A tour of Laurel Park, old and new



When Peter and Ginger Mermin sold their home on Bird Key two years ago, the couple (married seven years) decided to build a home together. They wanted something modern and energy-efficient. But, when they purchased a lot in the vintage Laurel Park neighborhood of Sarasota, they realized they would need to make a compromise at least to the exterior of the home.


“Homes in this area were built in the 1920s and most of them express a craftsman-bungalow or Florida-cottage style,” said Ginger Mermin. “It seemed inappropriate to put a modern-designed home in the middle of this mix, and so we eventually determined to have a home with a craftsman exterior but a completely contemporary interior.

merm2“The outside would suit the street and the inside would suit us.”

For their sensitive treatment of their new-build, the Mermin house at 1717 Oak St. is part of a 12-property self-guided walking tour that takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 1. The annual tour is organized by the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation. Chair this year is Ron McCarty. Ginger Mermin is a past president of the alliance. And she’s a former board member of the Historical Society of Sarasota County and a former member of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, which is headquartered in Tallahassee.

“Laurel Park is a National Historic District, so you can imagine how excited Peter and I were to be able to build here,” she said. “Making the compromise in exterior style was something we committed to right away, although we took our time on the design of both inside and outside, and we were careful about choosing a builder because we had never built from scratch before and needed expert advice.

“Also, we each wanted specific things from this home.”

They collaborated with Christopher Wenzel (Wenzel Grove Delineation) on the overall design and settled on contractor Jonas Yoder, who provided not only technical advice, but got the most in living space out of a home that is 30 feet wide and 34 feet tall.

It was Yoder who suggested to Ginger that he could add a third-floor loft for a painting studio. She eagerly agreed, and now the artist has a tree-top space to spread out her canvases and create in solitude and natural light.

Peter Mermin had specific mandates. He wanted his office and most of the everyday living area to be south-facing. He wanted the porch facing north. He wanted stone on the facade along with the fiber-cement HardiPlank that clads the house. And he picked the color palette for the facade of the home and for the garden at the back of the house.

“The color scheme evolved after many walks up and down this street,” said Peter Mermin, who worked with designer Karin Jones in choosing the exterior color palette. “I wouldn’t say it was an easy process, getting the colors right, and I can see now why homeowners always struggle with paint colors. At first, I had the front door painted orange and I liked it. But I began to notice that some shade of purple seemed to a constant in Laurel Park. It’s like a thin subtle thread that links the homes.

“So I changed the front-door color to eggplant, and it was the right color choice.”

Once he picked up on the purple, Peter continued weaving the thread. “We have some purple in the fabric we chose for the back porch furniture, and we picked out several plants with purple tones for the yard to further bring in this accent color.”

The ceilings for both the handsome front and back porches are honey-colored Florida pine. The house color is taupe, and the trim is Porter Paint’s Gray Herron, which that works well with the gray stone. There’s no grass on the property, and discreetly hidden from street view at the back of the property is a detached garage with a 300-square-foot guest house above.

Inside the 2,000-square-foot home (three bedrooms, three baths), Ginger Mermin wanted crisp straight lines, an open-concept floor plan, recessed LED lighting, no crown molding, plenty of natural light and glass, built-ins, white walls and contemporary furniture accented with vivid artwork — her own and that of artist friends.

They both wanted an electric fireplace in the living room, a white kitchen and stainless-steel appliances. And they agreed on how to furnish the house. “A few things we brought from our other home,” said Ginger, “but many things in the house we’ve bought at area consignment stores, and for that I have to thank designer Terrance Leaser. He kept a trained eye out for midcentury and modern things we needed.

“Once he called me from the Woman’s Exchange and said he was sitting in a chair we absolutely had to have, and he wasn’t moving until I came over to see it.”

Fortunately, the Mermins are a short walk from their Oak Street home to the Woman’s Exchange on South Orange Avenue, so Ginger hung up the phone and hurried over.

“The set of graceful modern chairs were from the Knoll company,” she said, “and they were the perfect dining chairs for the 8-foot-long metal and reclaimed wood table we had purchased from Sarasota Architectural Salvage.”

During the year-long construction and the furniture-buying process, the Mermins lived nearby in a rental condominium and were on the site every day. They bought furniture and accessories at the Historical Society Designer Tag Sale and at the Sarasota Orchestra Flea Market, and they browsed local retail and consignment stores for unusual midcentury modern pieces.

“That’s how we got the consoles in the dining area and in the foyer,” said Ginger Mermin, “as well as the four swivel chairs in the living room. We both love that there is some history to many of the pieces of furniture that are in our new-old house.

“The house has character. Family pieces, new stuff and things we bought locally, as well as art work by my friends, give the home personality and make it uniquely our own.

“But thanks to Jonas Yoder, our builder, the house suits the vintage neighborhood and looks like it’s been here for years.”

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 14, 2015
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