LUXLIFE 2017 | March 2017
The house Sandy and Bob Whyte bought over two years ago bears little resemblance to the space they currently call home—what was once dominated by oppressive low-hanging ceilings, miniscule windows and an impractical kitchen, now gives way to sweeping views of the adjacent lake, wide-open spaces for their rescue grey- hound Lilly to romp and a layout conscious of bringing the family’s art collection to the fore. Taken apart and put back together with intention by Jerry Sparkman of Sweet Sparkman Architects (lauded recently for the Siesta Key Beach pavilion revamp), the home flows with a sense of continuity—it’s spacious without being rambling, contemporary without being stark and warm without being kitschy. There’s life contained within the walls of the home, found in the kitchen perfectly tailored to Sandy’s culinary adventures, the walls that hold slightly different hues to offset particular pieces of art and the semi-sheer cage around the pool deck, permitting a glorious breeze to sweep over the Whytes preferred lunch nook. With a background in architecture, Sandy came to the project with a specific vision in mind; “I had an interest in taking something that wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be and making it exactly what I want,” she says.
The most notable changes took shape prominently in the living room and kitchen of the Whyte house; the ceiling now finds a graceful, smooth slope, angling up from the windows at the front of the house, rising toward the blue skies and large palm outside the new floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and top windows at the back. “We peeled the roof off, which was a pretty big move,” says Sparkman. “This was a very low, compressed space originally. Lifting the ceiling and extending it makes me think of the spirit of some really great stuff from the past. It really works.” The glass doors continue through from the living area to the master bed, with the top squares crackable for a cool night breeze to circulate during slumber, creating a sensation of indoor-meets-outdoor that characterizes modern homes. “It was really important to us to have a great outdoor space,” says Sandy. “Since all these big windows open up, along with the kitchen windows, I can be inside and still feel like I get to enjoy the day.” And yet, the construction resists classification as purely a “modern” design, with many elements drawing from the ranch style—long and lean, vast windows, an open floor plan on one story—still avant-garde, but with an added dose of homey personality.
An unexpected pop-out wall spans the living room, tracing all the way through to the dining area at the front of the house, adding to that sense of intimacy and comfort. Lining the top end before the wall peeks forward, slats of warm knotted wood hug the siding, a tiny light gazing up from the lip and glowing on the bamboo. Mauve strokes and burnt orange blooms from the painting dominating the wall play off the incandescence of the upper light, connecting the spirit and the body to the room as a whole. “The long clean line of this wall makes the space feel cohesive— there used to be a door right in the middle of it, so removing it did a lot for the aesthetics,” says Sparkman. “It was a small thing that gave a big impact.” The house reflects an almost Victor Lundy-esque attention to openings and reveals that allow for the seamless passage of light and airflow, a feeling of loftiness and depth added to the home’s personality. Enter through the front door and immediately arresting paintings hang on both the floating wall to the left (an oddball in its own right with creamsicle orange bars cutting through the wood pillars flanking the solid piece) and the short wall to the front; both cutoff walls grant beams of sunlight to pass over the top of each. “Even though you can’t see the space on the other side, you can kind of feel the pull going beyond,” says Sparkman, Sandy adding, “There’s such a sense of light and space coming back and forth.”
Move through to the completely gutted kitchen, a space with an unconventional history and aesthetic. Originally about half the current size, classic ‘50s construction drop ceilings once dominated the kitchen. In a seize of inspiration, Sandy took nondescript Ikea cabinets and added custom Douglas Fir doors from California company Semihandmade. “It’s like combining two worlds,” Sparkman says, noting the fusion of high and low, not to mention the practicality for Sandy’s culinary passions. “The kitchen was designed around exactly what she wanted to have available and what she wanted to store,” says Bob, Sandy adding with a smile that she already knew what every cabinet and drawer would hold before building. A hexagonal bar ties the kitchen together, allowing Sandy to fit four high-top chairs perfect for hosting breakfast with her guests. “Originally we were told that the bar would never work,” she says. “Then Jerry [Sparkman] said, ‘That’s one of my favorite shapes, don’t give up on that.’” Collaboration and shared vision seems to be the cornerstone behind the Whyte’s house, taking into account both Sparkman and Sandy’s minds for more architecturally stunning design combined with the family’s bent toward livability. “Sometimes when people do these high-ceilinged modern houses, it becomes too vast,” muses Sparkman. “You lack cozy. You lack human scale. There’s something missing in the soul of the house. You have to hit home first, then everything else comes after.” The Whytes describe their home as their personal enclave, where they can be at ease among the shade of the trees and the lapping lake beyond. Summing it up, Sandy says, “Honestly, we just love living in this house.”