One of the region’s landmark houses, which set the tone for architect Guy Peterson’s award-winning career, has come on the market.
Known in the architectural community as the Theissen House, for its first owner and Peterson’s client, the gleaming bayfront home on Longbay Boulevard in southern Manatee County was listed on Wednesday by Kim and Michael Ogilvie of Michael Saunders & Co.
The price is $3,95 million, or about $408 a square foot — a low price by local luxury standards. Most luxury homes start at $500 a foot, and can exceed $1,500.
“Today that house would be closer to $1,000 a square foot” to build, Peterson said. “It is the total expense of a curtain wall system; the maple flooring; the polished porcelain throughout — very beautiful and not an inexpensive material.
“We used white laminated glass inside that has that translucent quality, and lots of beautiful built-ins and water features — all of that stuff adds up.”
It also added up to awards of excellence for Peterson from the local and state chapters of the American Institute of Architects when the house was new.
The house and guest house combined have 20 rooms, including six bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, an exercise room, a loft and six kitchens of varying sizes in nearly 9,700 square feet of air-conditioned space. A courtyard pool — to go with interior and exterior reflecting pools — separates the main house from the guest house.
On the outside, the impact-resistant, insulated windows have a blue tint that is not visible on the inside. Wedge-shaped patios jut from the second and third floors at the front of the house.
At the entry, a wall has square perforations like those found, in a much larger array, at Peterson’s 2013 Spencer House on Orange Avenue.
Completed in 1998, the Theissen Residence is well-maintained and shows like new. It has not been spoiled by ill-considered remodeling or updating.
Views are of Sarasota Bay at its widest point.
“When we purchased the house, visually we were in awe,” said the seller, a doctor who asked not to be identified in this article. “It literally took several months, maybe longer, to appreciate the vantage points that were created by Guy Peterson.”
“It’s a house with so many types of experiences you can have in it,” Peterson said. “It is really about experiencing many different scales, many different views, whether to the bay or within.”
“This is a living experience,” said Kim Ogilvie, the seller’s listing agent. “It is on a narrow lot, but you don’t feel that because of the layered effect of the design. Each pod is buffeted by water and plants.
“This would be a recognized house anywhere in the United States.”
So why only $400 a square foot?
For starters, the house is by far the largest and most expensive in the Ballantine Manor neighborhood, which has plenty of modest, off-the-water ranch houses from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Many of them are being remodeled, though, while some nearby bay-facing houses have been expanded and upgraded.
Secondly, Longbay Boulevard separates the house from the bay and its dock. On the other hand, the street is lightly traveled and barely visible from inside the house, as it is partially hidden by a hedge. Cars certainly cannot be heard through the impact-resistant, insulated glass.
Nor can jet aircraft at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, just across U.S. 41 to the east.
“You don’t hear anything in this house,” Kim Ogilvie said. “White noise” from the gurgling water in the foyer’s reflecting pool negates unwanted sounds.
The house is conveniently located, though, for an owner who comes and goes by private jet, said Ogilvie. (Target market identified.)
Peterson designed the house for Annette Theissen when he was still with Johnson Peterson Architects, a 20-year partnership that was dissolved in 2000.
In the early 1990s, Peterson designed a house — his first — for his parents near the Siesta Key bridge, and another for client Ina Schnell.
“It was pivotal in my career,” Peterson said of the Theissen project, which began in 1995. “I had just done my parents’ house; Annette had seen that.
“She was an amazing client. All of them have been amazing, but Annette’s charge to me was, ‘I want the architecture to speak for itself.’ That was a pretty broad command, and the only other requirement was that she wanted to see the bay from her kitchen.”
“The rest of it is up to you,” Theissen told her architect.
Annette Theissen, who splits her time between Sarasota and Ann Arbor, Michigan, was a superintendent of schools in Ann Arbor. Her husband, Carl, was a manufacturer who made a camera used on NASA’s first moon landing “and other amazing, first-of-a-kind things,” Peterson said. “Carl passed away maybe a year before she bought this property.”
The location may have its quirks, but, Peterson recalls, “Annette said that of all the places John Ringling could have built Cá d’Zan, he picked a place just down the shore. So she felt if it was good enough for John Ringling, it was good enough for her.”
“She gave me a great deal of latitude to try and sculpt space, and create architecture,” he said. “It did definitely serve as a stepping stone for me, and refocused my practice into primarily doing one-of-a-kind houses.”
The house was built to the hurricane codes of the day, three years after Hurricane Andrew taught Florida’s architects, engineers and home builders the importance of proper structural connectors, “protecting the envelope” with shutters or impact-resistant fenestration, and creating a “continuous load path” from roof to foundation.
To accomplish this, the Theissen Residence is built with steel “moment frames” that tie the house together and provide strong support for the prominent glass curtain wall.
“Those connectors are part of the architecture, but they also take the wind load and brace the building. The front window is 32 feet high, which is a huge curtain wall,” Peterson said. “The steel that supports the roof and the whole front pavilion is expressed as part of the architecture, independent of the walls, so you can understand how the building is held together.”
“My father is an engineer,” said the current owner, “and he walked through the house and said, ‘You have a commercial building here.’ ”
Said Peterson, “The reason I can speak so easily about this house is that it still resonates with me as a pivotal work. The house still looks fresh and new today.
“It has a certain nostalgic memory for me, because Annette and I are still close friends after all these years, and it is those kind of relationships that I forge with my clients that make this job so much fun.”
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