Punta Gorda home tour breaks mold (with gallery)


The Punta Gorda Garden Club has long made good use of the Historic District’s wealth of vintage homes for its annual Holly Days Home Tour.


This year, though, a new house is on the tour. And it’s not a contemporary version of a Settlement Era cottage or Craftsman bungalow. It’s an honest-to-goodness modern, designed by Mark Sultana of Sarasota and completed this year to the LEED standard for sustainable design and construction.

The house will be Charlotte County’s first LEED home when the paperwork, third-party verified by green-building guru Drew Smith of Sarasota, is approved by the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program.

Also on the tour, which runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, is a second new house — a 2013 structure by Arthur Rutenberg Homes with a traditional exterior — and two Historic District houses from 1920 and 1919.

holly2Tickets are $15; proceeds go to the garden club’s scholarship and community projects funds. Tickets are sold on tour days in the fellowship hall of First United Methodist Church, 507 W. Marion Ave. Tour-goers can stop for refreshments and buy poinsettias. The 1912 sanctuary, restored in 2013, is open for the tour.

From the north, take Interstate 75 to Exit 164 (U.S. 17) and go west two miles, through downtown Punta Gorda. The church is four blocks beyond U.S. 41 southbound (Cross Street).

Houses on the tour
• Tom Poole, 213 Durrance St. This 1920 house was altered by a family with five home-schooled children before Poole purchased it in 1996. The family adapted the garage for use as a classroom. It is framed by royal palms and fronted by a brick street.
• Heather and William McGill, 359 Gill St. The Curry family built this house in 1919; the McGills bought it last year. “Damage from Hurricane Donna in 1960 required reconstruction of the back porch, making that a closed-in part of the kitchen,” said the garden club’s Bonnie Verminski. “Many former residents of this home were judges, teachers, attorneys and the superintendent of schools.”
• Elaine LaWell and Charles Marlow, 433 W. Ann St. This 2013 Arthur Rutenberg Homes model was built in 2013 and tweaked to meet Historic District guidelines. A porch was added and the garage was moved to the side, adding three arched windows to the front elevation.
• Katrin and Justin Gerow, 800 W. Marion Ave. “We always like something different,” said Justin Gerow, who lives in the modernist house with his wife, Katrin, and children Dominik, 11, and Helena, 6.

They built it in part because of their friendship with Mark and Brigitta Sultana — something that happened by chance. Katrin Gerow is German, as is Brigitta Sultana. While at a street market in Sarasota three years ago, the women overheard each other speaking to their children in German, and the families have been close ever since.

“We liked the homes that Mark designed,” said Justin Gerow, who grew up in Charlotte County and found old Punta Gorda alluring. “When we bought our lot, we told him we wanted him to design one for us.”

Energy efficiency was a key desire, along with more space than they had in their former home, in Deep Creek.

“We did not start off wanting LEED, but that came through the process” of designing the house, Gerow said. “We wanted it energy-efficient and modern, with clean lines.”

Drew Smith said the house is “pending LEED-Platinum” with a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index of 51. That means it uses 51 percent of the energy used by houses built to the current code, which dictates a HERS index of 100.

The house has solar hot water, a white roof, spray-foam insulation, insulated and impact-resistant windows, a high-SEER air-conditioner, LED lights and a variable-speed pool pump. It has fulfilled LEED’s educational mission by being the scene of tours for community groups and the local Chamber of Commerce, and now the garden club tour.

“They also captured LEED ‘connectivity’ points because of its location near Fishermen’s Village and downtown,” said Smith. “We have a hard time getting those.

“The house also uses half the water of a code-minimum house,” Smith said. “They did all the right things, and it was a great build” by contractors Carlton Hughes and Brian Sujevich of Green Coast Homes.

“The client was 100 percent behind the whole process. They are environmentally conscious and wanted to do what they could within their budget to be sustainable,” Smith said.

Reactions to the house’s unconventional appearance have been “overwhelmingly positive,” Justin Gerow said. “People have said, ‘We think it is so cool’; ‘It looks great’; ‘It is not my style, but I respect it and I like it.’

“Most people like traditional,” he added. “But people stop and take pictures on foot or from cars. There have been a couple of negatives, but very few. We have heard through the grapevine that some people who are staunchly historical don’t want to see anything change: ‘You are ruining the neighborhood by putting something modern in there.’

“In my mind, I couldn’t care less.”

“There was a little bit of resistance from the building department,” said Sultana, the architect. “We had to pick from among seven styles of architecture, and there was no ‘modern,’ but there was a style called ‘commercial vernacular,’ and that was what we fit into the best.

“And in commercial vernacular, you have to have a hip roof. There is one behind the house’s parapets, but you can’t see it.”

Sultana is best known for the recent Sarasota Yacht Club, which he designed with DSDG partner Tom Denslow. As with that project, Sultana softened the Gerow Residence’s facade with cypress accents around the porch.

“I have used that on all but one modern house I have ever done,” Sultana said. “I always use cypress, because it takes the starkness out of the house and gives it the warmth everyone wants.”


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: November 30, 2014
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