Q&A with homeowner Martha Hafner


Q. You and your husband, Paul, designed the house yourselves. What was the process? How did you pull it off?


Photos by Harold Bubil.

A. My husband and I both work as designers of kitchens, cabinetry and furniture. We had the lot and we had all of the constraints of the Laurel Park Overlay district: The garage must be set back from the front of the house; the house must have a front porch or porch-like structure comprising 30 percent of the width of the fa├žade; the front door must face the street; the roof pitch must conform; maximum height and special setbacks. We were working with all of those, plus looking at the surrounding properties; we wanted the house to blend into the fabric of he neighborhood.

We had a basic floor plan, which a very talented designer, the late Terry Rowe, had helped us to derive. We added the cabinetry to his plan, maximizing the space and using cabinetry as walls to set off spaces.

Q. What inspired you architecturally?

A. We wanted to build a simple structure for the economy of it, and because the houses surrounding us our fairly straightforward. I had always loved the Atomic Ranch; my grandparents build one in my small hometown of North Berwick, Maine, in the 1960s, and it was the only thing like it in that area. Our lot was not big enough for a true Atomic Ranch, to get the width, so we arrived at a two-story version.


streetWe then looked to the proportions of the surrounding homes. We have the little enclave of Owen Burns-built Florida Spanish bungalows just across the street. The shape and scale of the windows was derived from those homes. The siding was a match for the siding of the more traditional colonial and bungalows on either side, although executed in low-maintenance Hardiplanks.


PinesWe knew we wanted to preserve the existing slash pines on the property, and I had literally carried around a piece of slash pine bark with me to help choose the palette for both the interior and exterior. If you really look at a piece of pine bark it has wonderful browns, silver grays, a cedar orange color and even some of that gray green of the bits of Spanish moss that clings to it. Because the exterior colors were chosen with those native slash pines as the palette, it does not overwhelm the street. We also set the house back from the street 15 feet to match the setbacks of the other houses on the street. The new, larger homes being built in Laurel Park generally are coming out to the 5-foot setback from the sidewalk because it is allowed, and they are trying to max out on smaller lots. We had a slightly larger lot to work with -- 6,400 square feet vs. 5,000.


indoor outdoorWe also are fans of the Sarasota School of architecture and the idea of the crossover between indoor and outdoor living. We spent a lot of time thinking about how to have this house flow between indoors and out, without any loss of privacy. Paul studied the breeze on the lot and the sun and laid out windows and doors in a way that would capture the breeze and keep out the sun.


We had lived in the 1925 Colonial next door for years and had enjoyed its great window layout and cross breezes. We wanted to come close to that, and I think we achieved that. We can open up the sliders on the lanai and when we open the widows upstairs we get a chimney effect that carries the heat of the day out.


viewsOther considerations were the views. We wanted to be looking at nature and not our neighbors.The upstairs windows look out at treetops, sky and at the quaint brick street out front -- the views are like framed vignettes. Downstairs we created a main view with the pool and it's architectural fountain, and on the sides we have lush plantings that are lit at night, as well, so you get that extension of the outdoors even then.


daylightingPrinciples of daylighting -- large east window to capture the morning sun, large overhangs to block the harsh west sun and nice north and south exposures -- keep the house bright all day with minimal lights being turned on. Of course, as all the lights are either LED or compact CFLs, we don't really have too much concern about the electric bill anyhow.

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: May 3, 2015
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