Angular Modern Beach House in Florida

Tour the family-friendly, LEED-certified, modern Seagrape House designed by husband-and-wife team Traction Architecture in Anna Maria Island, Florida.
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Architect Jody Beck, who runs Tampa-based Traction Architecture with her husband Ross-Alan Tisdale, gives us the backstory on Seagrape House.

Architect Jody Beck with her son Jonah Tisdale, 1, in front of the family beach house she designed on Anna Maria Island, Florida. The home is essentially a bunker on the beach: its structure and envelope are constructed entirely of poured-in-place concrete to resist hurricane force winds while enabling dramatic cantilevers and unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy of Traction Architecture.

The house is meant to be a weekend retreat for my parents and extended family. Some family members, including us, live in Tampa, about an hour's drive from the house, and others are scattered along the east coast in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. On any given weekend, somebody is usually in town for a visit.

A 24-foot sliding glass door system leads out onto the balcony from the great room. Cypress wraps the ceiling and floor above. Beck says, "In designing this project, we strove for simplicity. Cost efficiencies were obtained by exposing the structure where possible, taking advantage of locally sourced products, and choosing relatively simple finishes." For the floor, a local concrete company ground and polished the elevated slabs to create the finished floors and exterior staircases.

We thought of the house as an anchor in the shifting landscape and also saw it as an anchor for the family. We envisioned it as a place that could be enjoyed for generations, one that would last much longer than the typical coastal home. This is why we chose such solid, high-performing materials. The structure and shell are constructed entirely of poured-in-place concrete to withstand a potential hurricane. I was inspired by the idea of a bunker on the beach.

Located off the great room, this exterior porch—subtracted from the main volume and therefore protected from bad weather—is also clad in locally milled cypress. "We chose cypress because of its history as a chief building material in the region’s earliest structures," explains Beck. "It contains a natural oil called cypressene, which deters insects and resists mold and mildew, making it an ideal wood for Florida’s hot, humid climate."

Virtually every member of my family is a doctor or scientist of some sort. Before this project, they didn't know a whole lot about design and architecture. I saw the house as an opportunity to connect them to their surroundings. I tried to incorporate small gestures that would inspire them. For example, there are built-in desks in each guest room to accommodate quiet space for working. The desks all have what we called "St. Jerome boxes," small windows that frame views of the sea while sitting.

4-year-old Robin plays in the home's great room, which is furnished with original mid-century pieces that belonged to Beck's grandmother, including two Saarinen chairs, a Knoll coffee table, and Bertoia bench.

From the entrance, you can see the home's kitchen underneath the wraparound cypress ceiling. The modular kitchen system is by Viola Park. Paperstone countertops are made of recycled material—more cost effective than the traditional stone or quartz.

The process of designing, building and now inhabiting the home has been exciting for all of us. Before we started this project, my family could never have visualized a house like this. So far they love it, and they keep telling me that they miss it if a week goes by without staying there.

The kitchen from above, looking down from the second floor. Jody Beck with husband Ross-Alan Tisdale, partners in Traction Architecture, with their kids Robin and Jonah.

My husband Ross and I met in Los Angeles at Sci-Arc and moved back to Tampa (where I grew up) about seven years ago. We called our firm Traction Architecture, because we met on Traction Street—the school is located in a former freight depot on the corner of 3rd and Traction in downtown LA."

The kids' bedroom sports an Ikea bunk bed and trundle, which leaves plenty of space for toys. Custom cypress built-ins provide multi-functional storage and seating areas and minimize the need for furniture.

The guest room doubles as a home office. Here, too, are cypress built-ins framing glass panels that look out onto the sea. The architects call them "St. Jerome boxes," which is inspired by the classic image of St. Jerome at his desk, lost in thought, with the landscape framed in a picture window beside him.

Small surprises were incorporated into the bathroom design, like a cantilevered exterior shower. Traction chose inexpensive glass subway tile and porcelain floor tile, in addition to modular cabinetry by Viola Park with Paperstone countertops.

Exterior concrete staircases cantilever over the pool and provide circulation between interior and exterior living spaces. Perforated metal railings provide a protective enclosure while creating patterns of light that mark the movement of the sun. The recycled plastic chairs are by Loll.


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