The 15 pint-sized Mediterranean Revival bungalows that make up downtown Sarasota’s Burns Square Historic District, built in 1925, are taking on even greater historic significance as the Pineapple Avenue-Orange Avenue-Ringling Boulevard area burgeons all around them.
Designed by architect Thomas Reed Martin and built by developer Owen Burns during the height of the city’s first building boom, the bungalows now house an eclectic assortment of residences, shops and professional offices. Burns Court Cinema and Owen's Fish Camp bound them on the south, and the historic two-story U.S. Garage office building is to the north. (Yes, it really was a garage in the 1930s, providing summertime storage for wealthy snowbirds’ automobiles; you can see the original hydraulic lift in the entryway.)
Burns Court bungalows are rarely on the market, so Georgia Kopelousos, a sales executive at The Mark condominiums being built nearby on Pineapple Avenue, jumped at the chance to purchase one in late 2015. At 890 square feet, it has one bedroom and one bath, a kitchen with just enough room for a dining table, and a den. A separate 230-square-foot garage in the back will become a studio guesthouse.
The house was in good structural condition when Kopelousos bought it, but, judging from its pink-tiled kitchen and bath, its knob-and-tube wiring and lack of modern insulation, it had last been renovated in the 1950s.
Kopelousos enlisted Ellen Hanson, a New York and Sarasota-based interior designer who recently opened the home furnishings studio, Pansy Bayou, in the Burns Square area, and contractor Ryan Perrone of Nautilus Homes to modernize her postage-stamp-sized new home while keeping its integrity. That meant, among other things, all new wiring and plumbing, tearing out the front porch screens, rebuilding the front stairs and adding planters on either side, and moving access to the basement. (Surprise—the Burns Court bungalows have basements with about seven feet of head room.)
Perrone says it was a fun project. “Every year I like to take on a little challenge to keep us sharp, and this was it,” he says. “It’s iconic. It’s not a trend, it’s not a fad, it’s forever.”
Hanson used smart space-planning strategies to maximize storage and make the home feel light and open. In the kitchen she took advantage of the generous ceiling height by installing extra-tall cabinets and a cabinet face on the refrigerator door to cut down on visual distraction. The custom white cabinets and subway tile backsplash make the small room feel bigger, too, “and convey a bespoke sense of luxury,” Hanson says.
In the bedroom, she installed an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling reach-in closets with custom interior fittings. And in the bathroom, she eliminated a hall linen closet to make a walk-in shower. (Because Kopelousos requested a bathroom “that wasn’t too girly,” Hanson says, she created a tailored look in charcoal gray and Bismarck-palm green.)
“It’s almost like a ship,” says the interior designer. “Our constant mantra was, ‘visual clutter, begone.’”
Hanson drew on Charlotte Osterman’s vivid textiles for upholstery, pillows and curtains. Osterman, who moved to Sarasota from Chicago last year, designed fabric prints for Diane von Furstenberg and Rachael Roy. Hanson calls them, “a fresh take on classics without being clichés.” She added on-trend bronze metal windows throughout the house, and painted the front door blue and the back door orange. Orange is the design punctuation throughout the house.
Kopelousos had sentimental ties to the neighborhood before moving in. For years, when she’d come to town to visit her mother, they’d plan a date to see a film at Burns Court Cinema. “We loved making that a special thing,” she says. Now as a resident, she patronizes the neighborhood nail salon and listens to Cuban jazz on Tuesday nights at Burns Court Café right across the street.
Happily ensconced in her new home since December, she says she feels “honored and lucky” to live in a house with history. “It’s made very clear to me daily, as somebody is taking pictures of my home, or they’re walking by and stopping to admire it. I feel this was a service to restore this home.”
Big Ideas for Small Spaces
“Nothing shrinks your space more quickly than visual chaos,” says interior designer Ellen Hanson. “Provide closed storage in the spaces where you accumulate piles or projects so you can hide clutter.”
In the kitchen: “Don’t skimp on beautiful design. A large farmhouse sink works beautifully in this space. Smaller fixtures can call attention to a small space, but a well-proportioned larger piece in the right spot feels just the right amount of indulgent.”
In the dining area: “Consider building a banquette or using a longer bench seat on the long side of your table. They eliminate the floor space required to navigate around dining chairs. This frees up room to seat more friends and family. And an oval table top, or one with rounded edges, makes it easier to get in and out of tighter quarters.”
In the bedroom: “Bachelor chests are a small bedroom’s best friend. A matched set maintains a balanced look. Two small dressers as nightstands add storage. Mount swing arm or anglepoise reading lights on the wall to keep the surface of your nightstand free for books and that mug of Sleepytime tea.”
In the bathroom: “Don’t be afraid to play the ‘what if’ game. We were able to create a new vanity that offered improved storage and a dressing table surface by throwing away the idea that a sink needs a mirror directly in front of it.”
Throughout the house: “Limit your palette to keep a connected sense of harmony and balance.”