Mid-Century Revival


Designer: Dane Spencer

Sarasota is home to a myriad of 1950’s and 60’s cinderblock ranch bungalows. In keeping with the economics of the times, these ranch homes were small, affordable, and practical. Times have changed, making these homes worthy of a second look. The immediate appeal when contemplating this renovation came from the elderly Live Oaks that envelope the site in this quiet Old Florida neighborhood. The one lane street of dappled shade is a tranquil setting for this Mid-century renovation. The building is in relatively good condition with elements of design from the Sarasota School of Architecture. The site is on a double lot that helps the spacious feel of a small building footprint. Keeping the original building footprint means not having to construct 90% of the exterior walls. Cost saving is a benefit and consuming fewer building materials is lighter on the planet. Interior walls are reconfigured to maximize limited space, while modern finishes give the home a contemporary lift. Most of the original terrazzo floors have been retained while shell concrete compliments as “new terrazzo”. What was originally a dark room of paneling and windows, is now light-filled with a view into the pool and garden. By opening up two sides of the living room with a corner sliding door, the house is emotionally connected to the pool, lanai, and garden. Rainwater is an under utilized resource and because Sarasota benefits each year from periodic thunderstorms, why not use it? A 3000 gallon cistern is carefully disguised as a planter and separator from the adjacent house which is less than 10 feet from the common property line. Additionally, two 165 gallon rain basins help slow the flow of rain water by capturing & overflowing into concrete wells filled with drain rock. Because the wells have no bottom, water is allowed to flow back into the groundwater before it runs offsite. Ultimately, resource conservation is the main truth of good design. Solar energy is plentiful in Florida and to ignore this seems unforgivable. Power is supplemented with solar panels mounted on the roof. Fortunately, even with abundant shade there is an envelope of sun afforded to the panels with little risk of future offsite obstruction. Choice of plants can determine amounts of maintenance & water. Conscious attention is given to select plants that grow in the pine flatwoods of west coast Florida. These are plants that historically have grown here prior to development. More than 80% of the plant material is native, with subtropical plants punctuating the design. Native plants as a rule not only require less water and attention than non-natives, they also provide the berries and foliage that attracts native birds, butterflies, and creatures ensuring a healthy ecosystem. So, how do we transform Suburbia? As the times are changing, we must keep one eye on the specific site design, while keeping the other eye on the larger social fabric. Leading by example only works when others are watching. Actively engaging people about their choices in design & method of construction is the best way to advance this transformation.