Homefront - April 2003

By staff April 1, 2003

High Art

Residents of The Tower Residences at The Ritz-Carlton don't have to go far to see fine art, thanks to interior designer Pamela Hughes of Hughes Design Associates. After spending a year scouring art galleries in New York, Washington, San Francisco, Dallas and New Orleans, Hughes has put together more than 200 pieces of art which now hang in the common areas of the luxury tower condominium.

Pieces range from 16th-century German botanical prints and 17th-century architectural engravings to contemporary landscapes. Hughes says it was a challenge to select pieces that met the exacting requirements of WCI Communities, developer of The Tower Residences. WCI wanted art that conveyed a residential rather than institutional atmosphere, and contributed to The Towers' image of refined, relaxed and, at the same time, uplifting ambience. Each piece also had to be approved by the Ritz-Carlton management, as are all the furnishings of The Tower Residences lobby, clubrooms and other amenity areas.

Hughes heads Hughes Design Associates, an interior design firm with a permanent staff of 25 designers based in McLean, Va. She recently opened a Sarasota studio to serve a growing number of clients in the expanding Southwest Florida area of luxury home construction.

*Dream Kitchens

Planning to remodel your kitchen? Rather than browsing through aisles of products or flipping through the pages of a catalog, stop by the new Design Nation vignettes at DeSears Appliance Inc. for a fun and illuminating shopping experience.

Werner Venter, the CEO of Lube of Sarasota, explains that the vignettes were created by a team of six Sarasota businesses: The Plumbing Place, Floors by Design, DeSears, TH Winston, JKL Design Group and Lube of Sarasota. Each vignette shows buyers what their fully equipped and decorated kitchen could look like.

Lube of Sarasota sells fully imported Italian kitchen cabinetry made by the parent firm of the same name, the largest cabinetry company in Italy and the second largest in the world, Venter says. And Sarasota clients have responded enthusiastically to the products Venter has to offer.

"It's absolutely amazing," says Venter. "We are 50 percent over our target."

And although he offers a wide range of styles of cabinetry and expected Sarasotans to favor classic, conservative styles, Venter says the bulk of his sales have been in contemporary cabinetry.

*Luxury on Crescent Beach

Upscale beach living has a new address in Sarasota: Seagrove, a luxurious enclave on Siesta Key's Crescent Beach that broke ground in late January.

Developed by Bella Vista Group, Seagrove will consist of four houses and eight condominiums that blend architectural influences from Charleston, Savannah and the West Indies.

"Our vision for Seagrove is to combine the simplicity of traditional beach living with the sophistication of a luxurious home," says Jae Heinberg, president of Bella Vista Group.

The 3,070-square-foot condominiums will be housed in a four-story building featuring open designs, verandas and summer kitchens. Semi-private elevators will lead to two residences per floor, and the two penthouses feature rooftop gardens and great views. Second-floor condominiums also will have spiral staircases leading to the beach.

The no-maintenance, single-family homes in the Courtyard section boast high ceilings and tiled terraces, with the option of roof gardens, butterfly gardens or koi ponds. Residents also will have private teak cabanas by the pool.

Seagrove is expected to be complete by April 2004, and pre-construction prices now range from $1 million to more than $3 million.

Beginning to End

Everyone's got one: an old piece of furniture they are tired of, but can't bear to throw away because of some sort of emotional attachment. One new Sarasota design resource-Beginning to End-may know just how to help.

"With an array of paint finishes and faux techniques, your furniture can be transformed into a new and updated look," say owners Alan Gravley and Stan Writesel.

Gravely and Writesel also have ideas for old and damaged furniture. For example, an old screen door can be reincarnated as part of a cabinet for an authentic rustic look. The pair also customizes hand-poured votive candles with colors and scents to coordinate with clients' home décor.

Beginning to End offers a variety of drapery panels, artwork, pillows and decorative accessories, including custom silk and greenery arrangements. The store is located in the Bay Breeze Shopping Center at 1770 N. Tamiami Trail.

Lush Life

If you enjoy being surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers, but don't have the space (or requisite green thumb) for a garden, container gardening is the best way to go.

"One of the most exciting aspects of the trend is the endless variety of containers to choose from," says Diane Cannon of Wholesale Landscape Supply.

One popular container is a lightweight, durable polyurethane type of pottery that closely resembles Italian terracotta, Cannon says. And Talavera, hand-painted pottery from Mexico, offers many shapes in bright colors to brighten up patios and balconies.

"The most popular trend, elegant glazed pottery in beautiful blue and green ocean hues, is the perfect complement to any poolside or lanai," Cannon says.

Instant Facelift

If your kitchen or bath needs a facelift, Linda Griffin of Fanciful Furnishings suggests a simple method: changing the hardware.

Choose porpoises, bunnies, butterflies, mermaid, flamingo or even giraffe-themed decorative hardware for your redo. Griffin has got them in pewter, polished brass, brushed chrome, antique copper or even handpainted ceramic. For a comprehensive renovation without breaking the bank, Griffin suggests selecting a few high-end items to define the tone, and then finishing with more modestly priced pieces to complement your original choices.

Market Switch?

It's been a sellers' market for three years now, but Re/Max realtor Nick Herron says the tide could turn.

"With more and more high-end properties coming on the market, it will be interesting to see if there is a transition to a buyer's market," says Herron, who specializes in luxury waterfront property. "Hopefully we will continue in a sellers' market with a strong 2003 season."

Herron says high-end real estate has slowed in the past few months, due to a variety of reasons including threat of war, unemployment, the wild swings of the stock market and the general economic outlook.

*Made in America

Florida Builder Appliances has an exciting new-and homegrown-product to introduce: a stylish dishwasher from family-owned Dacor. The company promises an American product that will deliver many of the features European brands have boasted until now: in-line water heater, touch controls, self-diagnostics, a mechanical floor and more. At 30 inches, the dishwasher also has a 57-percent larger capacity than any other one on the market today.

A Home for the Seasons

Keep your home fresh and in tune with the changing seasons in a very simple way: by changing the "softgood" items, such as pillows, throws and quilts, suggests Scott Burgess of Ethan Allen.

"Colors like red, green and brown can really warm up a room," Burgess says. "By placing accent pillows in these colors-either solids or patterns-on your sofa and chairs, you'll heat up your home's style from fall through winter."

Suit up your bedroom for winter with a chenille throw or a duvet, and substitute these with light, bright floral coverlets for summers, Burgess says.

"By making simple changes such as these, you'll keep your rooms looking fresh and stylish year-round," Burgess says.

*Retirement Options

Retirees in South County recently had a sneak peek into one of the newest retirement properties in Venice: Aston Gardens at Pelican Point.

During the January party, guests enjoyed guided tours of The Club, which will anchor social life at Aston Gardens with facilities for dining and meeting. Other amenities include concierge service, a beauty shop, a business center, ballroom and game room.

Aston Gardens offers future residents options of several floor plans, villas and apartments. The apartments range from the 890-square-foot Westminster to the 2,175-square-foot Pemberton Deluxe. Residents can choose from the independent living option or the assisted living option.

Décor with Personality

If there's one thing interior designer Scott Howard of Scott Howard Interiors can't stand, it's a boring house with stock furniture and "matching" pictures.

"Why settle for taupe and beige when you can add some color in your life?" Howard asks.

A world traveler who has collected ideas and inspiration from his sojourns into other cultures, Howard has a few tips for the individualist in each of us. "A house is like a picture frame," Howard says; it should capture the essence of the people who live in it and showcase their personality, interests and travels.

For Sarasota residents who want their homes to reflect Florida, Howard has a few tips. Create a tropical ambience by bringing in the colors from the garden outside. While filling a house with plants is the best way for the house to "look like someone lives there and someone loves there," Howard suggests realistic silk plants for people who shut up their homes and travel often.

People who want more formal homes do not have to sacrifice color, Howard says. A living room filled with Louis XV furniture can still be brightened up with pictures, throw pillows, lamps and plants.

Simple Good Taste

You can look outwards all you want for tips on decorating your home: books, television and magazines, but the real key to a fabulous home lies inside you.

"There is nothing more enduring than classic good taste," says designer Robert Kevin Cassidy. "I like a home to look like fine things have been collected over the years and passed down."

Cassidy advises clients not to fall for trends and choose a particular color and style simply because it's "in."

And for those of us who are not neat freaks, that can work to an advantage.

"There is nothing that says 'home' more than seeing a child's drawing hanging, favorite magazines lying around or great grandma's vase on a table."

And don't be afraid of bright color, Cassidy says. "We are able to use bright colors because the Florida sun dissipates them and gives them an aged, faded look."

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