Asian opulence and colorful island informality blend seamlessly in a new Bali-style residence on one of Sarasota’s barrier islands. A husband and wife decided to build the house after he retired from his painting contracting business in Boston. They had vacationed in the Indonesian islands, and they wanted to recreate the island lifestyle depicted in their souvenir photographs. Their dream retirement home took three years to complete; and sadly, soon after they moved in, the wife died. But the process of creating the home brought his wife great pleasure, says the husband. "We were really smitten with Bali, and when we put together our personal Bali place, we decided not to agonize about little things but to enjoy the process and to relax. Consequently, designing and building this house was a joy."
To recreate the feeling of Bail, they wanted a house where indoors and outdoors would merge and where water features, tropical foliage, bright colors and a wide welcoming verandah would be the key elements. They envisioned a stylized Balinese pod complex with separate but connected wings, a gracious solution for balancing privacy with communal fun.
They had specific ideas based on photos and had already collected Asian furniture and artifacts. But given the complexity of the pod design, they turned to Stephanie Gaines of Tampa’s Curts Gaines Hall, an architect recommended by their real estate agent, Cheryl Temmons and known locally for such luxury condominiums as Beau Ciel and Vizcaya.
Gaines realized she would have to modify some elements of the classic Indonesian pod home. "Those homes are sprawling, and we had a more compact site to work with," she explains. "And while Bali homes are open on nearly all sides, we needed enclosed spaces for air conditioning." Finally, there was the problem of connecting the pods, which in Bali are threaded together with open-air bridges. "We substituted interior hallways, but we couldn’t have a home full of hallways, so we used the bridge areas as actual living space," she says.
The 4,500-square-foot house is oriented toward the Intracoastal Waterway for panoramic views and privacy. Ceilings range from 14 to 28 feet, and there’s not a square room in the whole complex. The home is effectively set back and secluded from the street, but it’s fast becoming a landmark for boaters.
Contractor Michael Collingwood, landscape designer Theresa Artuso of Burner & Company and interior designer Bonnie Lancaster of Lancaster-Humma-White Studio were the other key members of the team that would end up collaborating for the next three years.
"Having that cohesive design team from the beginning made a huge difference," remembers Artuso, "because this was a challenging project and so many things needed to be carefully integrated. This way the engineering for the water features, outdoor lighting, and the floating steps was done when the house engineering was accomplished. Everything made sense and saved time right from the outset."
The house is elevated some 15 feet, and Artuso took advantage of the area under the home that the stilt construction provided. She connected the front of the residence to the back Intracoastal area with a koi pond that runs underneath the house from front to back, where it leads to a disappearing-edge swimming pool, more garden rooms, a stand of mangroves and the water. Also under the house are an orchid area (the husband cultivates them) and shade gardens of ferns and bromeliads. Hidden in the gardens are a sprinkling system and a lighting scheme to maximize the landscaping at night.
"Bali has a different climate and things that grow in that country will not thrive here," Artuso notes. "So we used plants with the general feeling of Bali-ginger, heliconia, elephant ears, creeping fig, peace lilies, white bird-of-paradise, ferns and, of course, palm trees. Whenever I could, I brought in native plants because they’re easier to care for. We aimed for variety of color and texture, and we used big plants and many of them to give the property a mature aspect."
Bonnie Lancaster met the homeowners in Boston at their brownstone when she flew up to talk with them before plotting the interior scheme for the Bali house. She also wanted to see what antiques and collectibles would be coming to Florida and to get an idea of her new clients’ tastes.
"The Florida home is actually six interconnected pods with a grand outdoor living room that’s the heart of the place," she says. "The challenge was to thematically tie everything together and give it a unified look." She did it with vivid color, which also distinguishes the couple’s art collection, and lavish luxury fabrics.
"Every room is a different tropical color, from the kitchen with its orange, eggplant, lime green and yellow cabinets and its Peter Alexander handmade armchairs with black leather seats," explains the designer. "The dining table, which came from the Boston house, is paired with chairs upholstered in purple taffeta; and in the same space is a Victorian roundabout covered in a lush cotton leopard fabric from Boussac-Fadini." In every space, clients and designer infused brilliant tones and rich fabrics to bring furniture, art and architecture into Asian island harmony.
In the elegant entrance hallway Lancaster positioned a six-foot-wide Indonesian restaurant wok and filled it with bromeliads to carry some of the outside into the interior. It took four men to lift the wok. Above it, a pair of golden Murano glass chandeliers bounce light over the lime-green walls. Also in the hall, Lancaster placed a carved and painted bench with stylized leopards climbing up the legs. A large Chinese painting and colorful Oriental rug complete the primary accessories. These few dramatic pieces immediately telegraph to visitors the essence of what’s to come.
The lime and melon polished master bedroom is dominated by a canopy bed and Oriental rugs from Boston. This room flows into a giant Japanese-influenced master bath with glass tiles and sunken tub. The tub surround and wall-mounted vanities are a rare pink-purple Italian marble. The toilet room is bright red lacquer. The wife’s sitting room is seriously orange, with a purple velvet fainting couch.
Down the hall, the powder room features hand-painted walls of toucans and parrots. The wall sconces are hand-carved elephants. The laundry room is orange with a multi-hued tile floor; and one of the guest bedrooms features turquoise glazed walls, a seagrass area rug and straw matting between the ceiling beams. The tall black headboards help frame the husband’s own travel photographs.
But the most important element, homeowners and design team agree, are the spectacular water views. "The house is view, view, view," says the decorator. The outdoor living room at the back of the home is an opulent and comfortable multi-use space that takes advantage of the natural view as well as the gorgeous garden and swimming pool. The Brown Jordan furniture appears to be woven rattan but is actually a synthetic treated to withstand rain and humidity. A long, comfortable banquette is piled high with custom pillows in the colors of island spices and tropical blossoms. The flooring of this deck room is unfinished and unsealed mahogany. The floors inside are Brazilian cherry wood.
"Except for the contractor, my painter Leonard Barber and me, this project was mostly the work of women," recalls the homeowner. "And it was a great experience."