By Robert Plunket July 30, 2007

Playing my way through the crowds at the Founders Club.


Like most of us, I’ve been hearing so much about The Founders Club that when I saw they were having a mass open house Sunday (over 30 houses open), I had to go. So did a lot of people. The event was wildly popular and one thing was very clear: The marketing people are certainly hitting their target audience. It was a traffic jam of Lexuses at the entrance gate.

            The gimmick with the Founders Club is that it’s a grandiose Naples-style gated community with the emphasis on a spectacular course that will never get crowded. As far as the houses go, I was surprised that there wasn’t more variety. Though built by different builders, it’s the same house over and over again. Fortunately, it’s a very nice house: 10-foot ceilings throughout, a smallish living room, more like a hotel lobby, really, but a big family room and one of those master suites that those of us who don’t have one and probably never will just drool over. It takes up a whole wing and includes a dressing room, two walk-in closets, morning bar with fridge, sitting area (often a separate study), lavish bath with two little toilet rooms and an enormous walk-in shower, not to mention a tub that would be more at home in a production of Cleopatra.

            Spanish Med still rules here, though I sense a new style struggling to get out. It’s hard to describe but involves a lot of stone cladding. It’s a weird mix of Spanish, Country French and Craftsman. Prices go from around $1.4 million up to $2.5 million.

            The strange thing about The Founders Club is that the lots aren’t very big. This was much remarked on by the crowd. Needless to say, the builders had the perfect answer. The lots aren’t too small, they explained. No, they’re the perfect size for carefree Florida living.

            Two standouts. First, the John Cannon Elanora model, which, at $4,199,900, was the most expensive property open. I loved it. It was like a kid’s idea of a mansion, with its own movie theater and eight-sided billiard room. Plus, it had the premium view. You walk in and see a distant expanse of emerald green fairway, framed by palm trees. It was beautifully decorated in an exuberant over-the-top style by some company from Winter Park. (What, we don’t have decorators in Sarasota?) It was so visually stimulating that I’m afraid it pushed some of the toddlers over the edge and they began screaming and running around.


Magnolia Golf Cottage at the Founders Club.

            The other standout was the Golf Cottages, which have gotten so much publicity. They are 4,000-square-foot houses (priced in the mid two millions) on really small lots, right near the clubhouse. The theory is that if you really like golf, they’re incredibly convenient to just fly down for a weekend. Here the style is Low Country, which is shaping up as the latest thing. Compared to Spanish Med it’s like living in a nunnery—all simple angles, lots of beadboard, and colors that don’t venture much beyond black, white, gray and brown. Very nice, very sophisticated, but I’m already missing the rococo exuberance of the mini-Alhambras.

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