By staff March 1, 2007

Exploring Palm Avenue

Quietly elegant, unquestionably chic.

Far from glitzy, but all the more glamorous for its laid-back élan, Sarasota’s Palm Avenue delivers enough style, substance and serendipity to beguile the world’s most discerning shoppers. Facades of quiet elegance belie the extravagances within: rare antiques, world-class art, dazzling jewelry, even fairy-tale wedding gowns.

Here, life’s little luxuries are served up in a palm tree-lined setting where old and new Sarasotas converge, and where visitors come to browse but find enough enticements to fill the day.

Star Quality No need to travel to Los Angeles: Bridget Durnell, designer to the stars, now works her magic using a Sarasota jeweler’s spectacular diamonds. Custom Durnell masterpieces like this 17.82 ct. yellow diamond ring (price on request) result from an exclusive new partnership with Diamond Vault, 72 S. Palm Ave., (941) 364-8809.

Rug Redux  Eileen Hampshire’s exhibit of antique Arts & Crafts rugs runs through April, and the surprise hits are two authentic Voysey reproductions, recently salvaged from Donegal Carpets’ archives in Ireland. Colored and hand-knotted just as they were 100 years ago, the five-by-eight-foot rugs are $4,400 in mohair; $2,200 in wool. Art to Walk On, 64 S. Palm Ave., (941) 951-5454.

Beach Balls Ball gowns are suddenly de rigueur for Sarasota beach weddings, says La Mariee manager Lana Lagivne, and this shop obliges with Reem Acro’s celebrity wedding dress ($7,150). And look for Badgley Mishka’s first bridesmaid dresses, debuting exclusively here. La Mariee, 56 S. Palm Ave., (941) 955-1600.

Designing Women Mother-and-daughter designers June Simmons and Liebe Smith augment their custom jewelry with pieces by celebrity design team Karen Erickson and Vicki Beamon, whose “new vintage” look adorns Nicole Kidman, Kate Moss and Smith, wearing their crystal necklace, (price upon request). June Simmons Designs, 68 S. Palm Ave., (941) 388-4535.

Bespoke British is the language here, with uncommonly good formal reproductions from English Regency to Art Deco. But amid the mahogany, this Country French dresser ($1,635) stands out, its hand-painted stripes, rubbed walnut finish and iron pulls rare finds for the price. Design Impressions Gallery, 33 S. Palm Ave., (941) 373-9660.

Asian Fusion Asian antiques attract Sarasota tourists and residents alike. Those in the know say you won’t find better buys or more impeccable pedigrees than at Coco Palm Gallery. Every ceramic work, including this Ming Dynasty wine flask ($8,800 for the pair), is glaze-tested before they’ll accept it. Coco Palm Gallery, 1255 N. Palm Ave., (941) 955-1122.

That’s Italian People-watching is quintessentially Italian; so is great food. You’ll get both at Café Epicure, where hand-tossed pizzas (from $10.95) are blissfully reminiscent of Capri’s, and authentic frittatas are served only as weekend breakfast treats. Café Epicure, 1298 N. Palm Ave., (941) 366-5648.

Beauty Bar Ana Molinari raises the bar with an extreme makeover of her salon (now grandly Italianate) and a new menu of services, including two instant best-sellers: eyelash extensions ($150) and three-color highlights ($125). Ana Molinari Salon, 52 S. Palm Ave., (941) 365-7434. 

Don’t forget to…

Make dinner reservations at Zaks for one of the most romantic settings and possibly the best rib-eye in town.   

Check out designer Lance Liccardi’s impeccable taste; a national retailing magazine named his Madison Park boutique “Best Home Décor Store.”

Take a tour of Dabbert Gallery with owners David and Patricia Dabbert, whose amazing collection of paintings by Rubadoux captures Florida as you’ve never seen it before  

Stroll Palm Avenue with gelato in hand; it’s guilt-free at Jolly Espresso Bar, where the Doppiozero brand translates to zero-sugar and zero-fat ($2.75 a scoop).


“Eclecticism rules,” insists Gerrie Heibel. That gives her and husband Rich carte blanche to stock their new store, Envie, with one-off indulgences for the home. And when the pair became smitten with the work of German designer Silvia Uhlenbrach, they promptly added artisan jewelry to the mélange.

“It’s an ever-changing oeuvre,” Heibel explains. “The common thread is that every item is artist-quality, irresistible, and small enough to be picked up and carried home.” Exclusivity is also part of the cachet, as pieces are limited-edition and often by artisans not featured elsewhere in Florida. On First Street, around the corner from Pino’s Restaurant and Whole Foods Market, Envie attracts an after-dinner crowd, browsing tourists and local condo dwellers fascinated with Heibel’s elegant hostess gifts, dinnerware and home accessories.

Glamour Gifts Nothing says luxury like feathers and fur. Above, Heibel models a Finlandia emerald fox throw ($7,200) that’s backed with Italian silk brocade as decadent as that covering this baroque pillow ($436) trimmed with peacock feathers.

Champagne Dreams Golden Austrian crystals adorn this champagne flute ($95) and Martini glass ($80), hand-blown treasures from artist Alan Lee’s new, aptly named Princess collection.

Finishing School Perfectly polished, this well-mannered dining table ($7,100) is artisan-crafted in Italy of walnut veneer with rosewood/fruitwood inlay, beechwood legs and gold-leafed claw feet.

Envie, 1411 First St., Sarasota, (941) 366-7027


Treasure Chest

“People love boxes,” says Marilyn Nager, whose new boutique boasts 1950s gem-studded Florenza boxes ($65 to $95) and vintage Florentine gilt boxes like this $49 treasure, a pirate’s booty compared to current prices in Italy. Marilyn’s, 1269 First St., Sarasota (941) 544-7987.

Everybody OMmmm 

Fans are already chanting praises for Body & Spirit’s new Yoga Facial ($110 for 50 minutes). The secret ingredients (Jurlique organic plant essences and circulation-increasing massage) promise younger-looking skin and inner peace. Body & Spirit, 500 Southgate Plaza, Sarasota (941) 921-1388.

Hot Rocks

The hottest lighting for the loo: bejeweled Swarovski crystal bath bars ($1,800). “The bathroom is now the most luxurious room in the house,” says John Parker, who just moved this 55-year-old Sarasota institution to equally brilliant new digs. The Lamplighter Shop, 2628 17th St., Sarasota (941) 953-4292.

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