Homefront - May 2003

By staff May 1, 2003

Old World Art

There's something new and extraordinary on Palm Avenue: a shop full of beautiful, handmade frescoes imported from Italy.

Rainer Scheer and his wife, Asuncion de las Heras, have opened up Design O Fresco, a family-run enterprise, to market the old-world frescoes created in their studio in northern Italy. Scheer said his firm has been so successful in Europe since its inception in 1982 that he decided to bring his business here (the couple lived in Majorca before). Not only have American designers who scout Europe for ideas been enthusiastic about his product, Scheer says that the profusion of grand Mediterranean villas in Sarasota was also an enticement to move here.

The Design O Fresco showroom at 32 S. Palm Ave. glows with the subtle umbers, terracottas and golds of the frescoes, textured so they look as though they were lifted from some ancient Italian villa. Each is unique and hand made through a long and complex process involving wet plaster, but custom orders take only four weeks. In addition to the wall hangings (which sell framed and unframed), there are old-world style CD racks, coat racks and a variety of furniture and accessories.


You've moved to Florida and bought a home. The temptation, for many new Floridians, is to fill it up with florals and wicker for a tropical, Tommy Bahama ambience. Tread gently, says interior designer Micheline Laberge.

"Sometimes, trends can be overdone," Laberge says. "If you feel you've seen enough of a trend, but still like it, try toning the look by using a more contemporary approach."

Laberge suggests a clean-lined upholstery in neutral shades. The Florida aspect can be added with key accessories that display the Florida theme, such as a cocktail table or armoire in the Tommy Bahama style. Raffia or grass cloth will give the walls a wonderful texture, Laberge says, and tropical plants and an animal skin rug or throw will do the rest.

"But be sure to stop there and keep it simple," Laberge says.


Look up to see some of the latest trends in Sarasota interior design. Brian Phipps of A Phipps Design says ceilings are becoming more and more intricate and customized.

"From patterns to textures, a depiction of old-world craftsmanship is very evident," says Phipps. "The best designers are researching and developing trim and moldings from yesteryear and adding an updated twist to make it new."

Exterior details, says Phipps, who has worked on numerous such projects, reflect artisan craftsmanship with custom stone details such as planting urns, handcrafted casings and moldings and gargoyles.


John Cannon Homes continues to wow the public with an array of stunning models, many of which premiered at the 2003 Parade of Homes. The Allora VII in The Country Club at Lakewood Ranch boasted 3,983 square feet of living space, with four bedrooms, three full baths, two half baths, den, family room, bonus room and a pool with a spa.

This year, John Cannon entered six models in the Parade, the most it has ever done. The company's majestic Nariah model, says Jill Hochstetler of John Cannon, not only brought home awards, but has sold nine models that are currently under construction.


There are more ways to remember a fabulous vacation than by making a photo album. Paddy Dugan of Hand Painted Tiles says the trend to personalize living spaces has extended to clients asking for customized tile backsplashes that reflect a particularly enjoyable place or experience. Dugan has incorporated bottles of a wonderful wine a couple discovered during a Tuscany vacation into their kitchen décor, and painted a beach and village scene that went over the stove of a family that enjoyed a Costa Rica vacation.

Now, you can learn how to make tile memories yourself. Dugan has opened up a new studio in Towles Court where she will offer classes on how to hand paint tile, how to hand paint sinks, how to design custom tableware and how to create murals for your bathroom or kitchen.

"Any place you can put tile, you can put something whimsical," Dugan says.

To register for classes or get more information, check out Dugan's Web site at


North Port-based Fidelity Homes scooped up a 2002 Aurora Award for its Dartmouth V model home at Charleston Park, a new North Port community. Dartmouth won in the detached single-family homes under $200,000.

With more than 2,799 square feet, the three-bedroom house includes a den, gathering room, parlor, formal dining room and kitchen café.

Fidelity Homes also builds in the Golf Villa at Bobcat Trail, and offers luxury homes under its Renaissance Collection in the heart of Sarasota's redevelopment district.


Long gone are the days when outdoor cooking meant a grill and the mosquito coils. Today's houses boast stunning outdoor kitchens equipped with enough gadgets and hardware to put out a feast for dozens.

"These rooms are used more than any room in the house," says Jamie Friedli, proprietor of Outdoor Kitchens, Inc.

These kitchens usually contain stainless steel gas grills, side burners, refrigerator, icemaker, custom cabinetry and decorative tile, granite or marble countertops. And they're a hit across the board with retirees and young families, in new houses and old.

Friedli helps clients design their kitchens and pick out components. A hot trend at the moment, she says, is for clients to incorporate stucco to match their houses or designer tiles to match adjacent swimming pools. She's had clients who incorporate bars and pergolas into the architecture of the kitchen, and ask for specialized implements such as warming drawers, television cabinets, deep fryers and beer taps.


Judy Crowley, owner/broker at RE/MAX Properties, has been declared 2002 Realtor of the Year by the Sarasota Association of Realtors.

The award ceremony took place at the annual installation banquet for the association. Each year, the association recognizes one outstanding realtor for contributions to the association, to the real estate profession and to the community.

Crowley served as SAR president in 2001, has been on the board of directors for six years and chaired the professional standards committee. She's involved in several charitable organizations, including the American Heart Association and All Children's Hospital.


You can study books, television and magazines all you want for tips on decorating your home, 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, he says.

"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 adds. "We are able to use bright colors because the Florida sun dissipates them and gives them an aged, faded look."


There's a new jewel on Sarasota's bay: La Bellasara. The majestic Mediterranean building, developed by Gary Littlestar (who also developed Charlotte County's Rotunda), is home to 29 luxury residences on one of Sarasota's most enviable locations, Golden Gate Point. Water lovers can delight in 455 feet of direct waterfront, a dock with a boardwalk, and a bayfront heated pool and spa.

As well as a catering kitchen, lounge, board room, private dining room, billiard, card and gathering room, residents can make use of state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment, an extensively equipped fitness center and men's and women's spas with steam, sauna and massage therapy room.

Each residence has a private elevator lobby and large terraces with ceramic tile, state-of-the-art appliances and cabinetry. They range in size from 3,135 to 3,449 square feet, with penthouses from 5,469 to 5,786 square feet. Sales information is available at (941) 780-4242.


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.


This year's ASID Showhouse cabana room had little touches of old Sarasota all over its walls: Vintage postcard prints by were the art of choice for designers of Embellishments Design Group.

Cheri Patcher-Neary, a designer member of the co-op, says she chose that artwork partly because it fit perfectly with the central theme honoring the 100th year anniversary of Sarasota.

"Our whimsical and colorful room is named 'Wish you were here,' and we knew vintage postcard art would be very interesting to everyone," Patcher-Neary says. "We even found an image in the collection featuring bathing beauties in the 1900s, and the original postcard has 'Wish you were here' written on the back."

Embellishments selected historic Sarasota scenes, circa the 1900s through the 1940s, including a sepia-toned view of the Lido Casino, a 1920s view of lower Main Street and an aerial view of a forested Siesta Key in the 1930s.

Embellishments Design Group was recently established by four designers with more than 70 combined years of experience. The designers share resources and office space, but each operates their own design business independently, although they do collaborate on a number of projects, such as the ASID Designer Showhouse.

Husband-and-wife publishing team Phil Neigh and Liz Coursen own They currently offer more than 72,000 products online, including an extensive collection of vintage Sarasota views.


Local company The Maddox Group was recently featured in Builder/Architect magazine. The local firm was recognized for successfully integrating architecture, interiors, construction and development.

"The firm's unique, architect-led design/build approach provides their clients with a single-source contract and a committed effort-truly turnkey at its best," says Wendy Richmond, development coordinator for The Maddox Group.

Locally, the firm has been responsible for a number of commercial, religious, residential, educational and public buildings, including interior design and master planning for the Sarasota Baptist Church; remodeling and interior design of Munroe's restaurant; and interior design and architecture for the Department of Children and Family Services' new facility.


He's used to winning building awards, but now local builder Lee Wetherington has a new feather in his cap: for doing good works.

Wetherington has been named co-recipient of the largest philanthropic prize in the housing industry, the Fourth Annual Hearthstone Builder Lifetime Public Service Award. The $400,000 award is bestowed upon two honorees by Washington, D.C.-based Builder magazine and San Francisco-based Hearthstone, with the money to go entirely toward a charity of the recipient's choosing.

Wetherington chose to give his share, $150,000, to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and Manatee counties, organizations he's been actively involved with since 1992. He established and funded a Kids in College Scholarship program, served as president and board chair of the Sarasota club, and was named to the board of directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County in December 2002.

"It is certainly an honor to receive this award," Wetherington says. "Many builders, trade partners and developers already give a lot to their communities. Hopefully, recognitions such as the Hearthstone will inspire them to continue their efforts."

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