Step Inside a Creative, Family-Friendly Waterfront Home

The creative renovation of a waterfront home puts the teens on top.

By Ilene Denton September 30, 2015 Published in the October 2015 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Photography by Gene Pollux


The fourth time’s the charm for a busy, high-profile family of four who have worked with architect Cliff Scholz and interior designer Debbie Stevens multiple times over the past 15 years to expand and reconfigure their waterfront home as their needs—and their children—have changed and grown.


One credo has driven each of the four renovations, says the wife and mother. “We want it to be a home and not just a piece of real estate,” she says. “We want to feel wonderful, peaceful, loved and happy when we walk in the door. Everything in this house has meaning to us, and everything you walk by has a story to it.”


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The couple’s first pregnancy drove the original renovation—they added a bedroom a few years after they bought the multi-level contemporary residence in one of Sarasota’s most sought-after waterfront neighborhoods in 2000.


The second reno two years later—precipitated by their second pregnancy—was more substantial. “We added square footage, reorganized the interiors, added big dormers on the north end of the roof to grab more sunlight, changed the way the kitchen worked and added a new dining room,” says Scholz.


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The third project four years ago had a single focus; the pool area was too warm in the summer and too cool in the winter, so Scholz added a “sun terrace canopy”—sheer material mounted on metal frames that can be moved back and forth over the pool depending on the need for sun or shade. The couple had seen one in action while vacationing in Spain and sent him a photograph, and Scholz was the first in this area to utilize this particular product.


And the recent fourth renovation, besides the not very sexy relocation of HVAC systems away from the water side of the house, is a top-floor addition for the children.


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“They’re entering their teen years, and that little playroom where they played with Legos wasn’t going to cut it anymore,” says their mother. “We needed space for a ping-pong table, an air hockey table, a drum kit for my son, an arts and crafts area for my daughter so she could leave her mess out and it wouldn’t bother us. She’s a bass player so she has a place where she could practice bass and piano. These are all things they are into—and therefore that we’re all into.”


Because the daughter got the new waterside bedroom, Scholz added something special just above the son’s bedroom: an 18- by 15-foot crow’s nest, now the highest spot in the house, with “the best view in town, far-reaching from the bridge going over Longboat Key all the way to the Gulf of Mexico,” says the architect. “It’s quite a showpiece.” And wisely, since the crow’s nest is apart from the living space, that’s where the son’s drum kit has its home.


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The ceilings in both bedrooms were hand-painted by Sarasota artist Zebo Ludvicek—in the daughter’s room, fluffy clouds against a powder-blue sky; in the son’s room, a sweeping solar system; and in his crow’s nest, a da Vinci-esque map of the constellations inspired by the ceiling of New York’s Grand Central Station. “It’s not a literal translation, it’s more ‘let’s explore, let’s see what’s out there,” says the homeowner. “It felt adventuresome, and that’s very much what we do as a family.”


In the daughter’s bathroom, a digital photograph of an electric blue geode mounted on a polyurethane panel fills the shower wall, resembling a giant tumbling wave. “The house is at the mouth of a pass, and the water is really alive there—there is a lot of movement,” says Scholz. “The geode sums up the home’s entire energy.”


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Interior designer Debbie Stevens says working with the family through all of the home’s iterations has been a joy. “Both of them, but especially the mom, have a great eye for classic, and she’s [also] open to interesting and different things,” she says. The house is contemporary, but a lot of their furnishings are traditional antiques. Some, like a chair from Abraham Lincoln’s dining room that was in the White House and a British World War I campaign desk made for King George V, have historic significance. “We found a photograph of Lincoln standing behind the chair, framed it, and have hung it over the chair in the foyer,” says Stevens. Despite its provenance, the desk isn’t treated preciously. “I use it to sit down and write notes,” says the homeowner. “It has a wonderful energy around it.


After the kids’ wing got pulled together, she says, “We saw how fabulous it is, and we felt like the poor cousins down the hall.” So they gave their bedroom suite a facelift with a beautiful chandelier she’d found in Paris and mother-of-pearl wallpaper.


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Is a fifth reno around the corner? “You’re never done until the day you sell it, [but] there’s a point where you say it’s good enough,” she says. “And at this point, it’s better than good enough.” After all, “In the end it’s not about how a home looks, it’s about how it feels.”




Architect: Clifford M. Scholz


Contractor: MGB Homes, Steve Ellis


Interior Designer: Debbie Stevens, DMS Interiors


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