Homefront - December 2001

By staff December 1, 2001

Island-Style Holidays  

Robb & Stucky design consultant Tre Michel says island-style interiors are the perfect backdrop for the holidays in Sarasota, "where sand is our winter white stuff." Island-style furnishings like the Tommy Bahama collection are in high demand this season, with white-washed "island" looks of the past being replaced by darker woods with Asian and British overtones, she says. Wicker and rattan embellishments and rubbed silver or tropical-themed pulls complete the authentic, eclectic look of island living. And to complete that "holiday in the tropics" look, suggests Michel, "tie ornaments with raffia bows to your palm trees and place a bed of sand around your train set. After all, if it's going to be 80 degrees on Christmas day, you may as well enjoy it!"

Over at Fanciful Furnishings, owner Linda Griffin has always been a big proponent of infusing your home and your life with color. She suggests that, in addition to painting the town red this holiday season, you also consider slapping a coat of holiday hue on your dining room because, if you're a little uncertain about bright colors or have always been bound to beige, "this is a great time to break out and test-drive some color to brighten up your home and life. Try some red over the holidays, and if you love it keep it right on into the New Year."

By the way, Griffin adds that red furniture was really popular at the High Point furniture market this year. Right now some of the hottest items in her shop are a bright red antique kitchen island/work station, an 84-inch red antique sideboard and a Waverly toile wallpaper of gold with red roosters (plus coordinating pillows and tablecloths). Even Fanciful Furnishings' official greeter, sheepdog Ursula, goes for the glow with a red feather boa all her own. Drop by and see for yourself.

There's still a little bit of time if you're looking for some great new holiday decorating ideas and haven't yet checked out the Junior League of Sarasota's Tour of Homes. This "Holiday Tour of Homes" and "Tinsel and Treasures Gift Mart" is the League's 25th annual event and only runs through Dec. 2. A real feast for the eyes, the silver anniversary of the JLS Tour of Homes features four fabulous waterfront homes, which were chosen to highlight the natural beauty that abounds in Sarasota and to showcase spectacular structural and interior design ideas. Homes are festively decorated for the holidays by local designers and florists, and are open to tour book holders from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tour books also give guests free admission to the "Tinsel and Treasures Gift Mart" at the historic Phillippi Mansion, where one can shop for gifts and holiday fare and enjoy a delicious meal or snack. The Junior League of Sarasota hopes to raise $50,000, which will go to support programs benefiting women and children throughout the community. Sponsors are Anne Folsom-Smith Interior Design, Acorn, Blivas Family Foundation, The Riley and Austin Families, and Glauser Mercedes. Holiday Tour of Homes admissions books are available for $15 at Davidson Drugs and Jacobson's stores. For more information about the Holiday Tour of Homes or Tinsel and Treasures Gift Mart call Junior League headquarters, 953-5600.

Alison Bishop of Living Walls, who is decorating the Carl Abbott-designed JLS tour home on Westway Drive in Lido Shores, is including a show-stopping, 10-foot-tall spinning Christmas tree mobile from the Museum of Modern Art. Bishop's best holiday decorating tip? "This is a great time to replace the lighting fixture over your dining room table with something new and exciting," she says. "Also, consider accent pieces that double as serving bowls. These make great gifts, especially if you give them filled with holiday goodies and treats. It makes a lasting piece that the recipient can enjoy for years to come." 

For Feet Only 

Brad Fulkerson, owner of Avalon Flooring, opened a new 7,000-plus-square-foot showroom in Sarasota late last summer. Still, some things never change. Fulkerson says his best tip for both longtime and new clients is the same as it's always been: "Make sure you understand what you're buying!" Fulkerson says while some floorings may look great in beautiful, gleaming showrooms, in magazine pictures and even in your mind's eye, you really need to keep your lifestyle in mind when selecting flooring.

"For example," explains Fulkerson, "sisal flooring is very fashionable right now, but it's easily stained by fluid, even water." Families with children or pets should consider such facts before making an investment in this type of product. Take the time to find out the pros and cons of different products and ask lots of questions in the showroom. "There are often many ways to achieve the look you desire," Fulkerson says.

Jaren Levitt, owner of Stone Trend International, says one of the most popular poolside materials being installed right now is natural coral stone from the Dominican Republic. "You can't get it from any U.S. source," says Levitt, "but it's beautiful stuff and really great for pool decks here as it doesn't retain heat. Even during our hottest summer days you can walk on it barefoot and not burn your feet." Levitt says Stone Trend has already done several jobs calling for this material in The Oaks and on Bird Key. 

At the Gallery

Galleria Silecchia is featuring the work of glass artists this month. Gallery owners and directors Candy Silecchia and Louis Chalupa say the work of American glass artists Joseph Rossano, the current artistic coordinator at Waterford Crystal in Ireland, and Duncan McClellan, whose work is in the permanent collection of The New Orleans Museum, Florida Gulf Coast Museum, Polk Museum of Art, Russian Embassy, Tampa Museum of Art and Walt Disney Company, will be on exhibit. And in a schedule change-Russian painter Yuri Gorbachev's work, originally scheduled to open here last month, will now open on Dec. 3 and remain in the gallery through Jan. 31, 2002. 

Trends in Home Buying

Marilyn Downing, president /CEO of New Homes America, notes a new trend in home buying that seems far simpler for today's busy buyer than tramping from one open house to another and listening to each company's competing sales people. "Searching for a new home can be a very time-consuming task," Downing says. There are hundreds of new communities and builders to choose from and it can be very confusing. "The best way to find the right new home for you and your family is to utilize the services of real estate buyers' agents who specialize in new homes only," she says. "Specialists, like New Homes America, have all of the information on the various offerings to review and compare in one place. One-stop shopping is the key. It's a great shortcut that not only saves lots of time, but can also help avoid costly mistakes."

In additional news on the new homes front, Casey Key specialists Annette and Albert Ayers of Michael Saunders & Company say one of the biggest revolutions they see in the industry is that high-end buyers looking to live on the waterfront now don't have to go the route that was so long the only alternative in Sarasota-buying a tear-down, a resale or a remodeled older home. All of those time-consuming approaches are being shelved as more developers take the leap and put up four-to-eight-million-dollar homes on the water without a specific client in mind.

"We haven't had that here before," says Annette Ayers. "Buyers who wanted to see property comparable to what they were being shown on Florida's East Coast-or even in Naples-just couldn't find anything already constructed here until now." While special properties with wide beaches, good views and deep boating water are still not "plentiful," they can be found. The Ayers team has 16 listings on Casey Key alone.

In light of the current stock market situation and low interest rates, John Cannon of John Cannon Homes reports that buying a new luxury home is an extremely attractive financial decision. Discerning homeowners have discovered an excellent investment alternative offered by John Cannon Homes. John says, "Experienced investors know they can make a profitable return when they purchase one of our furnished models with a one- to one-and-a-half-year leaseback arrangement. Many of our upscale models have been purchased before construction was even completed."

Models recently sold at Lakewood Ranch are a perfect example of homeowners taking advantage of the leaseback alternative. The company's Nioka III model at Twin Hills was purchased before it was completed, and its Marinna III model in Laurel Valley has also been sold. Investors will want to watch for the opening of three new models at Lakewood Ranch-the Nariah in Portmarnock, the Allora V in Ashland and the Nioka III in Twin Hills, and the Allora VI at Silver Oak on Palmer Ranch, which is also sold. 

High Tea at the Ritz 

Jackie Buckler, vice president of regional marketing for WCI (the builder of The Tower Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota), put together a High Tea for the Tower's future residents with a presentation by designer Pamela Hughes from Virginia. The tea was held to introduce the design team to those who would be moving in. Included in the program were representatives of BCBE (Boran Craig Barber Engel), the construction company doing the build-out. BCBE offered their Finer Points program for the group. This program helps residents select finishing touches and work details for their homes. Also introduced were the architects and landscape architect. The event was held at the Michael Saunders Gallery on Main Street.

And if you ever wanted to see the details of a home for sale before scheduling a tour, Michael Saunders & Company's award-winning Web site at now displays information about every residence listed for sale through the mulitple listing service (MLS) in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. The company would also like to congratulate new owners on taking possession of their luxurious condominiums at The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, and welcomes all visitors to the new Ritz-Carlton, Hotel, Sarasota.

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