By staff January 1, 2007


So what’s the darling of the kitchen these days? According to CCS Cabinetry president Jim Butler, it’s the island: so versatile, stylish, and in case you haven’t noticed, functional.

When everyone pitches in to prepare a great family meal at the end of the day, the kitchen island is the perfect companion to culinary multitasking. While mother sautés and dad sets the table, siblings chop and julienne at the island—conveniently close, yet with plenty of elbow room. “In my home and in repeated requests from customers, the island is a must-have,” says Butler. “Everyone wants to be in the kitchen, so at CCS Cabinetry, we design islands in every imaginable configuration to meet the needs of our clients.”

Islands can feature a small auxiliary sink, snack bar or even a cooktop, and they can store just about everything within easy reach of the perimeter cabinets and appliances.

UPON THE RIVER Speaking of islands, Rive Isle, a unique waterfront community being developed by the Vernon Group, is attracting attention as a sought-after homebuying opportunity on the banks of a serene island on the Manatee River. Showcasing the newest designs both in waterfront development and home design, Rive Isle offers estate-size home sites that lead directly to the river and Gulf of Mexico and overlook a waterscape unlike anywhere else in Florida. Boaters have the benefit of direct water access—no lifts or locks—while residents will rest easy knowing their community sits safely above the flood zone and requires no flood insurance. Plus, an amenities package includes golf, tennis, fitness and country club living.

FRAME IT Do you have historical manuscripts, certificates earned or old magazine articles collecting dust in a drawer? It’s never too late to start protecting your precious documents with an archival framing treatment, says Julie London of Julie London Picture Framing. London has seen valued family photographs destroyed by the wrong framing process. “It’s a shame, really,” she says, “because many people think they have protected their valued treasures by putting them in a store-bought frame. Glass sweats, which can result in a photograph sticking to it. Many ready-made frames have cardboard backing, which is very acidic and can ruin whatever’s against it.”

London specializes in assistance for those who want their art or collectible items preserved. From conservation glass to museum mat board, the options come in many price ranges. “It may seem like an intimidating process, but it’s fun,” she says. “And the end result is the greatest reward.”

TREE HOUSES The Nov. 18 grand opening of the eagerly awaited Forest at Hi Hat Ranch featured three of the area’s top luxury homebuilders as they premiered model homes for the environmentally-conscious east Sarasota community. John Cannon Homes, Arthur Rutenberg Homes and Lee Wetherington Homes each revealed stunning country mansions exhibiting The Forest’s combined emphasis on luxury design and natural beauty.

Developer Tom Dabney has required that each home be a unique design, have a minimum of 4,000 square feet under air and at least a three-car garage. Other strict guidelines for low-impact construction have been implemented to protect the area’s natural beauty, which includes unspoiled wetlands and mature oak trees. Comprising 270 acres, The Forest at Hi Hat Ranch will contain only 54 three- to five-acre home sites ranging from $200,000 to $450,000, with homes starting at $1.1 million.

ENVIE ENVY Sarasotans understand the line between art and interior design is blurry at best. Envie, new to downtown’s First Street, introduces the exclusive Princess Pave Austrian cut crystal collection, featuring champagne and martini stemware, vases and bar utensils. Every piece is created by hand. Envie represents fine art, distinct gifts, furnishings, jewelry and even elegant dinnerware from some of the country’s finest art studios and furniture artists.

BUYERS BEGUILED Staging a home is even more important in today’s buyer’s market, says Marie Monsky of Re/Max Properties. “Price is the No. 1 consideration in listing a home, and then presentation of your product is the next most important consideration,” she says. “Homes with furnishings always sell faster than those that are vacant.” If the furniture has already been moved, Monsky advises sellers to consider investing in rented furniture, which will promote a better offer as the competition for a buyer’s attention continues to escalate.

“Little things such as towels and colorful bottles in a bathroom, fancy oils on the kitchen counters and flower arrangements in the entryway are just some of the touches that will make the residence feel cozy and welcoming,” says Monsky.

BUY NOW, SELL…SOMEDAY These days, the most common questions clients ask Penny Hill of Chase Mortgage are: “How has the 2006 real estate market stacked up against previous years?” and, “Is it a good time to buy property?” Many professionals (including Alan Greenspan) think we’re probably near the bottom of the real estate “correction.” Therefore, now is a good time to buy.

The past two years have been an anomaly, says Hill. The scenario was: Buy a new house, list the old house, sell the old house with enormous appreciation. It was so easy.

 In today’s market, selling a home takes longer. You may buy a house and carry your other home for a period before it sells. Historically, this is a more common scenario, Hill explains. It’s why lenders have bridge loans, home equity lines, low start-rate programs and option ARMs—all of which are designed to keep the payment low in the early years of a mortgage, thereby allowing time to sell the old home. These programs were designed to assist the buyer. “We’ll probably look back at this period and in hindsight say, ‘I wish I bought real estate in 2006 and 2007,’” says Hill.

GARAGE STORAGE Custom closet designs have been saving space and lowering blood pressure for 15 years. “Homeowners are now ready to tackle the one area they visit first thing in the morning and at the end of a hard day—the garage,” says Roger Courtois of Closets by Courtois. “A garage makeover can go from the floor to the ceiling. Snap-down, maintenance-free flooring, an adjustable slotwall hanging system and cabinets designed specifically for the garage can transform your garage into an oasis.”

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