4 Sarasota-area designers discuss town of now, and of later



Some new names are appearing on signs in front of bold new homes being built West of the Trail and on Sarasota’s barrier islands.

These “young turks” of local architecture are making an impact alongside such established design firms as Guy Peterson, Sweet Sparkman, DSDG, Clifford Scholz and Carl Abbott.

turks2Tatiana White, Leonardo Lunardi and Chris Leader are getting commissions in prime locations. Along with Peterson staffer Damien Blumetti, they will talk about their blooming careers, their modernist work and their vision for Sarasota at a public forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th St., Sarasota.

Moderated by Herald-Tribune real estate editor Harold Bubil, the panel discussion, titled “Young Turks of Sarasota Architecture,” is part of the monthly Conversations at the Crocker series, presented in season by the Historical Society of Sarasota County. Admission is free to HSOSC members and students, and $10 for guests.

The four designers will discuss how they came to Sarasota, their design influences and inspirations, and how they imagine the region might appear decades from now.

A brief PowerPoint presentation narrated by Bubil will place the modern movement in context with Sarasota’s past styles, and then the young visionaries will have their say. The event concludes with a question-and-answer segment with the audience.

Chris Leader, Leader Design Studio

Chris Leader, 35, who owns Leader Design Studio in Sarasota, moved here in 2005 when his wife was offered a job here. He left a job at a prestigious Albany, New York, firm after a decade, but it turned out to be the right move.

“My passion is residential design, and there is simply no market in upstate New York to do great residential projects, so that’s been a huge consideration for staying here and opening my own practice,” he said.

“Sarasota has historically had a great appreciation for modern design,” Leader said, “and over the past few years, it has grown more widespread so that nearly every client hiring us wants a comfortable, modern home that is filled with natural materials.

“People want high-performing homes that utilize the most energy-efficient products, materials and systems. One of the great things about this community is that there is very little restriction on design, meaning homeowners have the opportunity to create homes across a broad spectrum of styles.”

Leonardo Lunardi, Lunardi/Architecture

Born in Italy, 32-year-old Leonardo Lunardi lived in Milan until age 16, when he moved to Sarasota, finished high school at Cardinal Mooney, did two years at a community college and enrolled at the University of South Florida, where he graduated in 2006 with a master’s in architecture. He was awarded the AIA Gold Medal, the school’s highest honor.

An internship in the office of Carl Abbott, and the fact that his family live in town, brought Lunardi back to Sarasota, where he now has his own architectural practice, Lunardi/Architecture.

“Good modern architecture in the local area has been getting more attention,” said Lunardi, who is the only one of the four panelists to have achieved a Florida architectural license; the others are eligible for the exam. “But, it’s more than a trend or a short-term shift; I see a change in the long-term ideals. I often have architect friends visit me from Europe and they find it pretty bizarre that we have to make a distinction between architecture and modern architecture — this is the modern era and we practice architecture.”

Lunardi is intrigued by the changes in the way architects in the modern world work.

“I’m asking myself, what is technology bringing or taking away from the table?” he said. “How is it affecting the way we design, and how is it affecting the way we communicate with our colleagues and clients? Technology and cultural revolutions are influencing architecture and construction, and thus the question of human habitation is constantly being challenged. And that’s worth talking about.”

Damien Blumetti, Guy Peterson OFA

Damien Blumetti, 33, is an associate at Guy Peterson OFA (Office for Architecture). Blumetti graduated from Venice High and did his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Florida, earning his Master of Architecture degree with honors in 2009. His thesis on “additions to midcentury modern housing” focused on Paul Rudolph and the 1955-56 Cohen House.

In 2009, he won an AIA State Design Award, and two years later a Florida Gulf Coast Chapter Design Award for his work.

“I’ve always been interested in the International Style and what architects, such as Paul Rudolph, did with the Sarasota School of architecture,” he said. “I grew up seeing the work of Carl Abbott and Guy Peterson, and I’ve always known that’s how I want to work.”

Blumetti and his wife, Erin, recently renovated a 1950s bungalow on Hillview Street.

“It’s about 1,000 square feet, and the inside is modern with white walls, lots of natural light, polished concrete floors and budget-friendly furniture in gray tones and white glass from Ikea,” said Blumetti. “The interior expresses minimalism — clean, spare and airy.

But, that’s possible because our daughter, Ila, is only 8 weeks old. In about two years, our minimal intent is going to be reimagined with toys and toddler stuff.”

Though the inside of the house was reconfigured, the exterior remains connected to the neighborhood and its past. During renovation, they also saved a 100-year-old oak tree.

“Our design revolved around not disturbing that tree,” Blumetti said. “It’s the focal point of the property, and definitely takes up all the air rights. One of the subjects I’m going to talk about at the Conversation at the Crocker is adding cost-efficient modern elements when renovating an older home.”

Tatiana White, White Buildings

Energy efficiency and sustainability were big considerations when Jane and Rick Fine moved to Sarasota from Georgia in 2012 and decided to build a modern home in the Southgate Village neighborhood of Sarasota. They chose Tatiana White, 40, a native of Bogota, Colombia, to design a two-story, 2,500-square-foot home for just the two of them, although five grown children could visit.

“A Realtor friend suggested Tatiana and when we talked to her, we knew she was the one,” said Jane Fine. “We were coming from a traditional home in Atlanta and we had never built anything modern before, although my husband, Rick, developed and supervised the building of a hotel that was contemporary and ended up winning awards for its LEED features.” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the building standard of the U.S. Green Building Council.)

The Fines wanted modern design, a seamless merging of indoor and outdoor areas, natural light, sustainability and something that looked unique.

“And, don’t forget storage,” added Fine. “We have a lot of stuff, and I was used to basements and attics. I wanted a crisp, modern look, but I was initially afraid I wouldn’t have enough places to put stuff.

“I shouldn’t have worried. Tatiana brought a fresh, original and frankly edgy perspective to the project. We gave her carte blanche and we are thrilled with the result,” Jane Fine said. “It’s an easy house to live in, and we don’t even have a dining room because we take most of our meals outside on one of the decks.

The Fine Residence is in the final stages of being rated LEED-Platinum; its monthly electric bill is $16.

“I can’t say enough about Tatiana’s talent and the way she had us talk to her, really talk to her about ourselves,” said Jane Fine. “She just listened and then she took all that listening and turned it into an ideal home.”

Marsha Fottler

Marsha Fottler has been a newspaper and magazine lifestyle, food and design writer since 1968 first in Boston and in Florida since 1970. She contributes to regional and national publications and she is co-publisher and editor of a monthly online magazine that celebrates the pleasures of the table called Flavors & More. (941) 371-8593.
Last modified: February 7, 2015
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