Photography: Greg Wilson

Bird Key, Sarasota, FL


The clients for the Bird Key residence purchased an older home because of the water-front location and desirable open modern floor plan that allowed good circulation to the outdoors. The couple preferred a modern aesthetic and lifestyle that allowed them to spend as much time outdoors as possible. The home was purchased in spite of the fact that the exterior environment of the older home left much to be desired and was both functionally and aesthetically challenged with a leaking pool, cracked multi-level red clay brick deck and failing seawall. A small stoop area, just large enough for a table and two chairs, was the couples most used exterior space – offering marginal views to the bird sanctuary and sunsets beyond.

The site itself presented several challenges including frigid winter winds, salt spray and elevation changes.  The myriad of jurisdictional regulation included zoning restrictions limiting the height of vertical improvements and connecting new V-zone construction with the existing non-conforming structure within the FEMA regulated high velocity zone, city requirement to preserve water views from adjacent residences and HOA regulations that seemed at odds with all of the above.


With key information regarding the couple’s daily routine and activities, DWY LA envisioned the landscape as a cohesive blend of opportunity for exercise, relaxation, reading, dining, gardening, bathing and entertaining – a direct response to the owner’s desire to spend as much of their time outdoors as possible.

The design process began by studying the site, existing architecture and acknowledging the temporal nature of environmental conditions for the ephemeral spaces that were to be created.  Natural qualities of light, temperature, wind and water are woven together to form functional architectural spaces that accentuate the site’s location, views and climate in simple, elegant ways.  Although the limits of work were solely for the back and side-yard areas, programming included a water wall, water garden, lap pool, spa, seawall, dining terrace, pavilion, pergola, outdoor kitchen, linear fireplace and hidden shower – each carefully addresses the natural qualities of the site, yielding spaces precisely honed for each function.  Every element is reduced to its essence for an understated quality achieved through the distillation of each component expressed with the simplest geometry.

This design exemplifies DWY’s ability to achieve the owner’s goal and execute an inspired design that creates harmonious relationships between the built and natural environment.  The project’s success can be measured by the beautiful spaces created and the owner’s comment that, “it’s better than she could have ever imagined”.