Inside an already lauded tower, designed by an iconic Sarasota architect, the Donnelly Condo is an interior renovation that merges beloved history with brand-new beauty. Located on Ocean Boulevard on Siesta Key, it is a 1,168-square-foot residence with two bedrooms and two full bathrooms on the 14th floor of the 1970 Terrace Building. Frank Folsom Smith designed the tower in 1969, and Halflants + Pichette Studio for Modern Architecture tackled an interior renovation of the existing condo. “In this new design-build condominium renovation on Siesta Key for a repeat client, the light is reflected off of wood, porcelain tiles, white-painted surfaces and smooth concrete to help highlight the clarity of the design,” architect Michael Halflants says.

PHOTOS OF THE DONNELLY CONDO BY BILL SPEER, COURTESY OF MICHAEL HALFLANTS.

The corner unit was fully redone to maximize the use of space. The living windows were replaced by seven-panel bi-fold glass door systems that open out from the structural corner. A 15-foot-long kitchen counter cantilevers to become the dining table. The counter was built in a single pour without a seam. The condo’s diverse, eco-conscious materials bring it right up to date. 

“A residential project combines a wide variety of systems, fixtures, lighting and furniture. This particular project was successful in simplifying the interior design to two clean folds of differing textures—a wood enclosure and a concrete working surface,” Halflants says. “The large wood fold creates a well-defined enclosure, while the operable glass system fully opens the space out to the distant horizon.”  Point lighting or strip lighting emphasizes the architectural elements of the space. LED lighting was incorporated into the edge around the ceiling’s perimeter. Up-lighting of the wood wall emphasizes the bamboo laminations. A large, uninterrupted, ribbed plywood surface covers most of the living space and folds to conceal the media wall. This outsized, folded surface ties the condo unit together and provides warmth. All mechanical, lighting and entertainment systems remain discreet. The TV is concealed behind large, pivoting wood panels, flush with the plywood wall finish.

“The plywood consists of thin, laminated, ribbed bamboo sections, giving the entire surface a strong texture. This texture contrasts with the smooth, seamless concrete counter below,” Halflants says. “A judicious use of lighting increases the perceived dimensions of the space and creates four zones within the same unified room.”

The bamboo wood panel system was a challenging product, Halflants says, as each panel had to be custom-cut and aligned perfectly to create consistency in the laminations. The laminations on the ceiling had to line up with those on the wall. The line of product is called Plyboo. The exposed concrete poured countertops and backsplash were incorporated throughout the renovation, and Jake Brady was responsible for all of the custom concrete surfaces, Halflants says. 

Building on Folsom Smith’s design and pushing the condo into the modern age was a gratifying undertaking for Halflants + Pichette, which is an award-winning firm with offices in Sarasota and Tampa. The firm’s goal is “to create thoughtful, high quality modern designs that respond to context and function.” Michael Halflants and John Pichette provide services ranging from architectural and interior design to master planning and full construction services. Pichette is a registered architect and licensed contractor who has managed the design documentation and construction administration for more than 40 buildings. He is an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gulf Coast board member.

Halflants began his architectural education at the Institut Superieur de St Luc in Belgium and earned a master’s degree at the University of Florida. He worked as a project designer with the Polshek Partnership in New York City, drawing designs for theaters and offices in Manhattan and for the Spencer Museum of Art. Working in a joint venture with Arata Isozaki’s Tokyo office, he worked on the Brooklyn Museum addition. In 2012, he was awarded a National AIA award. As a tenured professor at the University of South Florida, he teaches graduate design studios and the modern housing course. 

Being an authority on modern housing, Halflants brought his expertise into the Donnelly Residence, using materials that would be environmentally sustainable and have impressive longevity. For the Siesta Key area, and with the history of the condo’s building, the Donnelly Residence exemplifies this stretch of Sarasota—with its coastal atmosphere and its natural tendency toward livable, long-term, contemporary designs.