CANE IS COOL
There's good reason for the liberal use of caning and woven panels in British Plantation-style furniture: Colonials in the heat and humidity of the tropics realized cane-back and cane-seat chairs are comfortable and cool.
Southwest Floridians can appreciate cool comfort, too, and nowadays cane furniture comes in forms as pleasing as their function. "The graceful lines of a traditional teak plantation lounger are as comfortable as ever and suit the Florida lifestyle perfectly," says Jane Sullivan of East Indies Trading Company. Plus, the advantages of this style extend to Florida-friendly storage: Teak armoires were first outfitted with woven door panels to keep stored linens fresh and dry. The same idea works just as well for today's media systems, where air circulation benefits heat-prone electronics.
I'LL HANDLE THAT
A lot of high-end homeowners are hiring household managers, says Susan Robinson of Key Concierge, a company that does everything from accept deliveries to document post-hurricane conditions for absent homeowners. "People rely on me to be their eyes and ears while they're gone," she says. Already a common service in places like Aspen and Miami, household management "is working its way into Sarasota as we get more higher-income folks buying second or third homes."
Key Concierge can direct household staff, pay bills and oversee decorators in the owners' absence, "and often even when they get back," Robinson adds. Even if they're in town, homeowners may not want to deal with the mess of a renovation; household managers can keep projects on time and on budget. And when a home changes hands, the household manager "knows how everything works, where everything is, what resources to use," ensuring a smooth transition, Robinson says.
SEA AND BE SEEN
Among a flood of interesting finishes currently gaining popularity, stingray shagreen brings new life to surfaces. The material, which is made from the skin of stingrays or other marine creatures like dogfish, is similar to leather but has a gem-like appearance. According to interior designer Sally Trout, stingray shagreen was popular in the late '50s and is resurfacing today.
Shagreen can be applied to tables or accessories like boxes, says Trout, who is currently using the textured material in lighter palettes (which are also coming back in, she says). If the sea-creature product makes you a little squeamish, faux shagreen is also available in a variety of appealing tints.
The bubble hasn't burst, but real estate investors shouldn't expect an immediate return when putting their new properties up for rent. According to owner/realtor Dave Minton of Bosshardt Realty Services, eastern Sarasota and Manatee counties are already saturated with residences for lease. "There are more rentals available in east county than resales," he says. "In a normal market, 8 percent is resales. Right now, it's only 1 percent."
Rather than buying, turning around and selling for a quick profit, real estate prospectors are focused on acquiring-and keeping-new property. As a result, the supply of rentals has surpassed demand. "Things aren't staying on the market as long," says Minton. "People are buying properties and thinking they'll get a renter. Then they're reluctant to flip them because the properties are appreciating so quickly."
Having just opened its doors in May, Abode Furniture is already expanding into a neighboring space, which adds 1,500 square feet to the store, says owner Steve Thompson. The store's roaring success proves, "There's a great need for contemporary furniture in this area," he says. Among Abode's biggest sellers: a big, square, mahogany dining table that has been much more popular than the rounder options on the sales floor.
SEAL ALL SIX SIDES
Did you know that all standard door manufacturers' warranties state that doors need to be sealed on all six sides (including top and bottom) in order for the warranty to be valid? Sarasota's Forest Products Supply advises homeowners to make certain that painters are sealing the tops and bottoms of doors during the painting process-not just to preserve the warranty, but because those areas are especially susceptible to the elements.
Humidity can seriously hinder proper door function. If moisture is absorbed through a narrow strip of unprotected material, the door expands and can no longer open or close properly. Even before the damage is done, many customers are unaware that their warranties have been negated by improper finishing procedures.
Whether for storing, cooling or cleaning, "Everybody's using drawers," says Kitchens Direct designer Darlene Abney, Allied ASID. Compartmentalization is key, and cabinets, refrigerators and even dishwashers are being made to tuck into drawers for added convenience and eco-friendliness in today's kitchens and beyond.
Small families and empty nesters especially can take advantage of Fisher-Paykel's DishDrawer, which washes its full load (six place settings) using less water and energy than a full-size dishwasher. Also, instead of pulling open the big fridge door for a cup of yogurt, Abney's clients are storing small, frequently used foods in Sub-Zero's 700BC refrigerator/freezer. The pull-out model's outside blends in with kitchen cabinetry, as well as entertainment centers, boardroom furniture and bars.
COUPLES WHO FILET TOGETHER.
Another kitchen trend noted by Tracy Eisnaugle, manager of the Wetherington Design Center, a division of Lee Wetherington Companies: togetherness. "We've noticed that husbands and wives now cook together," she says. "Whether they're dual-income families or retirees, it's not just the wife cooking anymore."
To accommodate this simmering trend, Lee Wetherington creates multiple workspaces in the kitchens of its newest homes, using double islands or very large single islands. "We design the space to support more than one cook in the kitchen," Eisnaugle says, adding that modern-day chefs prefer clean design lines that focus on function, not frills.
BRIGHT FUTURES FOR EXISTING HOMES
Light Up Your Life offers lighting control systems that can be retrofitted in existing homes with no need for rewiring. The systems allow control of house lighting from the car or bedside, as well as integrated security systems and even programmed lighting scenes that can incorporate the home's lamps. The packages start at $1,800 and can be installed and programmed by Light Up Your Life staff.
After seven years, the store is expanding its showroom from 2,000 to 6,000 square feet. Owners Susan and Moritz Inderbinen say the state-of-the-art lighting store will be "the only one of its kind on the west coast of Florida."
THEY'RE THE TOP
Sarasota's Prudential Palms Realty this year ranked in the top 50 of more than 600 Prudential Real Estate companies, based on total company gross commission income, and earned an invitation to the exclusive Gibraltar Circle Conference in South Carolina last summer.
"This high-powered conference provides a forum where some of the top real estate companies in the industry can exchange ideas," says Prudential Palms' broker/owner Scott Sosso. "It is key for us to network with our peers from around North America."
Founded just three years ago, Prudential Palms Realty is the youngest company among the top 50. The locally owned firm has seven offices and more than 160 sales professionals serving Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.