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June 24, 2024

This Sarasota School of Architecture Home Is More Than Just Another Siesta Key Getaway

1224 Port Lane on Siesta Key is listed for $2.69 million.

It’s not historically designated, but any architecture nerd can see that almost 65 years later, this home remains an original ode to the midcentury modern architecture movement that put Sarasota on the map: the Sarasota School of Architecture. For its owner, a Sarasota native, it also came with nostalgic value. When she was looking, “it was 2009, and I wasn’t looking for a mid-century home specifically. But when I saw this, it reminded me of homes I saw in my childhood here,” she says.

The outdoor facade and entry.

Beyond Ralph Twitchell’s well-known name in the architecture world—he’s one of the fathers of the Sarasota School movement—the homeowner also knew about him because she went to Phillippi Shores Elementary School with his granddaughter. Located on .34 acres on Siesta Key, she bought the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home at 1224 Port Lane in 2009 for $675,000.

It has all the emblematic features you’d expect from a Twitchell home—all of which aimed to answer the question, “What’s the ideal Florida home?”

Built pre-air-conditioning, the home blends indoors and out with lots of glass. Overhangs provide shade and protection from the sun. The materials used—plate glass, jalousie windows, Ocala block, terrazzo and cypress—were state-of-the-art and quintessentially of the time and place. 

Entry hall

From the street, the home has a low-profile façade except for the large gated doors, which are painted red, hinting at an East Asian influence. True to its Sarasota School’s ethos, the interior is modest in size—just 1,656 square feet, a contrast to the sprawling new multi-level homes going up all over town.

Sarasota-based Ed Norman installed the pecky cypress.

But the exact dimensions are confusing thanks to ample outdoor living areas. Two separate structures—one of which is a guest quarter with separate entry—are divided by a breezeway.

Living area with a view of the pool.

Over the years, the homeowner made some respectful renovations, like adding pecky cypress to the interior ceilings. In fact, she got the ultimate go-ahead to do so. One of Twitchell’s granddaughters confirmed that “[Twitchell] would have loved it. You would have had his blessing.” 

The home includes a pool, dock and new seawall.

She also replaced missing jalousie windows, added landscape lighting and shellcrete—a type of decorative concrete that incorporates crushed shells—in the lanai, which builders used in those days.

Shared spaces are bright and dramatic, while the bedrooms are shady retreats.

When the homeowner first bought the property in 2009, the koi pond was filled in and used as a planter, but she converted it back to its original use. Over the years, the white and golden fish reproduced, and she added another koi pond. “I couldn’t give them away,” she says. Now retired and ready to embark on a new chapter in North Carolina, she says the new owner will inherit the ponds. 

The home has two stocked koi ponds.

Ample outdoor living areas blur inside and out.

She also added granite countertops and replaced kitchen cabinets with birch,  training an eye on the original blueprints, which she says reveal that the same material was used. Last year, the seawall was replaced, and there are 131 feet of seawall, a dock and a boat lift with views of Sarasota Bay. 


Floors were returned to their original glory when the tile and carpet were removed. “I’ve embraced patina,” she says. “You can see the patch marks where the carpet tacks were filled in but the advantage of being covered is it’s in great shape.”

The jalousie windows are period-specific.

As for the furniture and art, they’re negotiable with the sale of the home. But some things inherently belong to it: for example, a couple of Asian soapstone pieces, like a pagoda with a light in it and the Asian lions guarding the house. Two ceramic pieces on either side of the red gates, designed by D’ee Calvert, were commissioned to go with the house, as they describe the house itself. And over the dining table hangs an iconic George Nelson lamp, also original to the house.

The back of the home.

Twitchell’s career began in 1926 when he was the construction manager for John Ringling’s iconic Cá d’Zan. Throughout his career, he showcased his versatility by designing homes in various styles, including Mediterranean Revival and Florida Vernacular. However, it was his innovative approach to modernism that solidified his place in architectural history.

Despite many area Twitchell homes being demolished or remodeled beyond recognition, this one showcases his enduring vision in the face of bigger, footprints, higher ceilings and the latest hurricane codes.

Ocala block repeats in and outside of the home.

So far, listing agents Laurel and Michael James of Michael Saunders & Co. say the property has been attracting the right crowd—architecture aficionados looking to move into a historic gem.

And, they say, the price point has thus far been keeping developers with an eye on demolition and rebuilding at bay.

“It’s not just a waterfront home. It has a rarity that’s precious,” says Laurel James, who has a particular penchant for homes that embrace the outdoors this way. 

The canal

A separate building comes with a sauna.

Even though she’s moving out of state, “I would be so disappointed if this was knocked down because few homes look like this anymore,” the homeowner says. “I can’t force anyone to do something or not, but the goal is to market it to architecture aficionados vs. just another house on Siesta Key.” 

Interested? Contact Laurel James at (941) 350-9240 or Michael James at (941) 724-4034. Both with Michael Saunders & Co.

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