THE GOLD TREATMENT
It wasn't sand, sunsets or turquoise waters that brought the Pullen family of Victoria, B.C., to Sarasota and a 16th- floor apartment at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. It was soccer.
Canadian venture capitalist Kim Pullen and wife Jayne had decided to give each of their three children (and themselves) a year of adventure, and each child got to choose. Oldest son John opted for study in Italy. Youngest Christina, who would travel with her parents on safari in Africa, was curious about how a year of home schooling would work with Mom as teacher. Middle child David, now 14, decided to follow his passion for sports to an intense soccer experience at Bradenton's IMG Academies. David spent his adventure year boarding at the sports institute while his parents dipped in and out of Sarasota to visit.
When the year was up, David wanted to stay here for high school and more soccer. On a visit to see his son, Kim Pullen checked into the Ritz-Carlton and discovered apartments were available for lease. Jayne came to scout, and the couple settled on an unfurnished unit with a southeastern exposure. In their tour, they had seen a furnished unit belonging to realtor Michael Saunders. "It was small for our needs," says Jayne, "but I absolutely loved the way it was decorated. I asked who did it and that's how we met Matt Overstreet. I was an easy client. I said to him do the same for us that you did for Michael."
Overstreet, who was born and grew up in Bradenton, is a longtime friend of Michael and has decorated all her residences. He describes the Pullens' new Sarasota vacation home as "just right for the Ritz." Initially, Jayne couldn't warm to the apartment's white carpeting or the stark white walls. Matt brought in master painter Aaron Crussemeyer, who created faux finish treatments in gold tones on all the surfaces. A five-step wall glazing process makes the master bedroom shimmer, and a tone-on-tone stripe makes the entrance foyer more intimate. "We used about 15 shades of golf, going from pale to intense for the upholstered furniture, wall colors, drapes and accessories," explains Overstreet. "Gold is a little formal, but warm and comfortable at the same time, just like the ambience of the hotel. Now the apartment has glamour and coziness, and the rooms just glow. Gold is also a great backdrop for the water views, which are stunning from this unit."
"Once the walls were finished, the carpet seemed a much softer, nicer shade and we ended up keeping it," says Jayne. For window treatments, the decorator used textured silk ball-gown drapes that billow and add luxurious volume. "Very Ritz-like," he says.
Nearly all the furniture came from a ski chalet the Pullens had recently sold. "It seemed silly to put everything in storage when we had this new place," says Jayne. "Matt recovered everything and reworked some pieces, such as cutting down a long table to make a beautiful glass-and-gilt coffee table for the living room. We ended up needing some pieces to fill in, and for that we took a shopping trip to Paris."
The finished apartment is both spectacular and family-friendly. "You can put your feet up on anything here," says Jayne. "We're so happy with this Sarasota home that we've asked Matt and Aaron to come to Victoria and redo our house there." The 8,000-square-foot Tudor-style waterfront home is a 1927 Heritage-listed home that was restored by the Pullens and is now ready for a major interior facelift.
"The Pullens like the gold treatment so much in Sarasota that we're doing the exact same palette in Victoria, where the natural light is a bit softer," says Overstreet. "The gold tones will work just fine with all the interior wood paneled walls there; and, in fact, the furnishings in this home and that one will be interchangeable. Things can easily be moved back and forth."
After rearing three children in a 6,000-square-foot Bradenton residence they built nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Amar Inalsingh and wife Mira looked at one another one day and knew it was time.
"We weren't living in most of the rooms of that big house, and constant maintenance was a job I didn't want anymore," says Mira. "Every time we traveled, there was the security issue. Alarms would go off and we'd be in a foreign country and would have to bother neighbors at home. But although we wanted to downsize, we didn't want any compromise in luxury living. In fact, I wanted more."
Did the Inalsinghs achieve a luxury upgrade? "Oh, yes, we surely did," emphasizes Mira. "We use the spa every day, we enjoy the restaurants, we love the bar in the evening--it's so lively. When our three grandchildren come, I just call the concierge; and suddenly, cribs, cots and bedding appear. I use room service for lunch when our daughters are here. And I'm just thrilled with the laundry service for bed linens. When the sheets come back to me they are wrapped in Ritz gold and white tissue paper, tied with an ivory ribbon and neatly placed in a basket. And when we travel, we just lock the door and go. Everything is secure and taken care of."
Their 14th-floor unit is sleek, modern in the minimalist mode, and done in shades of pale ice-blue, white and gray, with built-ins of sycamore wood, metal and lit-from-beneath glass. The artworks, some of them batiks made by Mira, supply intense bursts of colors. There are no drapes. Light is controlled by finely woven metal mesh shades, both vertical and horizontal, that disappear when not in use.
Because they bought their unit pre-construction, the Inalsinghs could completely reconfigure the space according to the way they wanted to use it. They worked for two years with designer Robert Stuffings and architect Marty Ruane to get the most out of the 2,400-square-foot apartment.
"Long before this place was finished, Robert was helping us edit our belongings and working with us to design storage space," says Amar. "We don't like clutter, but we have a lot of things. We used to have china service for 16 in many patterns. Now we have eight of everything and give smaller dinner parties. We even had our Italian dining table cut down from seating14 to seating for eight. Robert and Marty were brilliant and so much fun to work with-I can't say enough about them."
The inspiration for the entire apartment came from a magazine photo of a Poggenpohl kitchen Mira had spotted. "We all went to Dania to see the Poggenpohl showroom; and we bought the kitchen, including the built-in espresso bar," explains Mira. "It all set the color palette and the style of furniture that became our new home. There's a wonderful flow from one room to the other since the wall color and the floor are the same. We don't have any area carpets on the Apothos white marble floor because we don't want anything to interrupt that visual flow. Also, imaginative artistic lighting became a major feature; this apartment is as beautiful at night as it is in the daylight."
The Inalsinghs have become passionate city dwellers. "When we lived in a residential neighborhood in Bradenton, we were always taking little trips to Miami or New York," says Mira. "Since we moved to the Ritz, we don't need to leave the city to have fun and excitement. We're close to great restaurants, theater, symphony, interesting people, everything we could want. And here's another benefit: From one of our balconies we can watch outdoor Ritz weddings. Amar and I sit with a glass of wine and look at all the beautiful people down there. It's a lovely show."
Life in the Tower
Dave and Edie Chaifetz have always known they have the best of two worlds with their primary family home in Fairfield, Conn., and their vacation home in Southwest Florida. Recently, they gave up their quiet getaway condominium on Longboat Key for a 14th-floor apartment in the Ritz Tower Residences. "Even the waterways are livelier here," says Dave, a corporate lawyer who loves to take digital photos of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf from his balcony. "There's so much activity on the bay and at the marina; there's always something to do in the city, and a lot of it we can walk to."
Edie, who owns a travel agency, says the couple takes full advantage of being Ritz people. "We're in that spa so often we hardly ever take a shower in our own place," she says with a laugh. "We use the restaurants and we go over to the Beach Club nearly every day to walk in the morning or to have lunch. We just love it, and so do our houseguests and our family. We're back and forth a lot from New England, but in the winter we're finding we want to be here longer and more frequently."
Because they bought their unit pre-construction, Dave and Edie could work with interior designer Lois Ross to custom plan the space. This is the third house they have collaborated on with the designer. "I understand their personalities and preferences so a lot of the preliminary client consultations weren't necessary," says Ross. "For instance, Dave and Edie entertain friends in a bar area instead of having people congregate in their kitchen. So in their Ritz space we designed the bar as part of the living room to maximize the water views and open up the space. The bar is totally glamorous and really comfortable with bar chairs, sofas and club chairs of silk, leather and chenille. The focal point of the bar is a unique glass sculptural wall designed and made by Loren Schumann. It's lit by fiber optics, and changes color with the time of day."
The couple enlarged the kitchen so they could add a granite center island and larger refrigerator. They upgraded all the cabinetry to cherry. The pass-through to the living room is another piece of sculptural glass by Schumann. In the master bedroom, Ross got rid of a standard morning bar, instead giving the homeowners a curvaceous banquette and additional display space for art glass. The ceiling of the Art Deco bedroom mimics the curves of the furniture and the walls. A bird's-eye maple entertainment unit conceals electronics and further enhances the Art Deco style of the room. In the formal red dining room, Ross added classical columns and dramatic lighting.
Strong reds and vibrant golds dominate the apartment's color palette. There isn't a single white wall. Artwork is bold and contemporary and consists of art glass and large paintings. Lois Ross designed all the built-ins to provide plenty of closed storage space, so much that the homeowners were able to convert a hall closet into a wine cellar at blueprint stage.
"Being able to personalize the floor plan pre-construction was a big advantage," says the designer. "From the day Dave and Edie moved in they'd had exactly the lifestyle and the apartment that suits them. It's glamorous, and it works."