A Famed Florida Midcentury With a Zigzag Roof Gets a Careful Revamp

The 1959 dwelling designed by architect Ralph Twitchell receives an award-winning renovation by local practice Seibert Architects.
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It was a 2004 article in the New York Times that first introduced Roberto and Clare Arguedas to Martie Lieberman, a Florida real estate agent who focuses on selling architecturally significant houses. Planning a move to Sarasota, Florida, at the time, they read of Lieberman’s efforts to preserve the city’s modernist dwellings built during the Sarasota School of Architecture movement in the ’50s and ’60s by the likes of Ralph Twitchell, Paul Rudolph, and Philip Hiss.

Located at 1332 Westway Drive in Sarasota, the Zigzag House features a wall-wrapped courtyard that provides private outdoor space for residents and blocks noise from the facing street. 

Enthralled, the couple reached out to Lieberman, who educated them on this period of architectural history and its impact on the Lido Shores neighborhood in particular. After an extensive tour, she even found the couple a single-story home designed by Twitchell’s office—albeit one that suffered years of neglect. That’s when Lieberman suggested that the Sarasota School–savvy local practice Seibert Architects step in.

In 2019, local practice Seibert Architects completed a thorough renovation and restoration of the single-story residence originally designed by architect Ralph Twitchell in 1959.

Polished concrete flooring, full-height windows, and white-painted walls complement the minimalist design elements—pocket doors, recessed lighting, and hidden closets—to emphasize the modern aesthetic of the home.

"We understand what was going on back then, and the intention behind this style of house," says architect Michael Epstein, pointing out how the firm’s namesake, Edward Seibert, launched his own career working for modernist architect Paul Rudolph. 

"We were looking for a restoration that was sympathetic to the midcentury aesthetic, but it also needed to be practical and have modern comforts," explains Roberto Arguedas, the current homeowner.

When Epstein first laid eyes on the 1959 Zigzag House, he immediately took note of its ample quirks. Devoid of air conditioning, a must during Sarasota summers, the 3,419-square-foot dwelling had curiously been reorganized as an open-air pavilion, with windows and both exterior and interior doors removed. A bulky outdoor heater—typically the domain of restaurants—was inside, and the original carport was closed in with sliding glass doors and an out-of-place storage room awkwardly nestled behind the principal bedroom. "I was grinning for two days because the previous owners were basically camping out there," Epstein recalls.

The Sarasota home features a single-story layout with four bedrooms and four bathrooms, as well as a large, open living/dining area, a separate media den and office, and a central, fully covered lanai situated near a saltwater pool and zen garden. 

Fully restoring the structure to its glory days was not a possibility; Roberto and Clare did not want to scale back on the square footage, and not every material and detail could be recreated. Still, the couple sought to revive the structure’s midcentury essence and blur the boundary between the indoors and outdoors—a Sarasota School hallmark.

Eero Saarinen’s Womb chair is the star of the book-filled den.

Although the striking heritage roof comprised of panels arranged in a V formation was in reasonable shape, the interior was a misguided jumble of motifs. Some of the original, unsalvageable stack-bond block walls stretching from inside to outside remained exposed; other parts were marred by the addition of finishes like wood and stucco, the latter of which Epstein embraced throughout for a sense of consistency. 

Because the floor—a mix of concrete and exposed terrazzo—had been stained opaque black before the overhaul, the architects redid this element "with concrete topping to be more visually unified," says Epstein. New doors and windows were fitted, and skylights were installed to brighten once-dark bathrooms.

All of the bathrooms—which were sans doors in the previous iteration of the house—were reconfigured during the 2019 renovation, which was recognized in 2020 by the American Institute of Architects. 

The principal bathroom includes a soaking tub and a walk-in shower with a skylight.

The introduction of air conditioning posed its own distinct set of challenges, including dropping the hallway ceilings by 12 inches to forge air distribution pathways. To amplify the distinctive sawtooth roofline and saltwater pool, streamlining components was a conscious design decision. "Michael went to great lengths to make sure it would be a smooth visual transition from indoors to outdoors, taking advantage of the natural light from the glass triangles that fill in the zigzags," says Roberto. 

The existing pool cage "was in poor condition and structurally unsound," Roberto adds, noting that "the dark-bronze beams, low height, and odd shape made it feel claustrophobic." So, Epstein’s solution was to design a taller one that aligns with the walls of the main, open-plan interior and doesn’t obstruct views.

In its former incarnation, the concept "was inward-looking—a home built around its pool," says Roberto. "We wanted to keep the indoor/outdoor connection, while recognizing the realities of Florida’s climate. The 45-foot span of sliding doors provides a lot of flexibility in that respect, and ensures that even when the heat makes us keep them closed, you never feel disconnected from the main room when enjoying the pool area." 

Toward the latter part of the renovation process, which was phased out over three and a half years, Jennifer Masters, owner and interior design director at And Masters, was brought on board to create "a gallery-like yet warm" aesthetic, as the current homeowner puts it. Masters wanted to nod to the origins of the house, but not "look like we walked into a Mad Men set," she says. 

Drawing inspiration from the nearby beach and artwork by David Hockney and Ellsworth Kelly, Masters selected soft, round furniture that contrasts with "the angular nature of the space." She found balance by pairing vintage and newer pieces in a variety of textures with a cool palette. The primary living area’s internal focus—the pool—helped "create an oasis of calm on a crisp, white backdrop," she says.

The east and west bedroom wings extending from either side of the main living space are separated for privacy. Each bedroom has an en suite bathroom, as well as floor-to-ceiling sliders that offer direct access to the pool and garden. 

Before and after floor plans of the Zigzag House in Sarasota, Florida.

Related Reading:

This Sarasota Residence Draws on the Style of the Area’s Modernist Heyday

10 Sarasota Modern Homes That Embrace Balmy Shores

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Samuel C. Holladay, Seibert Architects / @seibert.architects.pa

Builder/General Contractor: Denny Yoder, Yoder Homes LLC and Ball Construction

Structural Engineer: Hees & Associates, Inc.

Interior Design: Jennifer Masters, And Masters

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