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Hiss Studio, Tim Seibert

CERTAIN PLACES ON THE PLANET — often unexpected places, like Columbus, Indiana, and Tel Aviv, Israel — have been blessed with impressive inventories of important 20th century architecture. One such place is Sarasota, Florida, on the Gulf Coast. I was there once many years ago, so many that all I remember is collecting seashells on Sanibel Island (they’re also blessed with an impressive inventory of seashells).

Umbrella House, designed by architect Paul Rudolph, 1953, photo by Bill Miller Photography, New York Umbrella House, designed by architect Paul Rudolph, 1953, photo by Greg Wilson

Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, 1953 

Now I’m getting another chance. The weekend of October 9-12, I’ll be in Sarasota for Sarasota MOD Weekend, a celebration of the area’s 1940s through ’60s architectural heritage, when architects like Paul Rudolph, Ralph Twitchell, Victor Lundy, Tim Seibert, Gene Leedy, Carl Abbott and others produced a stock of residential and commercial buildings responding to local climate and culture with great modernist style.

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Photos: Ezra Stoller

This group, which became known as the Sarasota School of Architecturefound its initial inspiration in the philosophies of the Bauhaus, but soon incorporated regional Southern features, “using patios, verandas, modular construction and raised floors to open up buildings for greater ventilation in pre-air conditioning days,” as the website of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation puts it. “They added a play of light and shadow, and the color and texture of indigenous low maintenance materials softened the cold machine aesthetic of the Bauhaus. This approach… allowed Sarasota School buildings to respect and blend well into their sites. The result was a regional modernism which blurred the distinction between the indoors and outdoors and accommodated the lifestyle and climate of southern Florida.”

Healy Guest House, aka Cocoon House, designed by architects Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph, 1950, photo by Greg Wilson

Healy Guest House, Ralph Twitchell/Paul Rudolph, 1950

In other words, cool modern beach houses with architectural pedigree. Some are even on the market. What could be better? Perhaps a weekend full of lectures, tours (walking, trolley, boat) and parties celebrating same?

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Jet Blue flies direct from NYC to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. I’ll be on one of those flights. You in?

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IT’S SPRING, and I like my life again. Winter is my time for serious worry. With spring come more lighthearted concerns. Instead of How the hell am I going to pay my bills?, it’s Are you supposed to cut above the leaf node or below?

Yes, the Felco has come out of its sheath and, as long as I still own my cottage on the East End of Long Island, I am working it – transplanting things from here to there, raking leaves off the perennial beds, spreading new grass seed in bare spots, feeding the daffodil foliage that’s beginning to poke up. Only just beginning: after our brutal Northeast winter, the season is very slow to start this year. Mid-April already, and the only forsythia blooming is the forsythia I forced in a vase.

With spring comes optimism that I will sell my cottage soon and be able to turn the full force of my attention to the other house I own in the same bayside community. There’s been a price chop on the cottage, to 435K, which immediately attracted a new offer. A pattern is emerging: people (young people, as it happens) fall in love with the house’s considerable charms — really become infatuated with it. Soon fantasy turns to the reality of all that’s involved in owning and maintaining a house. It’s a big decision, and some become convinced (in one case by a father/financier who was “not feeling the vintage thing”) that some other house, a house built more recently than c.1940, would be easier.

Maybe so, maybe not, but this time I’ll keep my own excitement in check until a contract is signed. Meanwhile, I’m thoroughly enjoying staying in the cottage — recently redecorated with thrift shop furniture and exceedingly bright and pleasant — and country life in general. Sitting on the deck on a warm day. Walking down to the bay at sunset. Morning yoga at the Springs Presbyterian Church, a meadow view behind the window panes. A multigrain fruit and nut muffin from the Springs General Store. It’s the simple things, said a friend, and that’s my motto of the moment.IMG_2838

I moved three miscanthus – tall ornamental grasses – from the backyard up to the front of the property to screen the parking court, since the ilex I chose not to wrap in burlap last fall has been nibbled bare, rendered useless as screening, by the resident deer. As I tucked the grasses into their new spots, I talked to them. Don’t they say plants respond to our conversation, or perhaps just to the carbon dioxide we exhale as we lean over them, blabbing away?

“Now you guys have about 30 days before the maple leafs out, so take advantage of the sun now and do all the growing you can,” I told them. “Okay? Okay. Conditions may not be ideal, but you’re gonna be just fine.” I reassured them and myself at the same time.

 

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BUYING PROPERTY IN WINTER takes a lot of creative visualization. It’s hard to imagine lush greenery and abundant flowers when the ground is covered with snow, or plants are fifty shades of brown.

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View at rear of property into Town-owned, undeveloped woods, which seems to extend the backyard forever

That’s why I’m populating this blog post with inspiring springtime images — they inspire me, anyway, and hopefully, prospective buyers will feel the same — showing how things will look as the season progresses at my c.1940, cedar-shingled 2BR  Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.) cottage.

The house is still on the market. I rejected a few lowball offers and had two near-deals fall through. I’m tired of riding the roller coaster, and hoping the winter of my real-estate discontent is made glorious summer (apologies to William Shakespeare) by a reasonable offer from mortgage-worthy applicants.

The official Corcoran listing is here. For photos of the interior, the deck, the outdoor shower, and more nitty-gritty info, like taxes (low!), go here. And feel free to email me at caramia447@gmail.com with any questions.

Meanwhile, please scroll down to see what things will look like as the world renews itself in months to come.

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Magnolia, spring bulbs, sweet william, golden spirea

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Gravel path from front of property to rear, lined with perennial beds (i.e. all this comes back, bigger and better from year to year).

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Same path, looking back to front in early morning. Forsythia in bloom in background, boxwoods and Alberta spruce along property line at right.

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Another view of main perennial bed, with lamium, perennial geranium, ferns, barberry, hakonechloa, iris, Alberta spruce and more

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Found driftwood in a bed of lily-of-the-valley

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Fragrant olive and other flowering shrubs at front of property

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Euphorbia, above, with Korean box and golden spirea

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Doublefile viburnum, 10 feet across

Below, a few photos showing what’s to come a little later on in the season.

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Perennial geraniums and irises in flower…

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Elephant ears (these are annuals) with Korean box, hakonechloa, Japanese painted fern

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Accabonac Harbor in Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.)

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LUCKY LU ANDREWS. She was the secretary for the architecture firm of Ralph Twitchell, which in its 1940s-’60s heyday helped make Sarasota, Florida, an epicenter of important modern architecture. Over the years, Lu Andrews’ employers designed three houses for her. This, the third of them, built in 1959, is a 909-square-foot, 2 BR, 2 bath jewel, with brilliantly pared-down lines and compact design.

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In my view, this is a highly covetable winter/retirement or year-round home, its small size mitigated by sliding glass walls that visually extend the house out into its lush tropical setting and insure abundant light throughout the day.

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I was in Sarasota once many years ago and don’t know it well. The location is said to be prime though — “west of trail” and close to downtown, the bay, parks, marina, restaurants, galleries, beaches, St. Armands Circle (a high-end shopping/dining district), and the Ringling College of Art and Design.

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The house is listed by Martie Lieberman of Premier Sotheby’s International, who specializes in modern properties and cares enormously about their preservation. As she says about this one, “I’d like to see it get into safe hands.”

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The official listing, with more photos, slideshow and video tour, is here.

To read more about the Sarasota School of Architecture, go here and here.

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Photos: Glenn SRQ360.com  courtesy Martie Lieberman

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NEW YEARS BARGAINS ABOUND on the East End of Long Island, though how much of a bargain this 1/4-acre property in Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.) really is remains to be seen. The house may well be a teardown; the “barn-like accessory structure” looks sound, though, and no smaller than the house itself.

The main selling point here is waterfront proximity (though not water view) — it’s just a couple hundred yards to an unspoiled channel off Three Mile Harbor, top, and there’s a small beach at the foot of Folkstone Drive.

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The house is on a gravel road, pitted and puddled after recent rains, but you can’t complain about traffic.

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Above, the c. 1945 house at right and the newer garage/barn at left.

The door to the house was open, and I walked in. Definite smell of damp. There’s almost certainly been water damage.

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It’s a project for the right person/people. I like the idea that you could live in the (unheated) barn while fixing up the house or building a new one. (The barn was locked, so i didn’t see inside, but there are photos of its interior in the linked-to Halstead listing below.)  I also like that it’s cheap — down to 300K, and will probably end up selling  for even less.

For photos of the house in summer and more shots of the barn (and a startling demonstration of what a sunny day and a wide-angle lens will do for a place), go here for the official listing.

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