By staff October 1, 2003

When graphic designer Andy Eggebrecht purchased his 1,700-square-foot Gulf Gate home, he says that he saw "genuine promise in an over-renovated 1967 Sarasota School of Architecture" house. He knew he'd probably spend another $100,000 refurbishing the place, but was amazed at how much work the project ultimately entailed.

After coping with collapsed plumbing, paneled walls and terrazzo tile that just wouldn't go away, he's become a veteran in the renovation and restoration wars. Since this type of house runs rampant in Sarasota, we asked for some of his best tips on how to turn around a typical Florida "fixer-upper."

"The first major step, especially if you're dealing with a home of historical significance, is to hire a good architect and good interior designer," says Eggebrecht. He says that if you're trying to renovate a simple ranch house, you can be more free with design plans, but with a "Sarasota School" home, head first to the local historical archive and preservation societies. They've got old blueprints on file of the original Sarasota School structures and can be a big help helping you stay true to your vision.

Other tips: "Definitely, multiple bids," Eggebrecht says. "You've got to trust the people doing the job." That means interviewing several candidates before you hire them. Eggebrecht chose his landscaper, for example, because he was particularly sensitive to how sunlight would spread across the home throughout the day. This made a difference not only in plants on the outside but on interior design as well.

Take care with materials so that they reflect as much as the original structure as possible, and make sure you keep a spare container of patience around, too. When aging plumbing had to be replaced in Eggebrecht's home, he says, "People busting up my terrazzo left a ditch three feet wide. There was dirt piled up in the bedroom almost to the ceiling." Not that he begrudges the process. "You can't rush these things. To do it right, you have to take your time."

And speaking of time, don't be shy about asking your vendors to stay on schedule. You don't want to rush them, but you also don't want to stare at six feet of dirt in the bedroom for two months, either.

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