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For peace, look east Anyone who’s ever visited a Japanese garden can attest to the beauty and elegance of Japanese art. Stopping by Elysian Fields might provide inspiration to replicate some of those images in your home. Lea Semple of Elysian Fields says that a variety of unique Japanese teapots, sake sets, tableware, vases and […]


For peace, look east

Anyone who’s ever visited a Japanese garden can attest to the beauty and elegance of Japanese art. Stopping by Elysian Fields might provide inspiration to replicate some of those images in your home. Lea Semple of Elysian Fields says that a variety of unique Japanese teapots, sake sets, tableware, vases and paper lamps continue to attract attention.

"The simplicity and handcrafted beauty of their design makes them earthy, yet elegant and sophisticated in any setting," Semple says. "With so many people wanting their homes and offices to reflect a feeling of peace and sanctuary, a touch of Japan can accomplish this with style."

* Building for the 21st Century

Today’s upscale building market not only demands beauty, convenience and luxury, but also a consciousness of future technology and energy trends pertinent to Southwest Florida. Vision Homes of Southwest Florida partners Chip Nemec and Michael Padgett work to meet those demands and provide exceptional value in every home they build.

"We offer customers standard features, including wood cabinets, granite counter tops and multiple architectural details throughout each custom home," Nemec says. "We couple these luxury features with exceptional property locations throughout Sarasota and Manatee."

Says Padgett: "There are advanced features in each home we build: a 12-SEER air-conditioning unit, which saves 20 percent on energy bills; structured wiring with a central command panel for Internet and Intranet hookup; and a Lennox Pureaire filtration system that makes it virtually impossible for mold, mildew and allergens to take hold in the home." Vision Homes warranty program also gives complete coverage for two years and an additional 10-year structural warranty.

Vision Homes has properties in Three Oaks, Park Trace, Laurel Meadows, Country Creek and Eagle Trace. Rye Wilderness, which is off S.R. 64 in Manatee, offers half-acre home sites, most on a lake or nature preserve. Eagle Trace, off Palmer Boulevard adjacent to Laurel Oak, offers 12 exclusive one-acre home sites in this small, gated community.

Frames that fit

Beth Segreti of Santa Fe Trails Gallery has a couple of tips for when you’re dressing up your walls. A well-framed piece, says Segreti, will display beautifully in any décor or setting.

"You are framing the artwork, not the room," Segreti says. "This means your framing should complement the artwork, bring out the importance of the piece and in no way detract from the beauty it presents. Selecting a framing material that would match a piece of furniture or carpet does not meet that simple criterion."

High Fidelity

Fidelity Homes reports brisk sales after being named one of two exclusive builders at Talon Bay, a new 101-acre community in North Port. The company will build 64 paired villas and 55 patio homes, ranging from the $160,000s to the $200,000s. Talon Bay will eventually consist of 225 single-family, estate, courtyard, patio and villa homes, many offering lake views, with a lifestyle center, recreation area with pool and tennis facilities, a park, canoe launch and walking trails.

Also, Fidelity Homes’ newest company, Fidelity Homes Realty Inc. (working as Venice Golf Realty), is operating out of the Welcome Center in The Venice Golf and Country Club, and will initially market and sell existing homes in that community. The Venice Golf and Country Club is a private, deed-restricted community of 587 single-family homes not far from I-75 and U.S. 41. It encompasses 460 acres of woodlands, waterways and fairways, a recently renovated clubhouse and a health and fitness center.

Blinding Beauty

Torn between curtains, shades or blinds? Well, here’s a new option: Alouette Light Louvers.

"It’s what you want from shutters, ask for from blinds and expect from shades," says Patrick Leddy, owner of Accurate Blinds. He explains that the louvers look like slats suspended in the glass of the window. The strings that connect the slats are almost concealed, unlike in most blinds. And rather than the standard box-like headrail of most such apparatus, this one has a louver-type headrail also, Leddy says. The Alouette Light Louvers come in 50 fabric colors and three patterns.

Another new development at Accurate Blinds: Heritance wood shutters from Hunter Douglas. "It’s like furniture for windows," Leddy says. The high-end beautiful wooden shutters bring a lot of classic detailing into any room, Leddy says.

Friendly Neighborhood Builder

It’s going to be easy to make friends if you live in a Bruce Williams home; the builder just became one of the first multi-neighborhood home builders in Florida to appoint a community service director. Britt Williams, president of Bruce Williams Homes, says he created the position to help develop a closer sense of community in neighborhoods where the home builder is active.

"Neighborhoods are composed of several elements," Williams says. "One of the most important elements is neighborhood networks-clubs, hobby groups and organized activities that bring neighbors together with common interests and common causes. Our community coordinator will be responsible for helping to organize and facilitate neighborhood networks and activities."

Bright Shea, who has five years of experience in marketing and youth ministry, has been appointed to the post, and will be responsible for creating a sense of community in the Bruce Williams Homes neighborhoods.

Creative Financing

Those interest rates might be inching back up from the astounding low they were at a few months ago, but lenders and financiers say that business isn’t suffering.

"Although we’ve seen a slowdown in the refinancing business, clients are becoming more active in purchasing and taking advantage of new interest-only products that are available to borrowers today," says Budd Moore, branch manager and senior loan officer at CTX Mortgage. "These products are in-house, so they’re quick closing."

One example: the "no doc" loans (no job or verifiable assets) that are available for up to 95 percent loan value.

Warming up the Kitchen

Everyone knows that the most comforting place to hang out is in the kitchen, preferably with a wonderful aroma from something on the stove. That’s why kitchens are getting prettier, and why designers are working to create spaces that are aesthetically pleasing and functionally viable, says designer Lynne Ross of Siesta Interiors, Inc.

"People want their kitchens to be warm and friendly, and yet have that kind of understated elegance," says Ross.

That’s why many of her clients are updating their kitchens and baths with warmer woods and interesting hardware. One house she recently decorated in an Asian theme featured beautiful kitchen cabinets (by Cook’s Custom Cabinetry) that had black wrought-iron handles and knobs with handpainted Asian characters on them.

"The kitchens become an artwork in themselves," Ross says.

* Feeding frenzy

For a while now, WCI Communities, Inc. has been on the cutting edge of environmentally friendly building. And they’ve got 18,000 new recruits to help them fulfill their vision: thousands of Gambusia holbrooki, or mosquito fish, that were introduced into lakes at Venetian Golf & River Club this summer and are already hard at work eating mosquitoes and midge fly larvae. The type of mosquito that this fish enjoys can transmit several human and animal diseases, and the midge flies are a nuisance, getting into food and breathing passages.

WCI viewed the fish as an environmentally friendly way to approach the problem of the insects, says WCI Communities project manager Steve Walker. "We made allies of these little fish to help make life more comfortable for residents and golfers," says Walker. "Since the fish are original Florida natives, they become part of a natural food chain that supports larger fish and water birds. This approach won’t harm the environment or our residents in any way."

Lighten up your mirror

When using a mirror for cosmetic needs, it’s important to be aware of good lighting, says Susan Inderbinen, president of Light Up Your Life, Inc.

"The best light source on a mirror is side lighting, left and right, not over the mirror as often seen," says Inderbinen. "Lighting on the side enables an even spread of light reflection into the mirror, giving a clear, even spread of light."

It’s a good idea to buy mirror lighting from a knowledgeable business, Inderbinen says, because many fixtures are not suitable for mirror mounting. At Light Up Your Life, Inderbinen has lots of ideas for mirror-mounted fixtures, as well as mirrors with built-in lights and custom-lighted mirrors.

Beau Ciel well on the way

Downtown Sarasota can begin anticipating some of its newest arrivals very soon. Beau Ciel, luxury condominium residences on the bayfront, has received the building’s certificate of occupancy. Closings are under way, and as of September, only six units remained unsold.

The oval-shaped Beau Ciel, located on Boulevard of the Arts, is a 17-story building, featuring amenities such as a three-story cascading waterfall and a tropical lagoon pool it shares with the neighboring Hyatt Sarasota. Perhaps the best view in the whole building will be from the 8,000-square-foot penthouse that will overlook both the bay and yacht harbor, and the downtown skyline.

*Deck the Halls

It’s time to bring in the holly and dust off the Christmas trees, especially for those super-efficient types who begin as soon as a slight chill hits the air. This year, Pamela Kantor and Toulouse Deveny of Chasen Reed have noticed a trend to jazz up the holidays: silk flowers with a little glitz thrown in and a few ornaments for a festive, yet non-traditional look, like wreaths done with magnolia ivy rather than pine.

"Holiday centerpieces are elegant-meant to stay on the table throughout the holidays-and with a few additions or subtractions, a holiday arrangement can become an everyday addition to the home," say the duo.

Another plus: Chasen Reed never charges a design fee, whether it’s your vase or one you’ve bought from them. Now that’s in the holiday spirit!

Moving on Downtown

Downtown is hot, and realtor Joan Boltax is right in the thick of things, selling properties to people enthusiastic about moving into the heart of it all.

"There’s an abundance of new product coming on board downtown," says Boltax. "And we’re coming off the waterfront. Along with this, we’re going to see a lot more going on along Main Street. There’s going to be a little city feeling."

By the end of September, the Plaza at Five Points had already sold almost 80 percent of its product, says Boltax-and that’s before groundbreaking. Two of her clients loved the prospect of living at the Plaza so much that they have already sold their house and are looking for a rental to call home until the real thing is completed.

"People want to be closer to where it’s happening," says Boltax.

The Fancy Kitchen

If you’re still chopping and stirring on an ordinary counter top, you need to get with the times. Today’s counter tops use daring materials such as porcelain and limestone, as well as the popular and enduring granite, says George Kenney of Fantastic Kitchens by George. Even the humble vent hood has become a decorative focal point, says Kenney, often appearing in wood, tile and even stucco.

"Today, with the growing popularity of the food television shows, cooking as a hobby, and more attention to eating healthy, the kitchen is playing an even larger part in today’s homes," says Kenney. "Now more than ever, we are designing kitchens to not only be beautiful and functional, but to complement the unique lifestyles of our clients."

Kenney says that today’s kitchens have more appliance integration, under-counter refrigeration and more efficient use of space with built-in organizers, waste disposal and pullout shelves and drawers, and more attention to lighting.

Blurring the indoors and outdoors

Remember when eating outdoors meant tossing burgers on a small, charcoal-fired grill? When an outdoor pool was a plain, rectangular tub? All that is changing, according to Lee Wetherington, president of Lee Wetherington Companies.

"Think ‘elaborate,’" says Wetherington, noting that one of the hottest trends is demand for an outdoor living environment to match a home buyer’s elegant indoor lifestyle. "Outdoor features are becoming increasingly important to our buyers. They want kitchens and living rooms complete with grill, custom serving counter, wet bar, fireplace and even a television, all designed to surround the pools, spas and waterfalls that are unique to each individual home."

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