Photograph Courtesy Camille Pyatte
In Sarasota, Florida there is a neighborhood called Cherokee Park that was planned in the 1920's by notable landscape architect John Nolen. Unfortunately, much of his vision was not realized because of the Great Depression and the subsequent world events that followed, but many years later lavish homes would be built in the area, many inspired by an art deco sensibility.
One such residence was designed by architect Jonathan Parks of Solstice Architects. The 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath home has a clean, modern look, a symmetrical plan and many intimate outdoor areas. Parks explains, "We chose to celebrate Nolen's initial concepts and master plan, designing a home with respect to the surrounding context of his landscape design."
"Homes of the 1920's did not have air conditioning and therefore indoor/outdoor, courtyard-style living was a necessity. We always design from the "inside-out" and in this case, we thought of the courtyards as the "inside" and worked our way out. The execution, however, is what gives it a contemporary aesthetic with simple, straightforward, and whitewashed forms."
The "white on white" concept was something that Parks had to push for. He explains, "I had to convince the team that we didn't need a red barrel tile roof to make an attractive home, which is more common to the Mediterranean Revival-style designs very common in our region. Ultimately, I think this result of the simple forms combined with "white on white" is what makes the home so unique."
The symmetrical plan, according to Parks, was less about the importance of symmetry than it was about balance. He explains, "Just as the courtyard plan of this home brings the outdoors in, the landscape extends the interior and mimics the architecture in style and function. At the front entry, visitors experience an open garden with a water feature before they walk into the entry hall. As soon as you step into the rear courtyard, a fireplace mirrors the front entry's water feature. Every gesture, form, and space is in response to another."
The intimate outdoor spaces are unique and create different moods, and yet work together beautifully as one exterior space. Parks explains, "The rear outdoor area is comprised of six unique spaces that have been articulated using architectural and landscape elements: a moon garden, swimming pool, outdoor kitchen, courtyard, master bedroom garden, and formal lawn." Parks and his team worked closely with Landscape Architect, Michael A. Gilkey, Inc., as he explains, "to artfully define each space using architectural and landscape elements, while integrating the composition through form, repetition, views, and materials."
"The moon garden provides a shaded transition from the pool to the west side of the house. The swimming pool is anchored by a white wall that hides pool equipment and enhances the water's reflectivity. The outdoor kitchen extends the living area and offers grand vistas while enjoying shelter from the elements. The courtyard includes a fireplace and seating area and evokes a sheltered intimacy with glimpses of gardens beyond. The master bedroom garden invites one from the interior space into a private outdoor retreat. The formal lawn, made of drought-tolerant zoysia turf, is ideal for family activities and creates a grand view across the yard."
"Florida-friendly plants and Waterwise irrigation practices were implemented. Tree canopies create ceilings, hedges create walls, shrubs accent the 'rooms,' hardscape elements form the floor, and paving pattern breaks act as thresholds. The result is an indoor/outdoor environment that balances simple, usable spaces within an overall unity, creating an atmosphere of organic beauty."
One challenge was to design the home on a narrow lot, and at the same time, as Parks explains, "give it a presence that parallels the neighboring homes, many of which are sited on lots twice its size. The solution was to design a long, horizontal floorplan with a fully separated wing for the master suite, but create a composite balance with strong vertical elements that don't overpower the essence of the home. This was achieved through the design of four tall, geometric chimneys. Each chimney was placed with precision, carefully considering their relationships with the overall elevations and their interior/exterior uses. A triangular cast-stone chimney cap serves to strengthen the geometric forms, hiding the spark arrestors, and protecting the flue from rain. As form follows function, the chimneys are used to support fires for the Living Room fireplace, the Courtyard fireplace, the outdoor grille, and as a chase for Master Bathroom plumbing vents."
The project took six months to design and another year to construct.
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