If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the live oak trees that served as inspiration for this artful guest house have received high praise indeed. Situated on a barrier island in Osprey, Fla., the structure bends over backward to reflect the curvature of the gracefully twisted tree limbs that surround it. And the design’s natural beauty is more than skin deep.
“We worked on the premise that you respect the land, and the rest will follow,” says architect Jerry Sparkman, of TOTeMS Architecture, who designed the project. In order to satisfy that mandate as well as FEMA code requirements for high-wind regions, TOTeMS employed a specialized pile system that includes an elevated concrete slab so as not to disturb the subgrade or the existing tree roots.
The home also incorporates plenty of efficiency upgrades, such as a closed-cell insulation system, to keep energy use at a minimum.
Positioned to offer privacy from a northern neighbor while preserving views of the Intercoastal Waterway and the surrounding trees, the home’s whimsical-yet-sophisticated design is anchored by glulam pine beams that fasten at their base to a concrete slab and then rise up and over the entire structure. To enhance the building’s organic flavor, shiplap cypress siding covers both the interior and exterior walls.
Inside, the architectural acrobatics define the living space and channel residents’ attention outward to views of the water beyond. The exposed beams and bending walls also offered the architects a perfect opportunity to incorporate some built-in shelving.
The compact guest house includes everything needed to keep visitors comfortable, including two sleeping areas, a full bath, a living area, and a kitchenette. The structure is anchored by a ground-level storage area and a second-level bedroom, both of which are clad in cypress. The top level opens up to an airy living space and a loft. A set of sliding glass doors allows the space to extend seamlessly outside onto a cantilevered deck.
Taking cues from tree limbs was new for Sparkman, who says he had never used branches as a defining design element before. But for a project aimed at creating an organic piece of architecture that was influenced by, reflective of, and respectful to the site, a sophisticated version of a tree house was a natural result.