By Ilene Denton Photography by Matt McCourtney April 1, 2009

Knockout wraparound views of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico provide the inspiration for a playful, yet totally sophisticated apartment that was recently completed in the Ritz Beach Club Residences. How playful? How about a powder room that, upon entering, launches a display of illuminated, multicolored sea turtles and plays the reggae-toned tune “Under the Sea”?     

Lest you think the work is tacky, rest assured it is anything but. The apartment is the result of two years of collaboration between the owner, the retired CEO of a major international entertainment corporation, a top-notch Orlando residential designer, and the creative talents of some of Flo rida ’s finest craftsmen. In that powder room, the mirror frame is mother-of-pearl, the sink is hand-crafted art glass shaped like falling water, and the ceiling is a three-dimensional, sandblasted-glass illuminated tableau of sea turtles, sea grass and other aquatic life created by St. Petersburg-based artisan Steve Griffin, one of the top glass artists in America .


“It’s fanciful and uplifting, a complete delight and a surprise for anyone who walks in there,” says the designer, Catharine Healy, Allied ASID.

Healy had already worked with the owner and his wife on their main residence in Central Flo rida when they asked her to come onboard their vacation getaway project, which was in the early design stages. The husband had been collaborating on it with Orlando-area artisan Don Reynolds, who dreamed up and carved the dramatic, turbulent, wave-themed basswood arches that march down the entry foyer. (The coquina-stone columns upon which they rest have delicate blue-marble bands across the top and multicolored bands of marble and travertine at the base.)

Two years and nearly 40 trips to Sarasota later, Healy calls it the assignment of a lifetime. “He can be tough,” she says of her high-powered, high-profile client, “but he is very encouraging for the creative process. What was so wonderful is he knows it’s a process. He loves to see creative teams come together because he saw that in his work life. I found it very refreshing how he would foster and fan that flame with his excitement.

“Sometimes the client can be so controlling and fearful it puts you in a box creatively,” Healy continues. “But this is a client who is constantly encouraging you to get out of the box.”

Among the client’s caveats: no right angles. That’s why the living room ceiling is transformed by a dramatic, one-of-a-kind soffit in an organic, wavelike shape. Made of lightweight polystyrene, it’s outfitted with spotlights that illuminate the owner’s artwork. The handsome curved wall units, built by David Asher of Sarasota-based Eurotech Cabinetry, have nary a straight line.

The details are everything in this house, and they’re wonderful. The entry door handles—are they sea birds; are they manta rays?—were crafted by renowned metalsmith Alex Klahm. (Considered the No. 1 authority on metalwork for lighthouse restorations, Klahm also restored the magnificent, circa-1880s metal gargoyles at Flagler College and has created what he calls his “large-scale jewelry” for mansions as far-flung as Saudi Arabia ).

Klahm also created the Bacchus door handle and hinges for the wine cellar, which, with an accompanying wet bar, dominates the family room.

To capitalize on those stunning water views, Healy chose fabrics, drapes and wall coverings in primarily water colors, “a balance between blue and green,” she describes them. She furthered the sea motif with displays of coral, nautilus shells and glass fish and turtles that the owner and his wife have found on their travels.

Reynolds also created the kitchen ceiling, made of reclaimed quarter-sawn oak with an intricate overlay sunburst pattern, and the teak island top. The sunflower-patterned tile backsplash is made of Venetian glass produced in the same Italian workshop Michelangelo worked in, Healy says.

The home shows what can happen when craftsmen and designers at the top of their game are encouraged to create by a homeowner who shares their sensibilities.

 “Goodness me, you’re not going to see another place like this,” says Healy. “It’s quite unique.”




  • Residential designer: Catharine Healy Design, Allied Member ASID, 8815 Conroy-Windermere Road, Suite 217, Orlando, (407) 578-9909,;

  • General Contractor:  Martin Ruane Construction, 3412 Clark Road PMB 215, Sarasota , 941.923.8257

  • Hand-carved basswood arches, wine bar counter, elevator lobby mosaic, ceiling features, kitchen backsplash: Don Reynolds, Sanford (407) 323-7273

  • Custom art glass ceiling in powder room and powder room door: Steve Griffin,  Custom Glass Carvings, 400 70th Ave., St. Petersburg Beach (727) 367-2922. 
  • Custom metal work: Alex Klahm, 15 Eighth St. N., St. Petersburg (727) 898-9999
  • Faux finishing: Robert Casler, Interior Artworks, 107 Crystal View E., Sanford. (407) 328-1178.
  • Powder bath tile work: William LaGasse, Tile and Stone Collection, 3562 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota. (941) 951-6813. 
  • Custom built-ins: David Asher, Eurotech Cabinetry, Sarasota, (941) 351-6557.


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