasota Key,” he says, recalling that they described it as Florida’s best-kept secret.

Luckily, Peterson’s award-winning work is not a secret. Bendel says his clients saw one of the architect’s designs featured in this magazine and became convinced that a modern home (the first they’ve owned) would best suit their new beach lifestyle. A tour of Peterson’s work triggered ideas and a wish list of features to be included. Peterson’s design is as specific to the site as it is to the homeowners.

The home’s most striking feature is its three-barrel vaulted roof. “The roofscape is celebrated,” Peterson says as he climbs a stainless steel spiral staircase outside the home. It leads to a tiny rooftop patio that affords Gulf and bay views. “Can you imagine toasting the New Year amid the stars up here?” he asks.

The roof is as hard working as it is stunning. Each barrel crowns an interior pavilion to create the upper story’s 25-foot curved vaulted ceilings. The first two pavilions, linked by a central core, comprise the public living space and are bridged to a third pavilion housing a private owner’s retreat that sits off at an angle. “The 30-degree angle takes advantage of a panoramic view of the Gulf,” Peterson points out.

That is an understatement: The ingenious quirk has increased the master bedroom’s Gulf view from 180 to 270 degrees. Just as the home is seamlessly integrated with its setting, the bathtub and vanities, at the owners’ request, are literally in the bedroom. Only a glass wall separates the two “rooms,” so that views are never missed, even while bathing.

Throughout the home, the architect contrasts the ceiling vaults with low planes for interest and intimacy. “The play of high and low is more dynamic and makes circulation more uplifting,” says Bendel, who used the angles and curves, riffs on light, space and scale that Peterson used architecturally, as the foundation of his interior design.

Colors, materials and textures are all inspired by sand, pebbles, driftwood and foliage found on this property. “Even before the house took shape, barely in the foundation stage, I was picking up rocks and shells from the outcropping on the beach,” Bendel says.

Incredible care went into the selection of marble, granite and wood used for custom furniture and cabinetry that Bendel himself designed. While wood grains run vertically to correspond to the form of trees on the lower floor, they run horizontally in the living spaces to mirror the horizon.

To personalize spare interiors, Bendel inventoried the clients’ collections as soon as the project began. Ethnic masks from their world travels are strategically displayed throughout the home. They give personality and warmth to the interiors, says Bendel, as do the couple’s antique Oriental carpet, ceramics and art glass. Hand-blown glass sconces, reminders of a trip to Hawaii, appear in guest rooms; a Dale Chihuly Red Persius vase counterpoints a stunning hand-blown glass mobile that refracts light through the entry hall.

“A home should be the absolute reflection of its occupants,” Bendel concludes. “Ultimately, the space should look like the designer was never there.”



Guy W.Peterson, FAIA, Guy Peterson Office for Architecture, Sarasota, Fla. (941) 952-1111,

Project manager: David Lowe, Guy Peterson Office for Architecture

Builder: Michael K. Walker & Associates, Sarasota, Fla. (941) 365-3301

Interior designer: J.S. Bendel Design, Albuquerque, NM (505) 296-0641,

Landscape design: Hazeltine Nurseries, Venice, FL (941) 485-1272

Custom elevator: Langford Elevators and Lifts, (866) 570-5500

Photography by Steven Brooke.


How to make it warm

Turn to nature. Replace generic earth tones with colors found on site to integrate the home into its setting.

Know your materials. Use stones and wood from around the world for texture and interest in modern homes.

Work with metal. Accent shiny polished white metals with matte, brushed and even oil bronze finishes.

Employ texture. Add depth and warmth with hand-crafted, highly textured objects like blown glass, ethnic masks, carved wood and hand-formed ceramics.

Personalize accessories. Finish the space with art or antiques that speak to who you are.

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