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Housewares in bloom It’s all about trees this decorating season. "The palm tree continues to be an important influence for coastal living," says Gwen Bennett, vice president of advertising and eCommerce at Beall’s Department Stores, with designs interpreted on dinnerware, glassware and linens. "Mix and match for a truly unique table." Bamboo is also making […]


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Housewares in bloom

It’s all about trees this decorating season.

"The palm tree continues to be an important influence for coastal living," says Gwen Bennett, vice president of advertising and eCommerce at Beall’s Department Stores, with designs interpreted on dinnerware, glassware and linens. "Mix and match for a truly unique table."

Bamboo is also making a strong showing in the kitchen. Bennett says brightly colored kitchenware made of bamboo, such as pretty decorative bowls, is popular in housewares because of the wood’s durability. "Bamboo trees grow rapidly, so these products are great for the environmentally conscious," she says.

Another quick tip from Bennett: Besides plants and fauna-related objects, another way to add zing to patio and garden areas is with decorative oil lamps in copper and brushed stainless steel.

Luxury on Lemon Bay

Nestled in an unspoiled estuary with gorgeous views of Lemon Bay and the Amberjack Preserve, the Hammocks Cape Haze promises to be another desirable house-hunting destination. The gated 39-acre community of 190 villas and condominiums with Old Florida architecture is being developed by Spring Lake Development, a joint venture between the Boykin Barnett Companies and Saad Investment Group.

Resort amenities will include The Ibis Club, featuring a private dining area, bar and catering kitchen and adjacent social lounge, card and game room and a business/conference center. Residents also have access to a pool, spa and lanai with sun and shade cabanas as well as an outdoor gathering and grilling area. Walking trails and scenic overlooks will be scattered throughout the community. A 2,300-square-foot fitness and wellness center will include state-of-the-art equipment, an aerobics room, wellness treatment rooms, community tennis court and lighted tennis gazebo.

The Hammocks Cape Haze is located just north of tony Boca Grande. The developers are excited about access to facilities such as the nearby Cape Haze and Palm Island marinas, the Palm Island Transit ferry to Palm Island and Don Pedro Island.

Breaking Records at Whitehall

Plenty of reason to celebrate at Whitehall Quality Homes, which surpassed all company records by recording $105 million in sales for the last 12 months. Whitehall delivered $43 million for the same period in 2003-2004. The developer and builder of single-family homes, townhouses, carriage homes, villa condominiums and mid-rise condominiums plans new developments in Palm Coast and St. Augustine. Locally, the builder has homes in Heron Creek in North Port as well as Ancient Oaks in Parrish and two communities in Lakewood Ranch: The Moorings and Miramar in The Country Club.

A Tuscan appeal

Color and texture trends often change to reflect geographic or chronological architectural influences, much like clothing fashions will adjust in weights, fabric types, shapes and colors for seasons. Shelley Stafford-White and Michael J. Waldron of Decorator’s Alley, who worked on the IDS Designer Show House last summer, tell how to "do" the Tuscan look.

"The distinctive Tuscan villa architecture invited the use of detailed textured fabrics, wall treatments, silks, dark woods and

trims and intricate accessory appointments-creating design integrity from the dramatic exterior elevation to the interior ensemble of rooms," says Stafford-White.

In the show house’s primary guest bedroom, the duo introduced a variety of fabrics framed with intricate upholstered cornices, faux leather insert panels on the walls and imported Italian wood pieces. "We worked very hard to maintain harmony with all of the other architectural appointments of the new custom home," says Stafford-White.

Awards and accolades

The Longboat Key office of Prudential Palms Realty was ranked No. 2 for Prudential Real Estate Affiliate Inc.’s entire U. S. Southern region for the second time this year, for its outstanding production for the second quarter of 2004.

"Our fine homes specialists in the Longboat Key office are an elite group of sales professionals specifically trained to meet the most discerning tastes," says Helen Sosso, managing director for Prudential Palms Realty. Sosso attributes the success of her office to the combination of top local sales associates with the latest technology and powerful strategies for finding or selling homes. The brokerage services Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties with more than 150 sales professionals.

Holiday cheer

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about unique ways to express that holiday spirit. For inspiration from the pros, just check out Chasen Reed’s impressive offerings.

At The Oaks Country Club in Osprey, a 30-foot live tree will boast Chasen Reed’s signature silk florals and festive decorations. The golf pro shop’s tree will be decorated with whimsical golf ornaments such as Santa in his plaid pants with a two-iron in his hand, while the grill room will sport a Florida-style theme with handmade glass ornaments of beach attire and sunglasses and deck chairs. And for that quintessential Florida touch, the tables will feature sparkling golden pineapples. The Venice Golf and Country Club and the ReMax headquarters on Webber Street also will receive the Chasen Reed holiday touch.

Here’s another reason to stay home this Christmas: Chasen Reed’s game room collection, which includes a handmade Chippendale billiards table and smaller, hand-carved sets of backgammon, Texas Hold-Em, Chinese checkers, dominoes and chess.

Upgrading the manse

Instead of moving, those lucky enough to own homes in Sarasota are taking advantage of high property values and simply upgrading and then staying put.

"Property values are so strong that upgrading your property is one of the best investments you can make, and we work with our clients with that in mind," says Jonathan Pettus of Architectural Painting & Renovation.

He and his wife and partner, Alene Pettus, have created some of Sarasota’s most memorable ceilings, walls and interior architectural details. Recently, they completed a French ornamentation on Siesta Key, a high-tech modern marvel on Longboat Key and restorative plastering of the main galleries at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. "We think the upcoming season will be just as busy and exciting," says Pettus.

Bayou Beauty

Something new and exciting will soon be rising just north of downtown Sarasota along Whitaker Bayou. Bayou by the Bay boasts nine 4,400-square-foot townhouses with private elevators and four-car garages. Each three-bedroom, three-bath townhouse will have a media room and den, with a private dock that can accommodate a 40-foot boat. Prices start at $1.75 million.

If you love the neighborhood but want something a little larger, watch for three private luxury Mediterranean homes to be located on the south side of Whitaker Bayou, adjacent to Whitaker Landings. Each bay-view home will have its own deep-water dock to accommodate a 60-foot boat, and, with 5,100 square feet, will include private elevators, swimming pools, spas and four-car garages. Prices start at $2.7 million.

Italy in Sarasota

Burns Court Villas, under construction on lovely Palm Avenue, bills itself as "Italian Countryside in the City." Within walking distance of the heart of downtown, and with townhouse models named Firenze and Venezia, the new community lives up to the name perfectly. Half the property will consist of an expansive garden courtyard with sculptures, fountains, outdoor stone sculpture and pool and heated spa. The 23 two-and three-story residences will be in a gated enclave facing the courtyard and feature European hardware, stone and wood flooring, metal railings, and gas fireplaces. Three-story buildings will also have their own elevators.

The new development is within walking distance of historic Burns Court and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Sales are under way, and the final buildings should be up by the end of 2005. Pre-construction prices range from $781,000 to $927,000.

A Helping Hand

When the Gulf Coast reeled under the effects of multiple hurricanes this summer, local realtors stepped in to help. Casto Lifestyle Properties employees received a paid day each week to help in the relief effort, and at Prudential Palms Realty, sales associates held blood drives and donated up to $10,000 in cash. Some realtors opened their homes to people looking for a place to live, while others took in homeless pets under a "foster care" program.

A new look for Ethan Allen

Excellent news for home d├ęcor enthusiasts: Ethan Allen is set to open its new prototype Ethan Allen store, the sixth in the nation, in Sarasota.

With 18,479 square feet of showrooms, the new store will be almost twice as large of any Ethan Allen Sarasota has seen. It also will incorporate a more modern exterior and interior with numerous skylights. "This isn’t a face lift; it’s huge plastic surgery," jokes Scott Burgess, president of Ethan Allen. "It’s the next generation prototype building with the same quality of product we’ve always been known for."

Ethan Allen Interiors, Inc. has a network of more than 300 stores in the United States and abroad.

Local firm ranks fifth in bay area

Sarasota’s ADP Group is moving on to bigger and brighter horizons. Based on a survey by Tampa Bay Business Journal, the firm is the fifth-largest architectural firm in the Tampa Bay area, up from 23rd last year. Over the past year, the firm has added 30 new employees, 10 of them architects, and has received awards for civic beautification, historical preservation and excellence in planning. The firm is preparing to celebrate its 20th birthday.

The Importance of being fragrant

Many realtors may have had this unpleasant experience: showing up with a prospective client in a house that just doesn’t look-or smell-particularly appealing. Not Robin DiSabatino of Michael Saunders.

"I always preview homes that are on the market before showing my buyers," DiSabatino says. "Selling a home that is lived in is quite a different story from selling a model home, but there are a few tricks of the trade that every seller needs to know. Following these tips will truly make your home seem more attractive and more appealing to prospective buyers."

A major tip is to get rid of odors. "It’s easy to get used to your own cat’s box or the dog’s food, but prospective buyers will not be used to these odors and most will find them offensive, even if they have pets of their own," says DiSabatino. "Objectionable odors will turn buyers off nine times out of 10, and this is true before the buyers see the whole house. The human brain automatically connects a home with offensive odors with negative memories and feelings."

In addition to pets, cooking, smoking, mold and carpets and uncleaned drapes present prospective buyers with reasons not to buy your home, says DiSabatino. Do a thorough cleaning to dissipate stale odors or use an air filter, she says. Many real estate agents will sprinkle a few drops of vanilla on a baking sheet and turn the oven on low for a half-hour or so before showing a property or holding open house.