Design Gems

By Robert Plunket July 2, 2008

If you want something sophisticated and special, check out these two cool listings.


By Robert Plunket


Two of the most architecturally significant houses in Sarasota are currently on the market. They are completely different from each other and completely different from anything in town. Check for open houses on these two; I’d pay money to walk through them.


1400 Westbrook Drive.

First is the amazing Japanese house in Oyster Bay. It’s based on the famous Katsura Villa outside Kyoto, a royal palace from the 1600s. It’s considered the epitome of Japanese architecture, with its simple but highly sophisticated composition, its Zen-like gardens, shoji screens, and framed views of the water.

Above, the Sarasota home's tea house; below, the Katsura Villa's tea house.

The Sarasota version was built in the 1970s and is being sold by the original owners. It’s almost 5,000 square feet and sits on a prime bayfront lot. The details are correct from a design point of view, but it’s also totally up-to-date for modern living. The high point is the tea house, connected to the main house by a narrow walkway, or engawa. It would make a perfect guest house or artist studio. I guess you could even drink tea there. I tracked down a picture of the Katsura Villa’s tea house. Frankly, I like the Sarasota version better, and it has a bathroom.

It’s priced at $3.5 million. Call Jon Partridge at 724-4452.

 The Roundhouse, 4433 Riverwood Ave.

Next is the famous Roundhouse on Riverwood, near Riverview High. It was built in 1960 by Hilton Leech, one of the town’s famous old Bohemian painters, for use as a studio and place to give art classes. The architect was Jack West, from the Sarasota School. Yes, it is completely round. You have to be a math major to figure out the square footage, but I’m told it’s around 2,500.

Above, the Roundhouse's original purpose: an artist studio; below, the mid-century modern-inspired living room.

It was turned into a home by some very hip guys who work for the film festival, and the style is a sort of grand 1950s retro. There are two sleeping spaces, and they also put in a new pool. It’s priced at $699,000 but that includes a buildable adjoining lot. The coolest house in town? For sure.


The listing agent is Vicky Pinney at 284–8023.
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