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THE OUTDOOR LIFE More and more design-savvy homeowners are realizing that outdoor rooms are the hottest decorating frontier, says Lauren Crist of Inside Eden. A thoughtfully put-together outdoor living space can readily accommodate everyday functions as beautifully as a comparable indoor room-or even better. Whether unwinding quietly after a long day, entertaining friends or hosting […]


THE OUTDOOR LIFE

More and more design-savvy homeowners are realizing that outdoor rooms are the hottest decorating frontier, says Lauren Crist of Inside Eden. A thoughtfully put-together outdoor living space can readily accommodate everyday functions as beautifully as a comparable indoor room-or even better. Whether unwinding quietly after a long day, entertaining friends or hosting a lavish party, taking the activities outdoors adds a level of relaxation.

Crist recommends that homeowners create an enticing outdoor room by adding weather-resistant upholstered pieces and soft throw pillows in bold colors and textures. Accessorize further with fun, quirky side tables, imaginative art and fountains, one of the best outdoor room accents, because they add the beauty and serenity of gently running water to the space. Fountains are now available in an array of materials, sizes and motifs to complement any décor, from Mediterranean to contemporary.

STRONG START The Lake Club, Lakewood Ranch‘s newest village, began its builders’ sales with a boom in September, making way for the community’s first models to open in late 2006. Land currently reserved for the project allows for approximately 768 single-family homes and 322 coach homes and condos, all of which will meet Florida Green Building Coalition’s Green Building standards. Ten builders–John Cannon Homes, Westwater Construction, London Bay Homes, Pruett Builders, Peregrine Homes, Todd Johnston Homes, Lee Wetherington Homes, Anchor Builders, Marc Rutenberg and Landmark Development Group–will incorporate architectural styles like Mediterranean, West Indies, French and Classical in the exclusive gated community. Social life will revolve around a Tuscan-style clubhouse.

TWO FOR THE SHOW Only two available homes remain in the exclusive 28-home community of Hawk Island, and both are listed through Laura Tracy of Weichert Realtors On the Circle. Priced at more than $3 million each, the brand-new, four-bedroom, five-bath homes are Arthur Rutenberg Homes’ Tuscany II models. Each has a private dock along the Manatee River with easy access to the Gulf. One home has been designer-decorated and furnished.

GOING FOR BROKER From her position as chairman of the board of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, Michael Saunders announces the launch of Luxury Portfolio, a comprehensive new luxury home marketing program. In addition to support, training and advertising services for LRE’s agents, the program is anchored by a Web site (www.LuxuryPortfolio.com), which features an interactive gallery of luxury homes, design trends and destination overviews benefiting affluent consumers.

Michael Saunders & Company is one of 650 members of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, a network of independent residential real estate firms in the U.S. and 24 other countries. Associates lead the nation in the sale of $1 million-plus homes.

HOME COOKING Just because people relocate to sunny Sarasota from Chicago or Minneapolis doesn’t mean they want to leave behind the appeal of traditional cabinetry, says Ron Cook, owner of Cook’s Custom Cabinetry. Cook eschews modern and European styles (more suitable, he says, for Florida’s other coast) to cater to clients who want the feel of Grandma’s kitchen in their new or remodeled Sarasota home.

Cook is confident that cherry-toned cabinets, simple Shaker doors and lots of molding will be popular in Southwest Florida for years to come. Classical reddish woods in two-tone kitchens help establish a stylishly eclectic home that "can bring young folks and older folks together," he says. "If you have a chair that came from Grandma, use it in your design. That brings the warmth of family."

CIRCLE GETS THE PAIR Michael Carol has opened its first Sarasota store on chic St. Armands Circle. Owners Michael and Carol McCann boast four Greenworks stores in Washington, D.C., where their designer floral arrangements deck the halls of The Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental hotels.

Michael Carol offers luxury furniture and home accents, cutting-edge jewelry and fashions, art, floral arrangements, candles and fine gifts. Clients are encouraged to take advantage of the in-house design consultant, who can help coordinate all the colors, shapes and sizes-and even makes house calls to advise on furniture placement-to develop your personal style and the style of your living space.

GOODBYE TO CUBICLES Hello to home offices. "With the growing trend in telecommuting, today’s successful executives are designing more luxurious home offices than ever before," according to Brian Phipps of A. Phipps Design. And today’s hard-working decision-makers don’t skimp when it comes to padding their pads with the best in comfort and professional convenience. "High quality, furniture-like built-ins are a popular request from our clients," says Phipps. "The CEO’s home office may have crown molding and premium flooring."

RAISING THE PAR

Long regarded as the world’s pre-eminent golf course designer, Tom Fazio has again earned accolades with the newly opened 18-hole championship course at The Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club. With 16 lakes, multiple tees, a natural setting framed by the Braden River and a remarkable variety of play, the challenging, par-72 course has been coupled with hospitality standards of The Ritz-Carlton and is available exclusively to members and guests of the resort. Don’t forget to ask your caddie for a refreshing rum-and-lime-soaked oshibori towel.

HOME IN THE RANGE There’s a new tool in the neighborhood helping buyers and sellers to connect. Prudential Value Range Marketing, offered exclusively through Prudential Cascade Realty, casts a big net on behalf of home sellers. With Value Range Marketing, homes are marketed within a select price range rather than at a fixed price, generating more offers more quickly than traditional fixed-price advertising. "If you’re looking for a new way to expose your property to more buyers, PVRM is for you," says Prudential Cascade’s Pamela Brownell. "Because you will entertain offers within a range of prices, you can move with the market rather than being locked into a fixed price."

HONORS Award-winning Coldwell Banker realtor Barbara Ackerman and her husband, Gary, were among three prominent couples recently honored for their philanthropic service at the Sarasota Manatee Jewish Federation’s Triple Crown Gala. The Ackermans received recognition for their many contributions to the local Jewish, arts and social service communities. They continue to share their time and resources with the Asolo Theatre Company, Sarasota Opera, Florida West Coast Symphony, United Cerebral Palsy and many more organizations.

SAIL ON IN

Plans are under way for New Port Tampa Bay, a new community on 52 acres of re-imagined Tampa waterfront with one of the largest deepwater yacht harbors on Florida’s West Coast. Blending relaxed coastal living with energy and sophistication, the community will feature elegant townhomes, village flats and tower residences alongside a mix of shopping, dining, office parks and inviting public attractions, with the first homes scheduled for release early this year. Residences range from the $300s to over $2 million; the on-site sales gallery opened in October.

MOSAIQUE STYLE Sandcastles of Sarasota announces a unique concept for Sarasota’s in-town neighborhoods: Mosaique-Artistic Courtyard Homes by Collingwood. The company plans three Mosaique model homes in the West of Trail neighborhood and a fourth in the museum district.

These courtyard floor plans, designed by architect Jonathan Parks, define a newly emerging market of smaller, high-quality homes built on desirable in-town parcels with elements usually found in significantly larger, more expensive homes, according to Sandcastles co-owner Phil Chmieleski. Mosaique homes will feature state-of-the-art amenities, while architecturally respecting the historical character of the neighborhoods from which they draw inspiration.

Owners of existing lots can commission the Mosaique custom concept for their own living space.

"Sandcastles was founded on the premise of bringing superior architecture and high-quality construction to the waterfront market," says Chmieleski, "Now, we believe there is a demand for the same premier architecture and construction in off-water properties."

SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS Is grasscloth making a comeback? Indeed it is, says The Wallpaper Store’s Jonathan Slentz. It’s always been popular for decorating in a tropical style, and now traditional grasscloth has been reintroduced with updated features, including a variety of background colors. Grasscloth’s natural texture makes it great for interesting backdrops in many decorating styles-even contemporary.

"With grasscloth, rooms acquire a warmer feeling than from textures done with plasters and paint," Slentz says. "It’s also an excellent sound suppressant."

New technology has made sophisticated weaves available at affordable prices, and easy-to-clean, mildew-resistant synthetic fibers are now being used to imitate grasscloth-perfect for kitchens and bathrooms. And textile wallcoverings, modern versions of string-cloths, are also making their way back to contemporary decorating.

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