Meticulous and inviting, trendsetting but timeless, this Lido Key home proves that midcentury modern style, and specifically that of the Sarasota School of Architecture, isn’t fading—it’s forever. Its owner, Sarasota Magazine founder Dan Denton, 71, knew that even before the look—now called the “Sarasota School” or “Sarasota modern”—had a name.
He bought the home in 1989 when the Sarasota School was a niche interest. “Mediterranean Revival was the ruling style,” Denton recalls. “I knew and loved Paul Rudolph’s buildings, but I never found a good one to buy. And I loved St. Armands and wanted to be on Lido.”
The house he’s in now, he says, “hit all those notes.”
Floor-to-ceiling windows blur the lines between indoors and out.
IMAGE: RYAN GAMMA
Hidden behind a healthy wall of seagrapes, the home sits on a .39-acre lot on a deepwater canal. Denton was initially attracted to its flat roof, wide overhangs, terrazzo floors and midcentury characteristics.
“It was a Sarasota School of Architecture house in disguise—like a ranch version of the Umbrella House,” he says. “The challenge was to make it a pure version of the style.”
That he did. Though Denton won’t reveal the cost of his renovations, each decision was well-thought-out, and there are a slew of architectural drawings and plans that ultimately didn’t make the cut. (For instance, the idea of a second floor was scrapped.)
As for what he did do: The rooms in the home were originally concentrated on one end of the house, which ultimately needed a split floor plan. Now, the guest wing is configured in a U shape that creates a courtyard in the back; it corresponds to another courtyard in the front, offering lots of outdoor living opportunities. In the back are a pool and spa. A guest house is accessible through the kitchen in the main house’s other wing. “It was a challenge for the architect to match it all,” Denton admits.
The house also has floating overhangs for shade, plus expanses of windows and glass sliders to maximize cross-ventilation and views. Denton’s first renovation, in 1990, under the direction of the late Sarasota designer Robert Beardsworth, added the new pool and kitchen. Ten years later, Denton asked Beardsworth’s partner, Robert Neal, to consult on stage two of the project with architect Michael Epstein of Seibert Architects, a firm founded by Tim Seibert, another leader of the Sarasota School. Fittingly, Seibert began his career as a draftsman for Paul Rudolph.
Completed in 2021, the latest renovation added an open pavilion in the garden, further opening the home to our region’s prized indoor-outdoor lifestyle. The front wall of the living and dining area was replaced with floor-to-ceiling windows, and the view through the screened porch to the pool, in the rear of the home, was opened up by removing screen-holding beams and allowing the new screening to span from post to post and floor to roof for seamless views. In 2022, the home won a Florida AIA Design Award.
The home is lovingly decorated and includes Denton’s beloved collection of art and midcentury furniture, which started when a design professor at Ringling College sold him a rare T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings coffee table for $50 that’s still in his living room. It’s all going with him.
Various sculptures in the backyard bring the art outside. The one in the front, made of copper, is staying—it was made by Jack Cartlidge, the artist behind the sculptures at City Hall in downtown Sarasota. In the back of the home, a colorful burst of PVC pipe cylinders by James Renfro is also staying.
The home is not historically designated, so there are no protections or limitations on what can be done with it—and there are no contractual conditions, either. But, Denton says, “I would like to find a buyer as enthusiastic about it as I am. I would pass on someone wanting to demolish it.”
“It’s a balancing act—deciding at what point you replace things and keep the aesthetic of the vintage stuff,” he says. “But that’s been the most interesting part about it.” For example, some of the aforementioned architectural plans include an update to one of the bathrooms—but Denton says he’d never dream of touching its original pink tile.
So why is Denton leaving? He says it’s time to downsize, but he’s staying local and probably moving to the mainland.
Meanwhile, the next owner is in for a treat.