In 1974, when Tamara El Boukfaoui’s family moved to Siesta Key from Michigan—like most Florida transplants, to escape Northern winters—her parents were enchanted by a one-story 1958 house. The house was modest, but floor-to-ceiling windows flooded it with sunshine and views of the Intracoastal Waterway rolling right outside their back door. “My mother walked in and fell in love with the view; they bought the house without my dad even seeing it,” says El Boukfaoui.
Her parents considered it the quintessential Florida home. And with sleek lines and a modernist design, it also melded with their aesthetic. Since the late 1960s, they had collected high-design furniture—Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chairs, Eames lounge chairs, an Eero Saarinen tulip table, a Herman Miller built-in wall unit and a Danish modern dining room set.
Tim Seibert, an early member of the Sarasota School of Architecture, was the designer. He’d built several “pavilion” homes on the key, with then-revolutionary open floor plans that let the outdoors in and were typical of the Sarasota School. Her parents asked Seibert to enclose the original carport into a garage and add a master bedroom suite above it. Then, “My parents, four kids age 16 to 5, my grandmother, a cat and a dog moved in,” El Boukfaoui says.
El Boukfaoui was 12, and she remembers spotting roseate spoonbills and manatees in the mangroves and sailing on their Hobie Cat in Sarasota Bay. “We never locked our door,” she remembers. “My dad planted a lot of the trees, like the gold tree by the water and that huge oak in the front yard; he brought it home in the back of our Volkswagen Rabbit. In 40 years, things grow a lot.”
When her parents prepared to move into a retirement community in 2015, El Boukfaoui decided to return to Sarasota and purchase her childhood home from them. She enlisted Seibert’s successors, architect Sam Holladay and interior designer Pam Holladay of Seibert Architects, to bring it back to life. (The Holladays themselves live in an original Seibert residence they restored; Seibert was Sam Holladay’s first employer after graduating from the University of Florida in 1972, and he bought the practice from Seibert some 20 years ago.)
Among the challenges the architect and interior designer faced were wood rot and broken plumbing under the foundation. They enclosed the breezeway that had led from that original carport to the house, stained the dark interior wall paneling a modern driftwood gray, gutted and rebuilt the kitchen, replaced the cracked concrete driveway with shell and freshened up the native landscaping.
They proceeded cautiously, agreeing that whatever original elements could be saved, would be. “I kept as much of the old stuff as I could,” says El Boukfaoui. “It was beautiful then and it’s beautiful now.” That included keeping the jalousie windows in the great room and the ventilation-optimizing louvered wall dividers in the hallway and on the bedroom closet doors.
The original tiles in the pink, blue and brown bathrooms stayed, and the original terrazzo floors were revealed by ripping up the quarry tile that had covered them for 40 years. El Boukfaoui credits a Sarasota company called Weird Science Concrete for the restoration work. “The floors made a huge difference; they lightened up the whole house,” she says.
“One of my obsessions was the old-time fans in the bathrooms, but one of them sounded like an airplane taking off,” El Boukfaoui says. A workman dismantled it, solved the noise issue, reassembled it and painted it in a chrome finish. Now, the fans “look new and old at the same time,” she says, “[maintaining] that line between keeping what it authentic and beautiful but not deteriorated and crummy.”
And all that ’60s-era furniture her parents had collected is still there, looking better than ever in its refreshed setting.
El Boukfaoui is convinced that most buyers would have torn the home down. “It took my craziness, or my passion [to save it],” she says. “The beauty of Sarasota is the water, the wildlife, the sunlight. Architecture that takes advantage of that really does look more beautiful.”
And everyone who worked on the house came to share her passion. “Every single one of the trades said, ‘You were so right to do this, it’s a work of art.’ To have a 20-something-year-old painter tell you that, it’s meaningful,” she says.
Pam Holladay agrees. “We’ve thanked her for saving this house,” she says.
Yoder Homes LLC was the contractor on the project.