Higher Math

By staff December 1, 2005

How can something so square be so hip? Easy, or at least easy-looking, when designer and client agree on modern geometry. In this case, the simple square and three easy colors-red, black and gray-chart the course for a stylish downtown loft at the brand-new Courthouse Centre.

Owner Mark Sarason saw designer Lance Licciardi's work in a Florida West Coast Symphony Designer Showcase house two years ago and knew he'd found his designer-if he ever found his loft. "Lance's chocolate-brown room was so contemporary and yet looked so comfortable that I knew he could bring focus to the hundreds of ideas I had swirling in my head about what my ideal loft should look like," says the bachelor, who's been in the casino business for three decades, mostly in New York.

"I had passed up loft deals over the years in Manhattan, so when I moved back to Sarasota, where I was born and raised, and saw the ad for Courthouse Centre, I put down the paper, went over there and bought my loft pre-construction," says Sarason. "I wasn't letting this opportunity slip away."

Sarason's choice was fortunate. His wall of windows at one end of the 1,800-square-foot space looks out onto the picturesque Sarasota County Courthouse tower. At night, when the Mediterranean tower is lit, it casts a gentle glow on the cityscape below.

The ceiling soars 21 feet in the public areas of the loft, but the floor space is not expansive. So it was important to ensure proper proportion by bringing the ceiling down to human scale.

"I decided the ceiling and exposed duct work needed to be painted flat black," says designer Licciardi. "It was a test of Mark's trust, because he wasn't sure about all that black overhead. But once it was done, Mark was satisfied, so he turned me loose on the project. I felt confident about how far he wanted me to go for a space that would be a little edgy and modern, but always comfortable and homey. We never went for a hard, industrial look. Mark was clear that he wanted a home, not an office."

The walls throughout, except for the guest bathrooms, are dove-gray. The floors downstairs are natural polished concrete, with construction scars and dings left in place. Upstairs, wide plank walnut runs through the office and master bedroom, while the master bath floors are a porcelain tile chosen to match the color of the downstairs concrete. The designer edged the bathroom floor with a double dark stripe, making the floor a piece of modern art kindred to a Mondrian painting.

Licciardi says once he selected the square as the loft theme, he built the living spaces from that simple shape. "I designed three custom area rugs that Norman Designs made, and these rugs, each in a different color and texture, define the living spaces."

Additionally, the designer selected a 60-inch-square dining table and placed it under an aluminum cable and halogen chandelier. The light fixture visually helps lower the ceiling. The mirror finish of the light fixture is repeated in the stair railings, the Marcel Breuer red leather Brno armchairs, the aluminum baseboards, the cabinet pulls in the kitchen and the bath fixtures. "It's a critical detail that ties all the spaces together and brings added lightness to the loft," says Licciardi.

The designer created a foyer with a custom two-panel wood and crushed safety-glass screen than has drawers at the bottom for storage. In this foyer is the homeowner's New York homage-a replica of a Manhattan sewer cap set into the concrete just inside the front door. The cracked safety glass is also used as panels in the staircase to the second floor. The railings are aluminum tubes.

A soft black Italian leather sofa from Madison Park anchors the living room, its spare, square modernity balanced by the rustic hand-carved cypress coffee table by David Leonard of Primitive Arts. The drapes (fabric by Robert Allen) pull together the color palette, and the red panels feature minute raised squares in the pattern. Square throw pillows on the furniture reinforce the geometric scheme. Taking the edge off the high-style formality of the room is Licciardi's clever use of Sears Craftsman tool cabinets on casters under the wall-mounted television.

"Everybody loves these cabinets," says the homeowner, "and they provide great storage, too. I'm so crazy about them, I've got them as night tables on either side of my platform bed, and Lance ordered me a bigger version to use as a dresser. They're quite a conversation piece, they're the right color combination, and they're practical. Plus they just look like they belong in a loft."


Lance Licciardi's design tips.

Keep it consistent In a loft, everything is seen at once. Aim for overall harmony.

Limit colors Pick a few colors and use rich textures and interesting surface finishes for a clean, smart look.

Choose industrial floors A concrete or other industrial kind of floor suits a loft. And it looks cool.

Humanize scale Tame ceiling heights with paint and light fixtures that descend to human levels. Hang some of the art at eye level.

Steal storage In a loft, hidden storage is a challenge. Use furniture with built-in storage.

Keep furniture flexible Mark's dining chairs are comfortable enough (and the right color) to double as living room chairs. Put some pieces on wheels or casters.

Express yourself Include a few quirky touches. You want your loft to be unique.

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