Homefront - October 2002

By staff October 1, 2002

Soft Focus

Some like simple and contemporary, others like ornate and classical; but architect Wm. Thorning Little has expanded into the special form he-like much of Sarasota-has embraced: the charming Mediterranean style. While Little is still busy with his regular architectural business, he opened a separate operation this year: the Mediterranean Villa Design Center, which he will run with designer Yolande (she only goes by one name).

"We're trying to specialize in the design of custom detailing specific to Mediterranean villas," says Little.

Over the past 12 years, Little has accumulated a vast library of information on the subject and made trips to Europe to study the architecture of western Spain and central and northern Italy. He's studied the genre's relationship with the picturesque storybook architecture of 1920s America-the style the film industry made so popular in California and Florida.

"We want to build houses that look old already, and have a sense of scale and charm that is romantic, very comfortable and very warm, as opposed to stark, hard-line, modern cold," Little says. "It's a style that is evolving but hasn't come into focus yet."

Bath Indulgence

John Smithman of The Plumbing Place is now used to customers walking in, pointing to one of his bathroom vignettes, and saying: "I want that. I want everything in that suite."

That's because Smithman has (in his renovated, 7000-square-foot showroom) a collection of 10 brand-new bathroom vignettes created by Villeroy & Boch, the Europeans already famous among discerning Americans for their china and flatware. The vignettes, which Smithman brought back from a National Bath and Kitchen Show exhibit in Orlando, are complete with bathtubs, sinks, toilets, bidets and tiled floors and walls up to the ceiling. While they all have a distinctive European flair about them, Smithman says the looks range from very classical to more modern, spartan lines. The showroom is at 5678 Fruitville Road.

Surface Style

And here's something else that's new in the bath and kitchen field. DuPont Corian has come up with a new product line of kitchen and bath countertops: the Private Collection. Dave Abram of Parksite Surfaces says the new line includes two distinct series. The Palladia, which is inspired by both natural and man-made materials, has subtle, random veining; and the Artisan has bolder colors with random, feathery veining integrated with particles.

Designers Do Lunch

It's awards time: Oct. 3 marks the gathering of some of the best and brightest on the Sarasota designer scene. As well as bestowing awards on designers, a highlight of the Florida North Chapter Association IV luncheon is the announcement of the 2003 ASID Showhouse, which will be open to the public from Jan. 19 to Feb. 16. This year's beauty is a historic 1930s private bayfront residence on St. Armands Circle. Jeff Hart of Robb & Stucky and Gwendolyn Sears of The Palmer Collection are co-chairing the event; plan to browse through more than 20 rooms when the house opens.

Branching Out

After 14 years as co-owner of Floors by Design, Scott Pintchuck has decided to operate a separate corporation: the 6969 Design Guild, a full-service, cutting-edge design source slated to open this fall.

The showroom (which gets its name from its address: 6969 S. Tamiami Trail) will offer 6,000 square feet of upscale products and services for design professionals and retail clients. Expect full flooring selections and services, window and specialty wall coverings, accessories and fabrics. The showroom also will serve as the exclusive showroom for Pulau Living Furniture. Gabriella Coniglio will lead the interior and exterior design team.

DeSears unveils superstore

Another new place to shop: DeSears Appliance & Home Entertainment has unveiled its 45,000-square-foot facility specializing in appliances, electronics, home entertainment and upholstered furniture, decorative accessories and bedding.

You'll find complete custom kitchen vignettes with brands like Sub-Zero, Thermador and Dacor, and kitchen cabinetry by Italian Cabinetry Designs by LUB'E of Sarasota (DeSears will be the exclusive representative). Check out countertop treatments from T.H. Winston, flooring by Floors by Design and interior design solutions from JKL Design Group. The new showroom is at 4650 Tamiami Trail.

Upscale Options

WCI Communities Inc. developer of The Tower Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, is providing a unique service not available to most home buyers. WCI has opened an exclusive design studio equipped to handle even the most discriminating buyer's desires.

WCI has constructed vignettes of the deluxe kitchens, elegant wet bars and opulent baths currently being built at The Tower Residences. The vignettes are complete with state-of-the-art appliances and fittings down to the last detail. Here, future residents may select from samples of the finest granite, marble, polished brass, stainless steel and other superior quality materials as well as elegant cabinets and fixtures.

The Tower Residences will represent a level of luxury living reserved for the most discriminating of tastes. The 80 Tower Residence units are scheduled for completion in Spring 2003. The Tower Residences are located adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and residents will enjoy the legendary Ritz-Carlton concierge service. Owners will also have the exclusive use of a luxurious pool and spa along with fitness, social and recreation rooms as part of the Tower Residences' distinctive amenities.


If you're wondering how construction is coming along at another luxury high-rise, Beau Ciel, have a look for yourself. The building's developers have installed a new Web cam on the roof of the Hyatt, which will allow future owners (75 percent of the 17-story tower's 44 units are sold) to log on and see their new home take shape.

The camera is accessible through, where floor plans and building details are also available. Currently, builders are pouring the third floor of the tower, which will house the residents' Plaza Club pool and spa deck.

Brisk Sales

If your tastes run more toward luxury on the Intracoastal Waterway in charming downtown Venice, hurry. By July, 14 units of the first 32-unit building of The Waterfront on Venice Island, the newest development from Waterford Homes, had been snapped up already.

As well as enviable location, future Waterfront owners can look forward to amenities such as granite and Corian countertops, crown molding, custom showers and flooring, gated entry, covered parking or garages, cabana and heated pool, not to mention an on-site charter boat and concierge boat storage.

Lighting Up

Perla Lichi (prominent, award-winning Florida interior designer and newspaper advice columnist The Décor Diva) has noticed that most people are in the dark when it comes to buying chandeliers. Don't go for something too conservative when you could really be making a statement, Lichi urges.

Standard guidelines are to hang a dining room fixture so that the bottom is approximately 23" above the center of the table. It should be about half the size of the width of your table. Go for something a bit larger rather than smaller, match the style to your décor, and add a dimmer so you can alter the mood effect. Lichi also likes to add some accent lighting-either sconces on the walls or table lamps on the buffet for interest. Now go out and light up your life-or at least your dining room!

Paper Joys

And for those bits of blank wall that are so challenging to fill with something original, China Trade has an answer. Stop by the shop and check out their new paper sculptures. These striking three- dimensional pieces are of a wide variety of subjects: birds' nests, cranes, bamboo and architectural themes, and doorways you feel like you can walk through and explore.

Waterfront Holds Strong

"Water, water everywhere and so little room to build upon," laments realtor Richard Blumenthal of Laughlin's Luxury Lifestyles. The shaky economy may have affected many sectors, but waterfront property and waterview property values continue to grow, Blumenthal says. "Pricing is both a science and an art. If, all things being equal, a property languishes on the market, it is time to have a real hard look at the pricing."

Capital Gains Advice

Mike Falkenstein of ReMax Properties says people are still asking about capital gains on the sale of their primary residence.

"It's important to remember that married taxpayers are exempt up to $500,000 on the profit of the sale of their primary residence, providing they have lived in it for the last two years," Falkenstein says. That amount is $250,000 for single taxpayers.

It doesn't matter what the cost of your replacement home is or what the time frame is before you buy another house, he says. "Quite often we have this question asked with clients who are downsizing and are not aware of this exemption," he says. Consult your accountant or finance advisor for further information.

The Hamptons Connection

Our real estate market might soon get an influx of buyers from another lovely seaside location. Michael Saunders of Michael Saunders & Company recently followed potential luxury homebuyers to their summer beach resorts in The Hamptons and on Long Island to increase awareness of the luxurious resort lifestyle opportunities available in Sarasota and on the barrier islands.

She and Eileen Lyle, executive director of the New Homes Division, and Dwight Thomas and Don Gunn, top WCI executives, met with several Sotheby's affiliate brokers to promote the Gulf Coast and The Tower Residences at The Ritz-Carlton. The group made presentations to sales associates at several affiliate offices in East Hampton, South Hampton, Bridge Hampton and along the North Shore of Long Island. And they're planning many more trips. Says Saunders: "Networking among the Sotheby's affiliates is always a fabulous opportunity to promote our inventory in Sarasota, make valuable connections and gain insight into upcoming market trends."

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