Ask anybody; the hottest place to live right now is downtown Sarasota in a cool waterfront condo encased in a luxury high-rise. These places are so coveted they're bought before they're built, even though prices are pole-vaulting through the stratosphere. But lucky Chicago couple Jeff and Jodie Sullivan purchased their getaway at posh Tessera four years ago, ahead of the rampant real estate escalation. They use their great investment as a vacation home for themselves and two sons, one in high school and one in college.
After buying their 3,000-square-foot apartment, the Sullivans worked with a designer from Chicago, who gave the space a classical aspect. But once it was finished, it didn't suit the Sullivans, who admire bold art, neutral colors, pure forms and clean lines. That's when Suzanne Sultana of Sultana and Associates/Sultana Home came onto the scene. Jeff Sullivan had seen her work in this magazine, and when the couple walked into her showroom, they instantly knew she could capture what they envisioned.
Known for her warm and relaxed modern spaces, Sultana recently won a Rising Star award from the Design Center of The Americas for one of her Miami kitchen designs. "I spent a lot of time listening to the Sullivans talk about their lifestyle, their likes and dislikes," she relates. "Then I asked them to do the usual things, such as pull photos from magazines. Gradually, I saw a picture emerge of who they are and what they like."
Sultana began by orienting all the living and dining room furniture toward the water. She also removed much of the existing furniture and accessories because she felt the room was crowded. The designer suggested a white Artcraft custom-made rounded sofa in the durable microfiber Sensuede, as well as a circular coffee table and a D-shaped end table from Peter Casablanca in Miami. Additionally, Sultana installed a round drop ceiling light fixture with a crackle glass center that references the crackle glass vanity in the powder room.
"The bay view is the focal point of the apartment, and it's what the clients paid for," Sultana says. "It just makes sense to contour the space and the furniture so that they wrap around and embrace that view."
Sultana covered the faux finish painted walls with a tightly woven grass cloth in palest caramel. She jettisoned a glass table in the dining area and replaced it with a custom round Sapelli wood table that matches the lines and color of the clients' own chairs. "The eating area was dead space and the glass table was only making it worse," Sultana says. "The dark wood on the light marble floor brings drama to the space and is finished with a pendant light that showcases the sunburst pattern of the wood." Artisan Dale Rieke, who's affiliated with Eurotech Cabinetry, crafted the table.
"Throughout the home we contrasted dark and light, smooth and rough, square and circle shapes," says Sultana. "When you have an absence of color, the way to create balance and interest is with texture, sculptural shapes and high contrast. Every lamp, vase or bowl became an important piece of art that would support the design scheme and bring out the colors in the paintings."
Design is Sultana's second career. As an editorial assistant for ABC television in London, she traveled through Europe and worked in the high-pressure job of breaking news. Six years ago, she opted for a change. "The hotels as well as the architecture I saw in Europe opened my eyes to design as well as broadened my world outlook," she says. "I came to Sarasota and enrolled at Ringling School of Art and Design at age 34. Today, I'm loving my new career." But commendable vestiges of her former occupation remain. Co-workers say Sultana is obsessive about spelling and grammar on any written material that leaves her Sarasota office.
In the Sullivans' kitchen, the pale painted cabinets were stained rich coffee-bean brown to harmonize with the black appliances. Quilted matte silver square cabinet pulls match the brushed chrome countertop accessories. And since this kitchen belongs to a vacationing non-cook, the walls are impractically cloaked in a soft fawn-colored fabric. "Jodie didn't even want a piece of glass over the fabric at the backsplash," says Sultana. "She has no intention of working in that kitchen." Instead, the Sullivans enjoy exploring restaurants within walking distance of Tessera, often before or after seeing films at Burns Court.
The condo's three bedrooms reflect an appreciation for high-style boutique hotels. Tall padded headboards are attached to the wall above the beds. Oversized artistic lamps and sumptuous monochromatic linens make each of the three spaces spa-like and soothing.
About their refurbished Florida city condo Jodie Sullivan observes, "Formerly the apartment felt claustrophobic and the furniture wasn't letting us take advantage of the wonderful view. We chose a fifth-floor unit instead of one on the 10th because we wanted that connection to the water. Suzanne made that happen, and she gave us a space that's light, airy and welcoming."
Sultana is also happy about the way things turned out. "This apartment turned out to be one of my favorite projects," she says. "It incorporates all the things I love about smart urban design and modern home furnishings. You can say I'm proud of it."