The Hilton Leech Art Studio—a.k.a. the Round House—may well be one of the most iconic buildings in Sarasota. Over the years it’s been an art school, an architect’s office and is now a luxurious residence. It’s the meeting place of the two major components of the town’s golden age—the Sarasota School of Architecture and the artist colony that defined the town.
Hilton Leech was one of the artists/entrepreneurs who had such an influence on Sarasota back in the 1950s. He not only created art and sold it, he taught it, too, and made good money. He hired Jack West and Elizabeth Boylston Waters to design him a round studio near the banks of Phillippi Creek. From there he operated his famous art school.
After Leech's death, the house sat empty for a while. Then, in the ‘80s, it’s where architect Jonathan Parks had his office when he was just starting out. Afterward, it was bought by a guy named Hans Vohlgefahrt who worked for the film festival. He and his partner turned it into a place to live. More recently, architect Tatiana White did some renovations for the current owner.
The home is a round building that’s about 60 feet in diameter, with ceilings 18 feet high. There’s a mezzanine that can be an office or a bedroom. It overlooks the studio area. There’s another bedroom on the ground floor; it’s totally sequestered and rather glamorous. There are two bathrooms, both in cylinders of their own, right in the middle of the structure, plus another bath attached to the ground floor bedroom.
Outside is a pool and gardens that reflect the house’s aesthetic—modernistic but with a certain Pop Art overlay. It would be a fun place to live—full of local history but totally up to date. There’s no place like it.
4433 Riverwood Ave. is priced at $1 million. For more information call Martie Lieberman of Premier Sotheby’s at (941) 724-1118.