PEACEFUL, EASY FEELING The long dominant, weighty Tuscan look is now officially a thing of the past, say top designers from the International Design Center, Southwest Florida's newest design resource which is now opening showrooms amid a 38-acre campus being developed in Estero. IDC designers are touting the serenity now infiltrating the clean lines of contemporary interiors. Patricia Crawford of West Palm Beach-based Crawford Interior Design recommends a "refined balance of materials, [which] gives our contemporary look a Zen or peaceful feeling."
And if you want balance, Maxine Corbett, ASID, of Richlin Poliform Naples says one of the latest trends juxtaposes traditional pieces with streamlined minimal interiors. For example, fabrics like damasks are being used to re-upholster contemporary classic furniture like the Barcelona chair. That balanced look is "definitely contemporary-but an easy, warm and more organic contemporary," says Crawford, who also generates balance with "natural materials such as raffia, stone, environmentally friendly papers, water walls and wood mixed in with satin metallic finishes such as nickel and brushed stainless steel and glass."
GREAT DANES Looking for a little more MoMA in your home? Danish designs doubling as modern art are now available to Southwest Floridians thanks to Kim Nielsen. His furnishings store, dkVOGUE, highlights functional artwork by a collection of Denmark's greatest designers, including Arne Jacobsen and Finn Juhl. In fact, many of the designers featured at dkVOGUE earned international fame in the first part of the 20th century. The company, which debuted its two locations just this year, boasts "inventive shapes, minimalist sensibilities, bold colors and sleek materials" in its distinct, high-end, contemporary home furnishings.
Visitors to the showrooms on State Street in downtown Sarasota and South Osprey Avenue in Southside Village can take advantage of a casual atmosphere-including Danish snacks and sometimes wine and cheese-to experience the comfortable designs firsthand before placing their order. All the pieces are made in Denmark, and most can be customized to the buyer's preferences for material, fabric and color.
HAGEN COMES HOME Pamela Hagen has returned to the roots of her realty career. Having gotten her professional start selling Longboat Key condominiums with Arvida more than 20 years ago, Hagen was recently appointed to head Prudential Palms Realty's Longboat Key sales office. A Florida real estate agent since 1981, Hagen doubled production in the year and a half she led the Prudential Palms South Tamiami Trail office. She was also one of the founding members of Waterside Property Sales.
"One of my goals for the office is to emphasize our family of sales associates, who enjoy working together. The Longboat Key office is unique to real estate, as all of our sales agents are award-winning," she says. "Many of our agents have worked on Longboat Key for the past 20 years."
Prudential Palms has more than 160 sales professionals in offices serving Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.
HAPPENING CABINETRY Anyone feeling trapped by wood-patterned kitchen cabinetry need look no further than Kitchens Direct, which keeps ahead of the latest products and styles for contemporary cookeries. Nowadays, European influence on cabinet colors and designs means a veritable rainbow of options for new or remodeled kitchens. Rather than traditional wood stains, solid colors and metallic finishes are becoming increasingly popular. Contoured and shaped cabinetry has also entered the design mix.
Don't forget the latest technology to keep up with the cabinets' contemporary sensibility. The sleek look and clean lines of stainless steel appliances give some outward indication of the high-tech wizardry contained inside: New refrigerators with LCD TV screens have rocketed kitchen entertainment into the 21st century, and GE's Trivection technology, which combines thermal convection and microwave heating, has vastly improved oven efficiency and transformed everyday cooking.
COOKING SMART Missi Bart of Renaissance Design Studio says appliances "drive the design of the kitchen." And there are lots of appliances from which to choose. "Two sinks, two ovens and two dishwashers are becoming the norm in today's luxury kitchen," says Bart, adding that she's been won over by her own warming oven and calls it "a cook's best friend."
Cabinets are also important design elements, especially considering those all-important appliances can be fully integrated with cabinets in today's kitchen. Cabinetry should "look like furniture and not like cabinets," says Bart. "Choosing hardware for the cabinetry is like choosing jewelry that complements the gown." Quiet-close drawers and fantastic lighting-"the most important element of any room," says Bart-round out the complete kitchen design.
SELLING POINTS With more homes and condos on the market, competition for buyers' attention is fierce, and preparing your home to look its best is more important than ever. Marie Monsky, a real estate agent with Re/Max Properties, offers some expert tips on making the best first impression on potential buyers.
"Curb appeal is important," she says. "Refresh the landscaping, check the house, trim and front door to assure paint is in good condition. Pressure wash if necessary." And although insects may be a fact of Florida living, cleaning up dead wasps and other bug carcasses by the windows and doors makes a big difference.
On the inside, "Aim for the senses," Monsky advises. "Smell and sight play a big role." Clear away unnecessary clothing, decorating accessories and photos and straighten closets. Check carpets for soiled areas and see if the paint on the interior walls needs to be touched up. Be sure all appliances are clean and in working order. Use high-watt light bulbs to brighten the house during showings. And lastly, she advises, don't tease potential buyers with tidbits you're not selling. "Remove any items that you intend to keep, such as the favorite chandelier."
CRISP AND CLEAN Fashion in home décor this season reflects a blend of traditional and contemporary design elements, according to Kris Kolar, vice president of interior design at Robb & Stucky Interiors. The new style, which is being called "transitional," uses furniture, finishes and fabric together to create a timeless design. The transitional style uses furniture lines that are simple and sophisticated, combining classic silhouettes with comfortable functionality.
The palette incorporates neutrals and soft, pale colors for a clean and tranquil environment. "This softer take on modern styling is epitomized by collections like Barbara Barry Realized by Henredon," says Kolar. "Barry's portfolio emphasizes sophistication paired with comfort, using strong forms with delicate curves and mixing light and dark finishes."
Bruce Williams Homes has unveiled three new models in Lakewood Ranch. The two-story Live Oak IV made its debut in Greenbrook Preserve, featuring 3,800 square feet of living space with four bedrooms, four baths, a den and bonus room, priced at $800,000. Greenbrook Preserve has 30 home sites available.
In Greenbrook Ravines, Bruce Williams Homes introduces the Spruce and the Silver Oak III models. Both are three-bedroom, four-bath homes with a den and a bonus room. The Spruce totals 2,900 square feet priced from $620,000, while the 2,750-foot Silver Oak III is priced from $580,000. Greenbrook Ravines also has 30 home sites available.
Additionally, Bruce Williams Homes' Lauren Hill III model was recently named best model home in its category in Lakewood Ranch. The 2,083-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home can be found in the Greenbrook Banks neighborhood.
PREFERRED LENDER Correspondent lender Aclarian Mortgage recently announced that it has been designated the preferred lender for Jade Homes, a Sarasota-based developer. The designation marked the first partnership to stem from Aclarian's new preferred lender program, which targets builders and developers who share Aclarian's "communication, collaboration and accountability," according to Jeff Parker, Aclarian's executive vice president of builder relations. The Florida-based lender has offices in Lakewood Ranch, downtown Sarasota and Siesta Key.