"The north end of Casey Key" has come to mean more than just a geographic location. It's shorthand for Sarasota's most exclusive if somewhat mysterious neighborhood. This is where the celebrities and the billionaires live—or rather, this is where they have second (or third) homes that can rival any real estate on earth. Privacy is a key issue here, and though these homes can be glimpsed tantalizingly from the beach or through the treetops, the world knows little about them—until one of them comes on the market.
Such is the case with 1160 N. Casey Key Road. The house here was built by an entrepreneur from the Northeast, and time and money were secondary to getting just what the owner wanted—an understated showplace, Gatsbyesque in scope and scale, yet a residence that manages to be both livable and opulent at the same time.
As a young boy, the owner visited The Breakers in Palm Beach, and the designs of the great Florida architects of the 1920s—Addison Mizner, Maurice Fatio—made a lasting impression. When it came time to build his own dream house, he and Sarasota architect George Merlin worked together to create a modern-day Mizner mansion, with all the master's signatures—high, beamed ceilings, arches and fireplaces, loggias overlooking gardens and water, and classical Spanish detailing.
It's a large home—more than 10,000 square feet—but it's the spaciousness of the rooms rather than their number that creates the feeling of luxury. The formal dining room seats 24, and the living room is 40 feet long, with a billiard room at one end to extend the space for entertaining. Still, most of the living centers around the main terrace, where a walk-in fireplace provides drama and an infinity pool overlooks the bay.
The home contains four levels, firmly set into the ground with 80 concrete pilings that go down 32 feet. The lowest level has air-conditioned parking for nine vehicles. The main level, entered via a dramatic double stairway with a fountain, contains the main living area. Upstairs are three guest suites with their own gathering area, and an elaborate master suite with his and her baths. The larger bath, for the lady of the house, naturally, is 20 by 28 feet, with a freestanding tub and a balcony that opens on to views of the bay. Practically all the rooms have views of the Gulf or the bay—or both.
The attention to detail in this house is extraordinary, and like Mizner's mansions of the past, craftsmen from all over the world contributed their skills. Iron workers from Colombia created the elaborate wrought-iron railing and balustrades. Other materials include cypress paneling, black walnut floors, Mexican limestone and a special exterior plaster used to restore historic buildings in Italy.
The estate contains unusual touches that only a home this size can pull off. There's a whole house generator, of course. But the building that houses it also contains a "wine grotto" complete with tasting area. A motorized lift/elevator on wheels can be moved from room to room, its sole purpose being to change light bulbs in the 14- foot-plus ceilings. (Yes, it comes with the property.)
The home is situated on two-and-a-half acres that stretch from an idyllic, virtually deserted beach on the Gulf to Blackburn Bay, where a yachting lagoon provides a protected deep-water dock large enough for a 50-foot boat. But for all its luxury, it's the natural beauty of the property that makes the biggest impression.
"We kept moving the house to fit the trees," the owner explains. The estate's extraordinary oak trees came first; everything was planned around retaining as many as possible, and it is the ancient trees that give the entire property a shimmering glow of light and shade, dappled here and there with sparks of sunlight glinting in the blue-green water.
Interested? 1160 N. Casey Key Road, Casey Key | $16.9 million. Contact Linda Dickinson, (941) 350-3304, or Kelly Quigley, (941) 356-9954, Michael Saunders and Co.
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This article appears in the March 2014 issue of Sarasota Magazine. Like what you read? Click here to subscribe. >>