Homefront - May 2002

By staff May 1, 2002

WCI Blitz

If you have more than a million dollars to spend on a home downtown, WCI Communities, Inc. has just the place. WCI is well underway with the construction of The Tower Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, which boasts the services of the Ritz-Carlton, including 24-hour concierge service. With 10 designs and 80 residences (eight of which are penthouses), The Tower Residences presents a variety of floor plans, from 2,799 to 5,275 square feet, and extraordinary views of Sarasota Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the downtown skyline. Completion is expected in May 2003. The Michael Saunders Sales Gallery is handling the sales. Call (941) 364-8884 for information.

WCI is also building the Venetian Golf & River Club, located off I-75 in Venice. Plans for the master-planned community include a Chip Powell-designed championship, 18-hole golf course, river club, golf club and 70-acre nature park. Pre-construction prices range from the $150s to $400s. Visit the Preview Welcome Center at 301 South U.S. 41 in Venice or call (941) 485-5063.

Sales continue to move along quickly at Waterlefe Golf & River Club, WCI's spectacular community in Manatee County. Nestled along the Manatee River and surrounded by 18 magnificent golf holes, Waterlefe features an outstanding collection of homes, priced from the $180s to $800s. Call (941) 744-9819 for more information.

A European Summer

Bryan Guentner, a waterfront and luxury home specialist with REMAX Properties, says summer is a great time to market properties. "Most people are unaware of the tremendous European market Sarasota has been exposed to in the last few years," he says. With the growing use of Web sites to search for Sarasota luxury and waterfront properties, the season for selling is year-round. Summer is a great opportunity to reach the European market, as well as local buyers who understand the value of local real estate. Sellers can check the value of other properties by searching the Sarasota County Property Appraiser's Web site at or by looking up values and checking out homes for sale at or The Waterfront Lifestyle Web site was selected as an SNN "Website of the Week" and awarded the title of "Pure Gold Site" by The Real Estate Library.

The Longboat Key Challenge

Gary Roberts of Bamboo Building and Development says that for high-end real estate building and sales, the focus is naturally on large waterfront homes. Roberts has a "challenging" project underway in Country Club Shores on Longboat Key. Because of Longboat Key's setback requirements, only 30 percent of the lot can be covered by the home and only 50 percent of the entire lot can be covered by other structures such as the pool deck and A/C pads. "And then there's the daylight angle," he says. Nobody wants a big mega-house blocking their light and sun, so there are rules addressing that as well.

Roberts says in order to avoid building something that resembles a wedding cake (with each "layer" slightly smaller than the one beneath it), he's doing a layout with offset towers on each end, "sort of a Mizner Mediterranean." The house, which is going on property where an older home had to be torn down, will be about 5,500 square feet under air and a total of about 7,000 square feet, including lanai and porch areas. Roberts says that while Longboat Key's building restrictions make for "almost overwhelming" design talents, "it challenges you to be more creative."

West-of-Trail Sticker Shock

Marianne LeBar, P.A., of Laughlin's Luxury Lifestyles says that these are the days of bigger houses, yet smaller families. "New construction homes are fast becoming the West-of-Trail future as a variety of speculative homebuilders are wisely jumping in," explains LeBar. "Kent Builders recently sold an elegant 3,000-square-foot Mediterranean home on Datura Street for $210 per square foot. This is an example of last year's prices, as a second, larger home is under construction with a pre-construction asking price of $227 per square foot."

LeBar says that buyers prefer what new construction homes have to offer, including flexible floor plans, master suites on either the first or second floor, home offices with CAD5 wiring for high-speed Internet access and security systems with cameras-all of which are highly attractive to the traveling executive and the multiple home owner. "Granite countertops and Viking appliances for the gourmet entertainer are also popular features," adds LeBar, "not to mention the simplest of pleasures for all buyers-huge walk-in closets and storage areas."

Look at "the math behind the pricing," advises LeBar. "Uneducated buyers may be shocked by the entry-level pricing of $750,000 to own one of these in-town luxury homes." An obsolete, tear-down home, on average, will cost a minimum of $250,000 to $500,000 for treed lots. Demolition, financing costs and construction costs start at $100 per square foot and can go to $300 per square foot. "Multiply this by the amount of square footage buyers want today, and $750,000 becomes the new construction bargain," she says.

Club News

Jane Seuffert, general manager of Misty Creek Country Club, says the member-owned private club is approaching "full membership" in spite of the downturn in the economy. Seuffert credits the popularity of the club to "its challenging golf and wonderful natural wildlife preserve. They combine to provide the relaxed recreation sought by the charter members of Misty Creek." Seuffert adds that the "excellent cuisine and full calendar of social events for members also make it a very attractive, yet affordable, club to join." Misty Creek Country Club (on Bee Ridge Road east of I-75) opened in November 1985.

The World of Maintenance-Free

Nina Edmonson, sales director for Gibraltar Homes at the Vineyards of Silver Oak on Palmer Ranch, says that the traditional profile of a homebuyer in the luxury, maintenance-free market in Sarasota has changed dramatically over the past year and a half. "We're seeing younger buyers, including married and single professionals as well as pre-retirees who are anxious to escape the burdens of exterior home and community maintenance responsibilities." The Vineyards' original market niche was empty-nester retirees downsizing from larger homes and "seasoned" homebuyers desirous of very detailed, customized two-bedroom-and-den floorplans. There are some differences between the older and younger buyers. The younger buyer is selecting upgrades in cabinetry, tile, fixtures, carpeting and pool packages, while the retiree buyer has historically made more structural changes in their home designs, she says. Both, however, want the luxury of a community clubhouse, pool and fitness center.

Denny King, sales director at Gibraltar Homes' recently opened maintenance-free community Vilamoura in the Country Club at Lakewood Ranch, says the buyers of the company's 27 custom homes on the new Country Club Golf Course are particular. They are spending extended time with Gibraltar's in-house architect to further personalize their 2,900-square-foot homes, says King. "They expect the level of architectural detail normally associated with the significantly larger million-dollar-size estate homes nearby."

Still Strong

The shaky stock market is boosting the local real estate market, according to Erick Shumway of Shumway Realty Group. "The real estate environment has had a significant boost from record low interest rates and a great influx of investors who are disappointed in the up-and-down stock market. Those investors are now looking for investments in real estate." Sarasota real estate, whether a home, condo, commercial building, apartment or warehouse, is increasing in value, he says.

Hello Black, Goodbye Chipped Paint

Bonnie Lancaster, ASID, of Lancaster-Humma-White Studio says, "The tides of fashion ebb and flow with comforting regularity, and what affects the fashion industry usually translates into the home furnishing industry as well." Here's Lancaster's rundown of trends.

"1. Returning from a hiatus, black furniture. Universally regarded as chic, black has often been relegated to ultra-modern environments, but the tide is shifting. Black helps 'ground' a room and will be turning up in genres from country to kitsch. And, contrary to popular belief, black does not need chrome to set it off. 2. Departing: 'distressing.' While distressing was interesting for a long while, the look is losing its appeal. Chipped paint, beaten and wormy wood and dirt deliberately ground into crevices is over. Opt for clean, crisp, dark bronzes and pewters instead of tired, rusted and verdigris finishes. 3. The colors made famous by Lily Pulitzer and her Palm Beach devotees are the stuff of preppy dreams. Not neon and not the least pastel, the colors are saturated and bright. The proliferation of pink, green, yellow, turquoise and orange can only be described as the perfect colors for a room full of tan people. Even though Lily's heyday was 50 years ago, the palette feels youthful and clean. Consider using it as a great antidote or accent to the all-white scheme so commonly seen in Florida homes."

Beth Boyce, Allied ASID, owner of Beth Boyce Design, has some spring-into-summer design tips to share: "If you have seasonal slipcovers, you already know the drill," says Boyce. However, there are other, more subtle changes that can also herald seasonal changes in your home: Lighten your accent pillows a tone or two. Just as easily done, use spring/summer-motif fingertip/hand towels and dish towels available in traditional to contemporary patterns. And don't forget the guest soaps! Boyce says the same principles of using lighter colors and patterns apply in your paper or cloth napkins and placemats as well. "And don't forget the lighter touches for your exterior," reminds Boyce. "Replace heavy winter-type doormats with lighter spring and summer designs, and for an easy fix that packs punch, use tulips. Stick with one color for the most impact."

Lighten Up

Connie McCormick, vice president of Lighting Galleries of Sarasota, has this tip to offer to those "summer-izing" their homes: "Many times, when beautifying our homes we forget that the exterior is just as important as the interior." To visualize what your exterior lighting will look like day or night, check out Lighting Galleries' 10,000-square-foot showroom and "backyard" that address outdoor lighting. You'll find a walled "nightwalk" tucked inside the center of the showroom, complete with lighted deckway; planted areas and "exterior" walls adorned with climbing ivy at the back of the showroom; and large expanses of glass that frame an exterior tropical gardenscape, complete with gazebo. Lighting Galleries offers more than lighting: check out their ceiling fans, mirrors, floral arrangements, fine furniture and decorative home accessories.

Glass is Back

Ron Cook, ASID-IP (Industry Partner) of Cook's Custom Cabinetry, says the old classic '50s and '60s kitchens with split cabinetry colors (white cabinets with pastel colors and wood tops for the center island) are coming back. "This time around they're keeping it very simple, not crowding the countertops with the cookie jars and canisters that were a mainstay way back when. The big word in kitchen design now is glass," says Cook. "Plain glass for the '50s and '60s look, other styles for the art deco revival we'll see, especially strong in the South Florida/Miami area. Watch for the return of art deco accents and colors (teal blues and light pastels) to pop up in kitchens alongside today's countertops of granite and the stainless steel countertops and appliances we all love. Glass will be popular in high-ceilinged kitchens, especially where double-deck cabinets are utilized." One change in the use of glass in kitchen cupboards, says Cook, is that people have become a lot savvier about not revealing all. "Look for cupboards fronted with bubble glass, Austral glass (translucent but not transparent) and other 'obscuring' glass like the old- fashioned seeded glass (that looks like it has air bubbles in it)."

Also big this year, says Cook, is the divided bathroom, usually slightly enlarged via a little-utilized closet. "It's almost like the old darkroom theory with the wet and dry areas," he says. "The wife can take a bath while, in the dressing area, the husband gets ready for work; or the wife can put on her makeup in the non-steamy section while hubby showers." A space-saving pocket door often divides separate areas of these slightly enlarged baths.

Mother's Day Treasures

In addition to antiques for the home, The Yellow Bird is now carrying one-of-a-kind custom jewelry pieces from New York/Beverly Hills designer YBOB. So if you're focusing on fashion this Mother's Day, owner Joann Carmel has a couple of suggestions that will knock the socks off Mom-or any woman, for that matter. First up, a five-strand necklace of oval-shaped, fresh-water pearls, each about 8mm, with "fantastic luster." The necklace also includes an 18k gold clasp embellished with rubies. Or, for something really different, an amethyst collar from Cape May with an unusual feature: "Most people think of amethyst in shades of lavender only, and while this has that coloring, it also reveals a beautiful peach glow from within when the light hits it. There's almost an Egyptian aura about this piece," says Carmel. (P.S.: Joann has worn it herself a couple of times only to discover that "it stops traffic wherever it's worn.")

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