MOVE OVER, MICHELANGELO
Sarasota ceilings-and walls, and more-are getting the Sistine treatment thanks to the partnership of an Italian fresco studio and its Sarasota spin-off, Design O'Fresco. The studio's Palm Avenue showroom sells original wall hangings in addition to specializing in custom fresco and Venetian plaster designs for the home. All the materials are imported, as are the artisans, who are flown in from Italy every three months for custom projects.
Jeff Weller, a partner with Design O'Fresco, notes that their authentic frescoes complement popular Mediterranean architecture and make excellent use of tall walls and high ceilings, which are "traditionally devoid of anything" in American designs. "You see 12-foot ceilings with only a two-foot print on the mantel," he says, adding that Design O'Fresco clients appreciate the way an original fresco can add detail to a high-end home.
Local interior designers, too, are now being wooed with the potential of Design O'Fresco services. From building oddities to botched paint jobs, "There are many design challenges we can overcome," says Weller. "From a standpoint of what real art costs, it's not that expensive."
PLEASE PASS THE POOL
Spicing up the summer season, saltwater systems are fast replacing traditional pool chlorination methods, according to Stefan Baron, designer for Freestyle Pools & Spas. And with good reason: Saltwater pools employ a "self-cleaning system, which deletes the maintenance issue for the owner," says Baron. "And it doesn't burn the eyes."
Instead of using packaged chemicals with harsh irritants, he explains, salt systems manufacture their own chlorine from the sodium chloride in saltwater, reaching an ideal chemical balance with less mad-scientist tweaking from the owner. "The salt system acts as a water softener," Baron says. "And scrubbing and brushing of the pool is no longer required."
To complement the soothing salt system, increasingly popular water features-lights, music, you name it-can now be controlled from inside or outside the house via a programmable device "like a remote control," says Baron. That shakes out to a perfect pool party.
LUCK OF THE INTEREST
The ultra-luxury real estate market was reportedly slow during the first part of 2005, but look out: "We're starting to see a tremendous amount of high-end buyers," says Bridget Spiess, who, as part of Sarasota's nationally ranked RE/Max office, is among the area's top producers.
"With the possibility of the interest rate increasing, our clients are now becoming more eager to buy," she says. "People are saying, 'I'm not going to retire until next month or next year, but a property I can get now will be much more valuable two years from now.'"
Gardening this season is as much about hardscapes as it is about the plants themselves, says Robert Davie of Robert Davie and Associates Landscaping. Along with new planting for spring and summer, "People want to overhaul their landscaping, adding garden features like arbors and trellises, even benches and columns," he says.
But before you plan that new pergola, Davie emphasizes that location is everything. Take garden accents like birdbaths, for example. "Birdbaths are great, but you don't just plop them in the middle of the yard," Davie explains. "They have to be integrated properly."
Feeling uncertain? Not to worry; the pros at Robert Davie and Associates know the ins and outs of flora fashions. "We're here to accessorize your garden," says Davie. "We can advise people on these things."
GOLF COAST LIVING
Rosedale Golf & Country Club plans to build approximately 300 new homes and an additional nine holes of golf. The projects are currently awaiting county approval, and Rosedale sales and marketing director Matt Bornstein is excited about getting the expansion under way.
As with the original community, Rosedale's current plans include several lakes and other environmental considerations. "That's why we want the golf course-fewer hard surfaces like roofs and pavement," explains Bornstein. "We're very sensitive to environmental conditions."
Grand designs aren't just for the living room any more, according to Sharon Davis of CCS Cabinetry.
Fine wood furniture in the kitchen is especially hot, a trend that's fueled partly by so many people who have traveled to Europe, says Davis, pointing to the appeal of older homes and buildings across the pond. These international flavors include English-country looks and lighter, or even painted, woods of Swedish style.
And it doesn't stop with kitchen No 1. Summer kitchens are also in, and just in time. "When people get done designing one kitchen, they go right outside and make another," says Davis.