About once a week, agents Bobbie Banan and Mel Goldsmith of Michael Saunders & Company shed suits and dress shoes for rubber boots and foul-weather gear and pilot a Carolina skiff across Sarasota Bay to show their most unique listing. The Polynesian-style home, boasting separate pods, sits on an island, surrounded by the waters of Jewfish Creek just 10 minutes from the mainland and looking toward the Longboat Key bridge and twinkling Sarasota city skyline.
Todd Johnston of Lakewood Ranch fame built the dwelling in 1989 for architect Bill Piper and his wife, who fell in love with the idea of vacationing from Michigan in an exotic island location. Piper, says Banan, designed a fabulous home of natural cedar some 16 feet above ground, connected by covered walkways and boasting glass walls and soaring 20-foot ceilings.
The main pod features great room, dining area and kitchen and wonderful screened porch. Master pod includes sitting room, bedroom, and lavish bath with expansive shower. Guest quarters include three separate suites with distinct roof lines. Two offer a bedroom and full bath while the third features bedroom, bath, loft, sitting room and kitchenette.
Piper then added a three-story watchtower for cocktails at sunset and storm tracking, created outdoor walkways and paths, removed all those irksome Australian pines and replaced them with exotic tropical plantings, ferns, low shrubs and palms including a massive blue palm that rivals anything at Selby Gardens. The 38-acre island sits in the heart of Sarasota Bay with 25 acres of nature preserve along the east side and 13 platted homesites to the west and just four existing homes. For the asking price of $950,000 the house comes with a lot in Paradise Bay Mobile Home Park and a dock providing secured space for automobile and boat.
Banan says the place is simply a slice of paradise and she loves taking clients across the water. "It is always fun to show and you feel a bit like Pat Conroy skipping across the wake," she says. "Mel is the expert boater and we always show it together. First he drops me off at the house so I can open things up and turn on lights and then he heads back to retrieve the clients. We try to weed out the sightseers because this is a bit of an ordeal; and so far we have shown the place to television personalities seeking privacy, families seeking adventure and a few writers seeking seclusion. And we constantly caretake, sending groundskeepers to clip and cut and beat back the wilderness. This is a very unusual, beautiful place."
Dressed for Success
Candy Swick sold more than $38 million worth of property last year but refuses to dress up, drive fancy or dine out just because she had a good year. "My signature uniform is nice black slacks with a blouse and blazer and flat shoes," Swick reveals. "I cannot chauffeur and schlep papers and climb stairs and get it all done in high heels and stockings." Her car is a Lexus because she likes the comfortable leather cushions and quiet ride, enabling her to hear what is being mumbled in the back seat by clients. And she does lunch by grabbing an apple or handful of popcorn on her way out the office door. "If my clients are hungry, we drive through Wendy's and eat salad in my car," says Swick.
Accessories? Handfuls of keys and a tiny silver cell phone that hums and vibrates constantly. Fashion pet peeve? "Realtors with chipped fingernail polish, bright red lipstick and sandals in winter." Clothing advice to beginners? "Pull your look together and present yourself as a professional. You are selling a lifestyle, and the Sarasota lifestyle is not about huge diamond earrings."
South Beach on Siesta Key
Mellow yellow and purple paint with glass blocks and curving exterior walls make this Mira-Mar Beach landmark home difficult to miss. Head to Siesta Key, just north of the Village, for a slice of South Beach sophistication with tropical flavoring. This art deco townhome boasts three levels over a four-car garage and offers a large open kitchen, dining and living rooms plus lavish master suite, three guest bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths. The entertainment center is state-of-the-art, and the library is magnificent. Every floor features multiple sun decks and balconies with views of the city and Gulf of Mexico. "The elevator is very cool and there's even a storage area for a jet ski and other water toys," explains listing agent Karen Chandler of Michael Saunders & Company. But the ultimate selling point is the private beach. "Just walk out the back door and your feet are in the sand," says Chandler. "We have tremendous interest in this property from young professional couples and singles, including a gentleman from Canada. This is everyone's dream home." Priced at $2,975,000.
A bit of reflection is a good thing. But for interior designer Judy Graham, enough is enough. Graham redid a beautiful bayfront condominium for her client, which included installation of a magnificent framed mirror for the bathroom. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication; and before the new mirror arrived, the crew installed standard counter-to-ceiling mirrors, which Graham had not ordered and the client did not want. The workmen came and ripped out the mirrors on request, but Graham's client telephoned in confusion two days later, saying the mirrors were back. Graham discovered that a different crew mistakenly thought the counter-to-ceiling mirrors had never been installed and took care of the oversight. Once again, Graham had them removed and the walls readied for the new framed mirror. But the day before delivery, as her client was discussing remodeling details in the kitchen, a third crew came into the house with counter-to-ceiling mirrors and installed them. "When she came around the corner and saw workers in that bathroom putting up the wrong mirrors for the third time, she just started laughing," says Graham. "I mean, what are the chances that you have to rip mirrors out three times?"
Honey, It's For the Cars
For $12 million, a collector of fine automobiles will get plenty of storage space in a luxurious three-story, Gulf-to-Bay estate with a seven-car garage. Reminiscent of the grand mansions of Palm Beach, this Casey Key residence features gorgeous landscaped grounds with gardens, an immense vanishing-edge pool with elevated spa, complete wine cellar and boat dock, and that fabulous garage-all finished in majestic Mediterranean style.
Oops! Pardon Me!
When Lynn Robbins flung open the door of a master suite in a Siesta Key condominium, she did not expect to see a very elderly couple in the throes. Happily, the octogenarians were not embarrassed in the least because they never heard a thing. Robbins just hustled her buyers out the front door, promising a rescheduling, and concluded that afternoon delight entailed the removal of hearing aids. "No wonder they did not answer the telephone when I called from my office to set up the showing or answer the doorbell when I rang before utilizing the lockbox," she chuckles. "Good for them."