On The Homefront

By Carol Tisch May 1, 2012

What we loved most at the Parade of Homes and designer showcases this spring.

On The Homefront - Water views from a dramatic infinity pool belie the location of this University Park showstopper at the Sarasota Orchestra Association’s annual showhouse for 2012.Are you a house voyeur? If you haven’t heard the term, you probably don’t swoon over HGTV makeovers and multimillion-dollar real estate listings in the Sunday newspaper. But if you count the days until the next Parade of Homes or designer charity showcase, and if you need a daily fix of design tips online, in print and on the flat-screen TV, then let’s dish about some of the “bests” from Sarasota’s open houses this season. 

The first of our “Best of” categories is Best Inland Water View. You probably haven’t seen an award with that title because we coined it after falling in love with the Bulaw home during the Sarasota Orchestra Association’s annual showhouse in February. Owners Mona and Jay Bulaw built the 7,759-square-foot custom home on a double lot in the Country Club section of University Park to create the incredible illusion of an infinity pool with endless water views. In reality, that’s a lake out back, with no extra beachfront hurricane insurance required. 

Water views from a dramatic infinity pool belie the location of this University Park showstopper at the Sarasota Orchestra Association’s annual showhouse for 2012.The couple, who designed the pool pavilion, gardens, summer kitchen and patio seating area with fireplace themselves, have listed the home at $3,699,000. More than 850 people signed up for the orchestra’s showhouse tour, and this one was brimming with inspiration for gracious outdoor living, including a private garden with outdoor shower. According to Mona, the Bulaws’ secret to achieving the look of a Gulf-front home is not having a pool cage. You’ll see this as a growing trend in new high-end homes, where ecologically safe mosquito misters are replacing screened cages. To request a viewing, call Mona Bulaw at (773) 426-8373.


Best European-Style City HomeBest European-Style City Home

This gem on Osprey Avenue and Datura Street just minutes from downtown Sarasota earned builder Todd Johnston the Best of Category award in the 2012 Parade of Homes. Listed at $1,250,000, the Datura model sold before the Parade ended, but will be open through June. 

Designed for family privacy, the house has an Old-World city courtyard layout. It also has a European-style wall with private access through a gate with a key pad. But the courtyard is actually a dramatic pool and patio setup that links the 2,877-square-foot two-story house and

a 322-square-foot guest cottage. “The Datura was designed to maximize that particular lot, which is on two streets

and therefore required two 20-foot setbacks,” says Johnston. “A typical layout

with patio in back of the house would have meant a relatively small north-facing pool and not enough sun.” 

Johnston created a home with expansive dining room, family room and kitchen that are almost one with the lanai and pool, separated only by a wide swath of glass sliders and electric roll-down screens. The resort-style back yard experience includes a chickee hut and fire pit on either side of the patio for entertaining, as well as a built-in summer kitchen.

The Datura has four bedrooms, 4 ½ baths and a bonus study, but it feels manageable—enough to make downtown condo dwellers yearn once more for single-family living. “The home is designed to be livable, not ostentatious—you can slip out the side gate and walk to Morton’s to shop for groceries,” Johnston says.

But this house has more than good looks: It’s brimming with eco-friendly, energy-saving features and has received LEED Platinum certification. Johnston says the house could be duplicated on other sites downtown and even in gated communities. “The design is especially good for privacy in homes that are too close to neighbors on either side,” he says.


Best Tropical Bedroom InteriorBest Tropical Bedroom Interior

Not to say we told you so, but the home we featured in this column in February was named Single Home Category 16 winner in the 2012 Parade of Homes. London Bay Homes’ Alezio model, offered fully furnished at $1.35 million, won the priciest category with additional medals for curb appeal, kitchen, master suite, floor plan and architectural detail. Located in the Matera, the maintenance-free village community in the Lake Club at Lakewood Ranch, the Alezio starts at the mid-$650,000s plus lot. The home’s unique layout includes 3,800 square feet of living space, complemented with an amazing central courtyard and pool accessed from several points throughout the home. We’ve already featured the exterior façade and courtyard photos on our pages, but never quite had a reason to show the room we love most, the master bedroom.

Although the Parade acknowledged the master suite with an award, we want to add a modifier. This is the Best Tropical Bedroom design this writer has seen—ever! It puts all the overwrought Tommy B wanna-bes to shame. I’ve never forgotten the advice of a top Chicago designer when she learned I was moving to Sarasota 10 years ago. “Don’t go Florida on me,” she said, referring to my quest for a palm tree fabric she had used on her dining room chairs. Romanza, the in-house interior design studio at London Bay, got the palm trees just right in this bedroom, along with the British Colonial four-poster, bamboo curtain rod and white plank cove ceiling. Just dreamy.



Another quick sale: After just 44 days on the market, a five-bedroom, five-bath home in Siesta Key’s exclusive Sandy Cove went under contract for $4.45 million, making it the highest-priced residential sale in Sarasota County in February. The nearly 12,000-square-foot home at 10 Sandy Hook Road, built in 1995, was marketed as having one of Sarasota’s grandest Gulf views. Previous sale: $2.15 million in 1997.

Linda Dickinson was the listing agent and Dee Dee Burke was the selling agent; both are with Michael Saunders & Company. Sales information provided by Kim Ogilvie of Michael Saunders & Company.


This two-bedroom elevated home at 119 Beach Ave. on Anna Maria is listed for $699,000 by John van Zandt of Island Real Estate.NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH

Life’s a beach on Anna Maria.





Number of City of Anna Maria properties



Number of sales from February 2011 through February 2012


$115,000 to $2.8 million

Range of sale prices


372 to 6,483

Range of square footage

Glowing national publicity and no restrictions on short-term rentals have turned old-timey Anna Maria from a sleepy residential city into a full-fledged vacation destination, says John van Zandt of Island Real Estate. Not everybody’s happy about the hubbub, but it’s done wonders for the real estate market.

“Anna Maria is one of the only places where landlords can have a positive bottom line,” says Van Zandt, who estimates 80 percent of his buyers are looking for a future retirement home with a currently profitable rental history.

Most transactions are cash, and buyers are coming from all over. “A historically strong contingent from Lakeland, Winter Haven, even Tampa, who love Anna Maria in the summer; as well as some internationals—Canada being the biggest source, then Germany, Buenos Aires, the Czech Republic, England,” Van Zandt says. “They’ll enjoy six weeks a year here and earn $65,000 gross on their rental.”

Savvy buyers look for beach proximity and a pool. “You wouldn’t think so, with the world’s biggest pool right there,” he says, “but for some reason it’s important on Anna Maria.”—Ilene Denton

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