Longform

The House That Bill Built

Page 7 of 7

In December 2003, Home Fort Lauderdale, a local architecture magazine, ran an illustrated spread on another Bigoney creation considered "mid-century modernism at its finest," according to Publisher John O'Connor. Inside the Bonnie Heath House at 1799 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Bigoney created a custom-built oceanfront refuge as a perfect union of utilitarianism and taste. Built in 1955, the two-story space was designed so that walking in the front door revealed a panoramic "ribbon of glass... a massive, transparent living room... a see-through house."

"I wanted to make sure somebody who understood modernism bought it and cared for it," O'Connor says unhappily. "The people who bought it didn't read my article, I'm sure, because then they destroyed the exterior, destroyed the interior, and put on these Home Depot front doors with leaded glass. It's the worst. They might as well have just torn it down."

On a recent weeknight, Margi Nothard flicks on some mood lighting and opens the doors, allowing a subtropical breeze to sweep through her living room. Something splashes in the water beneath the kitchen floor.

Apart from adding central air, the Nothards haven't changed the house at all, just stripping the gray paint off the cherry-wood doors and floors. Margi brings students and fellow architects to come and gawk with amazement.

The Nothards' two young sons prowl the property now, spending much of their time underneath and around the house, in or on the water. "Bill Bigoney's intention," Margi Nothard states, "is that you don't shut off the outside — or its quality of life — from the inside. We look down and see fiddler crabs, and we look up and see the ospreys flying. What are we going to complain about?"

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton