If anyone knows how to pamper guests, it's Katie Moulton. The 45-year-old president and general manager of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort was just named "Independent Hotelier of the Year" by Hotel Magazine. The Longboat hotel, which for the past six years has been named "Best Tennis Resort" by Tennis Magazine, caters to a top-drawer clientele that often includes jet setters and celebrities-including President George Bush, whose most recent stay was on the eve of Sept. 11. Whether her guests are seeking shelter from the limelight or just a few days in the sun, Moulton knows how to create the perfect Sarasota atmosphere of casual elegance and comfort.
That just may be because she and her brothers Michael and Tommy-who are also in the food and hospitality business-grew up on the sandy beaches of the resort, which her father Murf Klauber founded when Katie was 11. Working the front desk was Katie's first important job at the resort. Before that, she poured a lot of water in the dining room and did various housekeeping chores in the units.
Today, Moulton manages a staff of 300. After earning a degree in hotel management from Cornell University, she worked her way around the country, including stints at Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, Stanford Court in San Francisco, and the Royal Sonesta in New Orleans. In 1982, she returned to the Colony as her dad's assistant.
Because she often spends 11-hour days at work, Katie and husband Michael, a realtor with Michael Saunders & Co., recently decided to buy a home midway between the resort and mainland Sarasota. They found the location-and a view of Sarasota Bay-in a 3,500-square-foot home on Bird Key, which they gutted and remodeled. The top priorities for this busy couple were comfort and convenience; but close behind was a layout designed for entertaining, whether for a casual wine dinner with six friends or chic cocktails for 100 around the pool.
The two-bedroom home has clean lines, uncomplicated large rooms and an open-floor plan. "I wanted comfort, a terrific flow, and huge closets," says Katie, who has 100 pairs of shoes and a dozen pairs of sneakers as well as dozens of business suits and casual-chic trousers and silk blouses.
And, no, they don't put all their guests up at the Colony, instead often inviting family or friends to stay at their home. But their guest room and bath is on the opposite side of the house from the master bedroom, which the Moultons say is ideal for guest and host.
Katie loves to cook, and Michael designed the kitchen himself, after studying the way she works in a cook space. "There isn't one inch of wasted or awkward space in our kitchen," says Katie proudly. "Everything is within easy reach, and I never bump into anything. It's a pleasure to be in this kitchen, because Michael knew precisely how to personalize the space."
Katie's favorite way to entertain is to invite eight friends for a dinner party. "I like to dress the house for entertaining, with lots of flowers; and I take great pleasure in setting a lovely table," she stresses. "I mix my great-grandmother's china with funky Pottery Barn finds and maybe a big wooden African salad bowl. It adds interest and personality to a dinner party when you mingle precious things and fun objects you picked up at the second-hand shop or gathered as souvenirs from travels."
When it's just the two of them, dinner is usually not before 9:30 p.m., since as soon as Katie gets home, she heads to her cross-trainer for a 30-minute workout. Then the couple will grill seafood or pork, compose a green salad (every single night, a salad) that's dressed with Katie's blue cheese vinaigrette and served with basmati rice and a vegetable. "I cook to portion," says Katie. "There are never leftovers. That way Michael and I aren't tempted to snack. I don't keep snack foods in the house, except for baby carrots. We try not to skip lunch, and we never skip breakfast."
For this working woman who's up at 6 a.m., the morning meal is a cherished ritual. "I generally have a piece of sourdough toast or half a bagel with butter and a cup of Morning Blend Starbuck coffee," she says. "I have my breakfast at a table overlooking the bay and often I'll walk out onto the pool deck and just gaze at the water and admire the beautiful place I call home. It's a serene and relaxing way to start a day. After that, I never stop."
* Give guests a few minutes to come in and get comfortable before offering a beverage. Most people need to move around the space a bit.
* Always have water with fresh-sliced lemon on your beverage tray. Most people will want water sometime during the evening.
* Fresh flowers are so important. Put seasonal bouquets all over the house.
* Serve something simple for the cocktail hour-crackers and cheese, flavored bagel chips and maybe some nuts or a dish of mixed olives.
* Don't think you have to make everything from scratch. Mix homemade specialties with convenience foods that you can pick up from your favorite market or deli.
* If you have more than eight at the table, hire some help to serve and clean up.
GREAT GUEST ROOMS
* Ideally, the guest room should have an adjoining bath.
* Make sure the closet is roomy, and provide plenty of hangers.
* Put fresh flowers in the bathroom and bedroom.
* Provide plenty of fluffy towels and body care luxuries.
* Put a street map in the bedroom, especially if you work, so guests can go off and do their own things during the day.
* Provide current books and magazines.
* Dress the bed luxuriously, maybe with a featherbed.
* Provide a chair in the guest room.
* Spend a night in your own guest room. The next day you'll know exactly what's missing or if you've done it right.