The house was dated, uninviting, and not at all what its future owners had in mind. They bought it, anyway, mesmerized by Gulf of Mexico views and estate-sized grounds that evoked images of the idyllic family retreat they dreamed of sharing with their two teenagers and big network of family
Set on nearly five acres, with 7,100 square feet of living space (19,650 feet including loggias, terraces, garages and basement), the home’s only selling points were the land and 180-degree panorama, says the wife, a high-powered corporate executive who uses the home as a frequent vacation haven.
Interior designer Pamela Hughes and architect Clifford Scholz agree. “This was an older home built on a magnificent property, and when you walked in the front door, you faced a massive two-story split staircase that completely blocked the view of the Gulf,” Hughes recalls.
And that’s not all. “The house was commercial-looking: big, cold and very enclosed. It needed to be brought into the 21st century and up to speed with this family’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle,” Scholz says.
“One point of the renovation was to make this into a family home, because the owners have lots of relatives and everybody loves to visit,” Hughes explains. “But the real point was to open up this house and take advantage of the gorgeous view. The first thing we did was to completely blow out the back of the house and change the position of the staircase.”
The homeowners were awestruck by the change. “The full Gulf view hits you head-on the instant you cross the threshold,” declares the wife. “Every time I open the front door, I am astounded by the tremendous view beyond.” Now the entire back of the house is windows, revealing a breathtaking loggia and terraces stepping down to the beach.
An architectural focal point, the new cast-stone staircase wraps around the east wall of the foyer, curving up and over the front door. And it made room for a much-loved upstairs family room that looks straight out to the Gulf and the best sunset views in the home.
“Pamela designed the room so that the Gulf is an integral part of the color scheme,” the wife says. “The west wall is all windows onto the water. Pamela mirrored the color of the Gulf with aqua sofa fabric, and the color of the sand in the raffia floor covering. The bright coral, yellows and oranges of the chairs, pillows and window treatment reflect the fabulous Sarasota sunsets. We even chose a stripe in the pillow fabric because it reminded us of a circus motif, so appropriate to Sarasota history.”
Turkish travertine in the foyer and on the outdoor loggia and terraces created a continuous indoor-outdoor flow throughout the main floor. Hughes commissioned bench-made teak furniture for the loggia’s outdoor dining and family rooms, including custom tables, two teak serving credenzas and Michael Taylor chairs that provide as much elegance and comfort outdoors as designer furnishings do inside the home.
“The most important thing to us was that the home be warm, welcoming and comfortable,” says the wife. “We enjoy large family house parties, so it needed to stand up to the wear and tear of the whole gang, while still being sophisticated and relaxing for intimate gatherings or weekends with friends.”
Hughes complied with a design scheme drawn from years of experience with high-end residential and luxury hotel design (she redesigned the famed Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., and The Cloister at Sea Island, Ga.).
The house was restructured into five en suite bedrooms and offices for the husband and wife. “We really wanted this to be their house. We didn’t want it to be a designer’s house,” Hughes explains. “We wanted it to be beautiful but to reflect their interests, their taste and personality—to make it a true family home.”
The library, for example, accommodates the entire family’s love of reading and the clients’ passion for Victorian furnishings. A Spanish library table holds a Victorian music box; custom bookcases outfitted with English lamps are filled with a collection of original hardcover mystery novels dating from the 1930s and ’40s. A fireplace framed in golden musk marble divides the room into a TV area with enough seating for the extended family and a cozy reading area where paisley Clarence House draperies frame the Gulf view.
Victorian antiques from the family’s collection take center stage in the wine room, created for the husband, a wine lover and collector, and add “a funky bit of fun that makes the whole family smile,” the wife says.
“The idea for the floor in the wine room comes from the Taproom at Cà d’Zan [the historic Sarasota bayfront home of John and Mable Ringling],” Hughes says, explaining that its unique pattern is crafted from pieces of different marbles that were chipped up and then randomly installed. The groin ceiling is shaped and finished with crushed marble to remind the homeowners of wine caves they visited in France’s Loire Valley.
“The furnishings reflect a period of great enthusiasm in furniture-making during the Victorian era and the turn of the century,” says the wife, a history buff. “Many pieces are from R.J. Horner, or in his style: highly carved, where every inch of space is used to feature a nymph or dolphin or cherub.” Hughes faced the wine cabinet with a Horner glass-front bookcase and retrofitted it with a refrigerator that holds 200 bottles.
Directly opposite the wine room, the dining room is grand and warm, with terra cotta walls reflected in a custom area rug designed by Hughes and fabricated by Woven Legends in Turkey. Hughes found the 18th-century French dining table in Paris; the clients purchased the 19th-century French sideboard on an antiquing trip to Pennsylvania.
“These clients are world travelers, and they bring things back from their trips. We created a clean, elegant palette that accommodates their treasures,” Hughes says, pointing to the living room, where the off-white sofa is accented with throw pillows covered in fabrics the owners purchased in China.
A hand-painted screen, antique-finish coffee table, lustrous sconces and custom silk draperies are all neutral. The only pops of color in the room are the greens and persimmon of the area rug.
The 25-foot-long master bedroom is approached through an antechamber filled with Victorian seating and easels bearing some of the couple’s favorite works of art. This sitting room opens directly to a view of a magnificent Niermann Weeks four-poster bed, anchored in the middle of the space by a Turkish rug with dramatic oversized medallion.
“The rug is where we have the punch,” Hughes explains. “Everything that sits on top of it is aqua and
ivory.” That includes Julia Gray hand-painted chests, Hughes’ custom bed linen designs for Casa del Bianco and pale aqua silk draperies.
“Our design mandate was to bring the Gulf indoors,” the homeowner says, “and Pamela wanted us to enjoy all of it. She placed our bed in the center of the master bedroom so we could see the Gulf every morning as soon as we open our eyes—it’s marvelous.”
How designer Pamela Hughes personalizes a client’s home.
Collections Artfully blend client’s collections into the décor, grouping small items for impact or adding large items such as mirrors or furniture as accents throughout the home.
Travel Treasures Keep the palette neutral and clean so that fabrics, furnishings and art purchased by the client on trips can be incorporated into the design scheme.
Hobbies Incorporate important hobbies into the décor. A wine room, art studio, reading or music room can reflect personal tastes and interests that distinguish a home.
Mix finishes and customize Mix and match furniture finishes so pieces appear to have been acquired over time; customize rugs, accessories, even furniture for a unique look.
Architecture: Clifford Scholz, Clifford M. Scholz, Architects, Inc. Interior design: Pamela Hughes, Hughes Design Associates General contractor: Richard Perrone, Perrone Construction Landscape architecture: Richard Anderson, R. Anderson Company Floors: Floors by Design Cabinetry: Eurotech Cabinetry of Sarasota
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