For homebuilders, the time is now and the place is Sarasota. Soaring home prices, low inventory, strong demand and cash-strapped buyers abound. Manatee County’s most expensive home was bought last month in a $16 million cash deal, for example, as out-of-state developers build luxury condos and estates quoted at the best price.
That’s why it caught our eye when award-winning local custom home builder Josh Wynne—a 47-year-old man known for his meticulous detail, remarkable style and durable construction—recently closed his business and relocated to Crystal River, Florida. We caught up with the outspoken builder to find out more about his career and his big move.
How does Florida inspire your design projects?
“There really is vernacular Florida architecture, which is the Florida Cracker House. A lot of people think it’s the Addison Mizner Mediterranean Revival style of the 1920s, but it’s not.
“There are a lot of important elements that come with the Cracker house that I put in all of my projects, which makes them naturally energy efficient. The roots of architecture are in creating comfortable environments. The architecture of the Florida Cracker house was a way of life: long eaves, raised houses for flood protection, passive lighting and cooling by placing windows and doors appropriately with a dog trot or walkway covered between buildings.
What project are you most proud of?
“All but the one I had the most fun building was Mike’s hammock. I built it on my own property for my dad and it’s the cheapest project I’ve built. J I was able to appreciate it on a very personal level. It is the most special for me.”
What are clients looking for when working with you?
“He’s usually someone who demands a certain level of perfection and has high service needs. People have hired me because I’m hands-on and we’ve executed projects with a high level of precision. The majority were people who had had some previous building experience and didn’t have a good one, and they weren’t trying to cut corners or get a lesser quality product, they wanted something that would last. like a watch.
What would you like to see more of Sarasota’s construction and architecture?
“I would like people to embrace the place we live in. I would like architecture to take on a stronger sense of place. The rise of contemporary and modern has been massive. A lot of architects like to play on the fact that it’s an extension of the Sarasota School of Architecture, but really it’s an international style. As far as the sense of place goes, there isn’t. There are architects who strive to create better architecture, but too few strive to mark our place in the state.
“There is too little concern for the types of materials used. No matter who I work with, this effort to give a sense of place is important. There is nothing more inviting than wood. We have the yellow pine of southern and Florida cypress. You will find both or one or the other in all my work.
“Nothing is more timeless than stone like limestone and coral, which I try to use in any project that requires stone. I also like to use siding and stucco, or tabby, which is a old fashioned technique using coquina and mortar. If you look closely you can see shark teeth and shells. This creates a warm textural quality that is ingrained, making the house seem like it has pushed from the ground.
With the sudden influx of people moving to Sarasota and all the success you’ve had here, why did you decide to leave?
“I’m a multi-generational Florida native who was born and raised here. And it’s very different now. I loved the Sarasota that I grew up in, and here we go. I started building like I did it because I refused to build the crap that was polluting the streets of Sarasota and the islands. This placeless stuff – clear cut lots with big, obtuse houses and blocking the light with exotic plants and trees. over-tended lawns that spill fertilizer into waterways.
“I have made my efforts to stop and slow down what is happening. I am an environmentalist, fisherman and outdoorsman. Our waterways are congested and polluted and access is almost non-existent. Previously, Sarasota was [made up of] people who refused to live in Palm Beach and Naples. Now it looks more like Fort Lauderdale, and I don’t want to be part of it.
“There are too many people. Ideologies have changed. I think the county commissioners have done a terrible job of preserving Sarasota. There are few people who remember that, and even fewer people who make sure to maintain what he was.
“It doesn’t hurt that it’s a tough time to build, logistically, because there’s a shortage of trades people and labor and a million people are competing for their time. My job turned into an effort to control the mania and it wasn’t fun anymore.”
What are you going to do in Crystal River?
“I’ve never built for myself because I’ve always been too busy. Now I’m going to build myself a responsible home on a beautiful piece of land adjacent to a state park surrounded by preserved land.”
What will you miss most about your life in Sarasota?
“Which it was. I miss it already. They paved heaven.”
What will you miss the least about your life here?
“What is it. Traffic. You can’t go to the beach on a cloudy day and find parking. It’s too crowded and it’s gotten too big.”
Why do you think mass developments are in such demand?
“We’re all very busy and don’t have a lot of bandwidth. Big, smart developers have created a commodity of homes. Homes used to be personal. The family that commissioned a home with their hands left an imprint of who they is on it. In Key West, you have carved railings with personal touches that make a building more than a building. There are too many people here to have such a personal home. Developers have erased the personality of a building and still sell it as a home and that’s good enough for us and that puts me off.”
How do we repair unfettered development?
“I think there’s a bit of integrity left as a place, but I think it’s in danger. We’ve demolished important buildings and replaced them with rubbish forever. I think we need to redouble our efforts. “Efforts to preserve Sarasota’s architectural history, whether commission or community are putting a brake on development without infrastructure. There are hundreds of homes that are already approved. Lakewood Ranch will double in size. Hi Hat Ranch and Skye is going to be huge. There’s also the Winchester and Taylor ranches. I don’t think the general public has a clue what’s coming. We have to make an effort to retain this quaint and quirky town that has a rich cultural history.