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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Structural Engineer: Hees & Associates, Inc.
Interior Design: Jennifer Masters, And Masters
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