CASTLES IN THE SAND
Remember how much fun it was to play in the sand and build the fantasy castle of your dreams? Sandcastles of Sarasota, one of the region's premier developers of ultra-luxury waterfront estates, is busy creating its newest dream castle-a 9,000-square-foot home on nearly one acre on Siesta Key's Big Pass. Architect Cliff Scholz is the mastermind behind this residence, which includes 14 distinct living areas (a 1,200-square-foot master suite among them) and a private outdoor grotto. The home is so unique, it's been dubbed Solamenta Una Vez, a Spanish expression meaning "only once."
Lakewood Ranch is turning green all over. The celebrated community was recently designated a Green Building Community by the Florida Green Building Coalition. Noted "green" features include the preservation of 2,000 acres of environmental habitat, a 38-acre gopher tortoise preserve, strategically placed lakes and ponds, special irrigation systems using nonpotable water, and buried cable and phone lines. Homebuilders, too, will have to meet green standards, including the use of recycled building materials, energy-efficient interior systems and water-efficient landscaping.
"As a company, we have practiced wise stewardship of the land for the past 80 years. Our main thrust is taking green building principles throughout our community, as well as inside the homes. That's where we'll get the real added environmental benefit," notes Rex Jensen, president of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Inc. Rob Viera, director of buildings research for the Florida Solar Energy Center, says he considers Lakewood Ranch's leadership in green building "the greatest success story of the year across the nation. They are helping transform the market here and setting an example for other developers." Greenbrook East will be the first village in Lakewood Ranch to have all houses built to FGBC guidelines.
SAND, SEAGULLS AND INTERIOR DESIGN
The RyanAlexander Group, headed by interior designer Pam DiTomaso, ASID, recently opened its doors in the heart of Siesta Key Village. The showroom features "a little bit of everything," according to DiTomaso, who invites visitors to "touch and feel" the merchandise, which includes art, furniture, antiques, fabrics, window treatments and samples of tile and wood flooring. DiTomaso, who founded the firm with her husband, Alex, envisions their space as a place to come and learn about interior design. For those who want to get up close and personal with design techniques, the company offers Saturday classes in faux painting, floral arrangements and tile installing. "So much is happening on the key," says DiTomaso, "and we're happy to be in the midst of it." And who, by the way, is Ryan Alexander? Well, he's not a famous designer-yet. He's the DiTomasos' four-year-old son.
HOME ON THE RANCH
John Cannon Homes is moving its corporate headquarters to a four-acre parcel in the Corporate Park at Lakewood Ranch. "We are undergoing unprecedented growth into new markets, including into the Tampa Bay area," says John Cannon, company president and owner. "Being near I-75 will provide easy access for all of our clients."
Designed by architect Don Lawson, the 55,000-square-foot building will provide a "luxurious and conducive atmosphere" for homebuyers, Cannon says. On display will be state-of-the-art kitchen and bath fixtures, flooring materials and other current trends in products and design.
Curious? Completion of the building is predicted for the end of this year. And, speaking of John Cannon Homes, the company is showcasing its latest model, The Temora, in Teal Creek in The Country Club at Lakewood Ranch. The home combines the superior craftsmanship for which the company is known with the most advanced technology and custom features available in the luxury home market.
BRINGING SIMPLICITY BACK HOME
Don't worry that our living spaces are becoming larger and larger. According to Jeff Hart, ASID, staff designer at Robb & Stucky, the new trend in interior design is minimalism.
"We're moving from 19th-century revival to mid-century modern," says Hart. "The scale of things is coming down." Remember those platform beds that were so high up you needed a ladder to get into them? No more. Hart says the new beds are low, with legs instead of platform bases. Another soon-to-be dinosaur is the oversized entertainment unit. "The new flat-screen TVs don't need those," he says. "The industry is catching up with the technology by offering modern designs in low, sleek cabinetry." Even the living room sofa is getting closer to the floor, according to Hart. "The sofa set height is dropping from 18 inches to 16," he says. With this scaling down in interior details, will our houses follow? No more mini-mansions? Hart's not so sure. "Architectural trends don't necessarily follow interior design trends," he says.
There's the South of France and there's the city of Palmetto. This charming Manatee Riverfront community is quickly becoming one of the hottest places to live in our area. Just ask the folks at the Riviera Dunes Resort & Yacht Club, where the opulent condominium community of Bel Mare is rising. A gated residential community of three 15-story condominium towers, Bel Mare will offer a host of luxury amenities, from concierge service to a pet park, nature and jogging trail, short golf course, state-of-the-art fitness center, tennis courts and lakefront beach area. Prices start from the high $400,000s, with penthouses starting at more than $2 million. Not bad for what was once sleepy little Palmetto.
NAPLES INTERNATIONAL DESIGN CENTER OPENS SOON
World-renowned designer Juan Montoya has been selected to design the interior of the new International Design Center scheduled to open this fall at the corner of I-75 and Corkscrew Road, just north of Naples.
The 250,000-square-foot, neoclassical, three-story design center is slated to be "a world-class facility for both consumers and residential and commercial design professionals," says Margaret Miller, president and CEO of Miromar Development. Its showrooms will feature a variety of home furnishings, fabrics, wall coverings, antiques, fine art, home theater systems, and kitchen and bathroom fixtures.
Montoya is consistently named an Architectural Digest Top 100 Designer. "Juan's sophisticated style will provide the perfect backdrop for these beautiful products and displays," Miller says.