This Historic Home in Florida Went From Lavish Parties to a Home/Work Hybrid

Zoë Sessums

After 10 years in a 1,000-square-foot bungalow from 1919, architect Jody Beck, who runs Tampa-based Traction Architecture with her husband, Ross-Alan Tisdale, found that she and her family had outgrown the space. “For years we dreamed of designing a new home for our family that would showcase the modernist sensibility more typical of our projects, but I stumbled upon the Dundee House and fell in love with it,” says Jody, who also notes that the couple were outgrowing the office space they rented for their four-person architecture firm.

BEFORE: Even though Jody and Ross knew they were going to need to do a lot of work on the house, it was important to them to maintain many of the standing details. “We have always been interested and engaged with historic architecture in the area,” says Ross. “It feels particularly important to preserve older buildings in Florida, where so much is new.”
AFTER: “[The living room] had originally been an exterior courtyard that had been enclosed at some point early on and not well maintained,” says Jody. “We replaced the decaying surfaces with materials that spoke to the room’s original use as an outdoor space, incorporating vibrant cement tile, a cypress wood ceiling, and a new layer of smooth plaster.” The sofa is an original Florence Knoll piece from Jody’s grandmother, and the coffee table and TV stand are Modernica.
AFTER: The amazing pinwheel floor tiles are a collaboration between Oh Joy! and Clé Tile. The chairs are original Herman Miller Eames chairs from Jody’s grandmother.
AFTER: “We painted historic surfaces white to accentuate the play of light and shadow along the plaster walls,” says Jody.

But they didn’t just stumble upon your average home. The Dundee House, built in 1927, was the first in the Sunset Park neighborhood, designed as an aspirational icon to spur the development of the surrounding land. It had a strong structure and carefully crafted details—the couple was drawn to the “Mediterranean sensibility combined with simple, almost modern geometries, and its H-shaped floor plan.” It was also going to require a lot of work.

“When we purchased the house, we found peeling surfaces, old wiring, leaking cast-iron pipes, cramped rooms, and rodent nests—and that was before we started demolition,” says Ross. “We knew from working on renovations of historic homes for clients that it would be important to take a surgical approach to the renovation; you never know what you are going to find. We had to work through several different subcontractors until we found the right ones who could do the job—from masons who could repoint the original brick to craftsmen who could repair the horsehair plaster. Jody ultimately became a general contractor along the way to see the project through.”

AFTER: “I love being able to meet with clients in a space that really showcases the craft of architecture and the value of what we do,” says Jody. “And on the personal side, when people come over—whether it’s our friends, our kids’ friends, family, or even a delivery person—they get a peek inside our work world: physical models of houses, stacks of drawings, colorful renderings, and material samples of all types and textures. We’ve been able to share what we do with people who would never ordinarily set foot inside an architecture studio.”
AFTER: While a neutral white covers most of the rooms, the brighter hues were added to specific rooms to amplify interior-view corridors.
AFTER: Ross’s favorite space in the house is the foyer. “I like how it occupies this outpost type of space in terms of the plan. The original tile and plaster crown moldings, juxtaposed with the timeless Louis Poulsen lamp, sets a tone for the rest of the renovation. It’s a quiet, contemplative space that is very necessary in a building that now serves so many functions—office, home, school, play area, et cetera."

Although moving the Traction office into the house was not part of the initial plan, the renovation project was extensive and it ended up making sense to set up the architecture studio in the ballroom so the team could easily go back and forth between drawing projects for their clients and working on the house. “It became a hands-on training ground for our young architecture staff, who would take breaks from computer work to jackhammer concrete, or trace ductwork through the attic spaces, or lay joists with our carpenter,” says Jody. “After about a year of construction, we moved our kids into the house and sold the old bungalow, but we decided to keep our office in the ballroom. Living and working are already completely entangled for us, so having the office in the house seems like a logical extension.”

BEFORE: “The kitchen is probably the biggest transformation and the place where we spend the most time,” says Jody.
AFTER: “We removed a wall to accommodate a large island and connect the space to the living area,” says Jody. “I love the combination of the minimalist cabinets with the historic window casings and moldings. One of the home’s previous owners was a sea captain, and he created an etching of his favorite ship on one of the kitchen windows.” The cabinets are Space Theory by Henrybuilt, the countertop is Corian, and the stools are from BluDot.
BEFORE: The original kitchen was covered in a checkerboard linoleum, and underneath was an unsalvageable porcelain tile.
AFTER: The team extended the wood flooring from the surrounding rooms into the kitchen and incorporated a walnut threshold to visually separate the old wood flooring with the new.

The layout of the house, with rooms radiating outward from the ballroom, is very conducive to living and working. “We were able to split the house into a ‘public zone,’ combining the ballroom and entry foyer, which doubles as a gallery for our firm’s art and models, and the ‘private zone,’ which includes the kitchen, a living space, and bedrooms,” says Jody. They lived and worked this way for about a year and half until the pandemic arrived and with it, the “stay-at-home” orders. “Since March, our staff has been largely working from their homes. Our live/work situation has made us particularly well-equipped for the transition, but managing our kids at home has been the greater challenge—we have had to compete for desk space with their zoom classes and art projects,” she adds.

“Though the largest parts of the renovation are complete, there is always more work to be done and the house has become a kind of laboratory where we can experiment with materials and construction,” says Jody. “It took a year to make it livable, and will probably take forever to make it perfect, particularly for two architects.”

In the bathrooms, the team combined hexagonal tile to reference the home’s original finishes with pops of color to signal the modern interventions. The glazed emerald tiles are from Red Rock Tileworks, and the Designer White Corian countertops are the same as in the kitchen.
In the master bedroom, the simple platform bed is Modernica’s Case Study Bentwood Bed and the geometric patterned rug is from Block Shop Textiles.
The H-shaped floor plan of the house connects interior and exterior spaces through a series of porticos and porches, which allows for ample natural light and cross breezes. It’s no surprise here that the home recently won an Honor Award of Excellence for Renovations and Additions from AIA Florida Caribbean.
The kids’ bedroom maintains the bright white walls but is full of bright pops of green, which carry through into the bathroom. The cool, modern bunk bed is from Rafa Kids.
The kids’ Jack-and-Jill-style bathroom has larger format hexagonal tiles that recalls traditional hexagonal tiles from the 1920s, but with a playful twist. The walls are painted Sea Salt.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest