Vernacular Design – Architecture :: SRQ Magazine Article by Brittany Mattie

Hive Architects designs a concept from the ground up on the inspiration of a singular name/descriptor. For a newly-finished abode on the Bayou, the Japanese word ‘shibusa’ became the entire ethos and identity.

Architectural design firm Hive Architects has an inimitable way of creating their clients’ dream homes.

After some precursory conversations, Principal Architects and husband/wife power team Joe Kelly, AIA and Gwen Leroy-Kelly, AIA, get to know their clients, their lifestyle goals and site-specific conditions before coming up with a unique name for the project. This given name is to encapsulate the entire scope and theme of their vision, carrying through to the design process and constructing it to life. “The word comes before the design on every project,” they share. “But we don’t reveal the name right away—we let our clients get excited and anticipate the name till the schematic design/presentation.” There, Joe and Gwen present the word, its definitive meaning and how those descriptive traits will be distilled singularly into the concept. “The word ends up being a springboard that unfolds and expands into the features of the home,” Joe says. “This milestone moment triggers the creativity and drives the design.”

For husband and wife clients from the Midwest—Kate Nord, an entrepreneur in various businesses, and Richard Nord, a landscape architect—they anxiously awaited Joe and Gwen’s reveal for their first-ever modern-style home build. Nestled on the north end of Siesta Key—in the same neighborhood as the ever-beloved Cocoon House designed by the late, great Paul Rudolph in 1948—the Nord’s property extends from Big Sarasota Pass on one side and Bayou Louise on the other. “As with all of our projects, we spent a great deal of time interviewing our clients to better understand the program requirements and qualities of the spaces they envision for their new home,” Gwen says. “Kate and Richard’s goal, we learned, was for the building to reflect their simple, uncomplicated but refined lifestyle while maximizing the use of the site.” 

A build is worth a thousand words—but this insight led the Hive team to pick just one for this project: “shibusa.” The Japanese word is a concept that “encompasses an enriched, subdued appearance or experience of intrinsically fine quality with economy of form, line and effort.”

The meaning and  timeless aesthetic seemed to perfectly summarize the Nord’s desired qualities and adjectives of a home. And so, Shibusa enveloped the project in every thoughtfully-designed detail. “The simplicity of the horizontal building forms in relation to the vertically-oriented sun screens with constantly changing light and shadow patterns. These elements animate the architecture, transforming constantly from hour to hour and seasonally throughout the year,” Joe and Gwen explain. “The screens primarily serve to create a level of privacy while shading the internal spaces from the harsh Florida sunlight, but also create unique ephemeral qualities that make each moment at the home full of delight and surprise.”

Further fitting into the vernacular of the property (a dual meaning in this case), the build’s environmental orientation takes full advantage of the longer views to the water on either end of the property, while also establishing privacy from a large adjacent structure, turning the focus inward to a private garden and lap pool—designed by DWY Landscape Architecture firm. “The building form carefully edits out and subdues the undesirable surroundings while framing views to the internal site features and lush tropical landscape,” they say. “Because of the site’s long and narrow configuration on a peninsula, and the fact that it is connected to water on either end, it was important that the design capitalized on these characteristics.” The strategy of an L-shaped building allowed them to orient each leg towards specific views and maximize the use of the site. The shorter leg, where most of the public aspects of the program are located, orients itself toward Big Sarasota Pass and encompasses the full width of the narrow site. On the other end, the longer leg, which contains the private elements of the program, takes advantage of the full length of the site and cantilevers out to capture views of Bayou Louise. 

Meanwhile, the minimalist detailing and material palette are notable features that work seamlessly to complement and reinforce the overall aesthetic. These not only are noticed on the exterior but are further echoed with the internal furnishings and finishes that were customized and specifically selected for each space by Hive’s interior design team. In the end, Shibusa’s simple yet refined personality reflected that of their client’s.

“Giving a name gave it life, it spoke to Kate and Richard in an emotional way, made them feel like they’re living in something very unique and specialized to their lifestyle,” Gwen says of Shibusa’s eponymous namesake. Joe nods and adds, “In the end, it had a lot of meaning—it became the identity of the house so much so that the owners never referred to their house as ‘house’ or ‘home’ in conversation. It’s ‘Shibusa.’”

Hive Architects, 1570 Boulevard of the Arts Suite 110, Sarasota, 941-951-6191,, @hivearchitects

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