My beloved colleague Robert Plunket has many virtues, but serenely multi-tasking is not among them. We other editors—all women—are used to juggling kids, deadlines and household demands, so we sometimes find it hard to appear sympathetic when Bob rushes in, wild-eyed and harried, because he has to go pay a bill or take the dog to the vet. We usually just roll our eyes and bite our tongues when he’s in this state, but we couldn’t help bursting into laughter when he voiced his latest complaint.
"I’ve got a horrible, exhausting day ahead," he announced. "I have to drive around all afternoon long and choose Sarasota’s prettiest homes!"
Yes, while others are toiling to save the world’s financial system and stave off global warming, we at Sarasota Magazine face our own harrowing assignments, and this month it was choosing our city’s 10 most beautiful homes.
Brave soldiers that we are, we embraced our mission; and despite his little outburst, no one was more enchanted with the project than Bob.
The author of our popular online "Real Estate Junkie" blog—he also reports on real estate on the noon news on Wednesdays on ABC-7 TV—Bob has spent every spare moment driving around and looking at homes since he moved here more than 20 years ago. That’s partly because he likes to think through his writing projects while he’s in the car, but it’s also because he loves Sarasota real estate.
We may be more famous for our beautiful beaches and climate, but Sarasota has also been blessed with some of the prettiest—and most varied—residential architecture in the country. It’s a happy result of the region’s history, climate and settlement patterns, as influences—and creative spirits—from all over the country converged on our little town.
We have the grand Mediterranean structures of the Ringling family, charming bungalows from the 1920s, beautiful suburban homes from the ’30s, one of the country’s largest concentrations of ranch houses from the ’60s, cool beach houses from the ’70s and ’80s, and McMansions from the recent boom years. It’s all crowned, of course, by the Sarasota School of Architecture, that revolutionary movement that made our city famous in the middle of the last century.
And because there’s so much wealth here, we have an outsize number of high-end homes, many of them on the water.
We asked some real estate and design experts to help us with the selection process, and we also invited nominations on our Web site. The rules were simple: Homes had to be visible from the street or the water. And for our purposes, beauty really was only skin-deep; we judged homes only on their exterior appearance, no matter what they might look like inside.
As it turned out, Bob was right: Choosing the final 10 was tough. We ended up with so many pictures of pretty houses that they all began to blur together. Even after we chose our winners and had them professionally photographed, we ended up eliminating a few, shooting others from different angles and changing the final mix. (Heartfelt thanks to our infinitely patient photographer, Matt McCourtney.)
Beauty is an elusive quality that’s extraordinarily hard to define, but we did come to a few conclusions. Bigger is not always—or even usually—better; restraint can be more sensational than extravagance; and wonderful landscaping is often what makes one Sarasota house more spectacular than the rest. One other thing: A beautiful house evokes one of the most powerful of all human reactions. It feels like home. Whatever the style or setting, we could immediately imagine moving into every one of our winners and living happily every after.
You can see our beautiful homes beginning on page 40; you can also view some of the runners-up and post comments about the homes—or pictures of homes you consider even more beautiful—at sarasotamagazine.com. You’ll discover other beautiful homes in this issue, along with one of the most personal gardens on the planet; and you’ll also find stories about real estate, design trends, great home shopping and more. We hope some of what you find helps you to make your home more beautiful, too.