POSE, FIDO, POSE
From polo ponies to the annual Pug Parade, Sarasotans love their pets. Artist Meg Fitzpatrick says Floridians are clamoring for paintings of their furry or feathered friends to hang next to other family portraits on their walls.
Fitzpatrick creates commissioned paintings that go well beyond a standard sitting. Before they set up a one-on-one between artist and animal, pet owners have the opportunity to discuss color and style with Fitzpatrick, ensuring that the final portrait is not only a perfect likeness, but also a perfect addition to the home's interior.
Fitzpatrick has been an artist for more than 30 years and has painted animal portraits across the country. "Anatomy, movement and poses captured on film are at the heart of interpreting the animal's spirit," she says.
LIVE THE RAINBOW When it comes to contemporary interior designs, "Color is really coming alive," says Alison Levin Bishop, owner of Living Walls Furniture and Design in downtown Sarasota.
The current trend toward somber greens and light and dark purple is giving way to brighter, bolder palettes in chartreuse greens, oranges and "spa-qua"-an array of icy blues and fruit-themed colors like persimmon, apricot, cantaloupe and melon.
"For a while, the design palette was muted. Accents were only in accessories," Bishop says. But brighter colors are starting to take center stage in chairs and sofas. "White lacquer is still a ways off," she adds. "But it's coming."
HIGH-TECH HIDEAWAY If you thought kitchen innovation had peaked, think again. The newest trends in kitchen design team exquisite cabinetry and countertops with technologically advanced appliances, according to president of CCS Cabinetry Jim Butler.
Furniture-style cabinetry featuring clean lines and Asian or European influences is being fitted with smart appliances-as well as built-in TVs-for maximum space and high-tech convenience. Today's countertops are made of granite, marble or steel and integrated with myriad built-in amenities that don't draw focus from the clean, uncluttered space.
With so many possibilities, it's best to let the experts work for you, says Butler. "For people renovating or building a custom kitchen, information overload can be a real problem. But a qualified kitchen design company that's right on top of the latest trends can quickly uncover how a family lives and uses their kitchen space. Industry knowledge is a great time saver."
IN THE BUNKER Responding to requests from U.S. soldiers stationed in the Middle East, Mark P. Riley Luxury Real Estate Group teamed with Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club to collect donations of golf clubs for the troops. As employees with Mark P. Riley, sisters Sandy Albano and Sheryl Vieira spread the word when their brother, Marine Staff Sergeant Scott Wisotzke, asked for spare clubs to help pass the time on an air base in Iraq. Between July and September the project collected 14 sets of clubs to send overseas. "Thank you so much for this!" Wisotzke wrote in an e-mail to his sisters. "All the Marines I work with will be overjoyed."
UNDER THE OLD BANYAN Inspired by an old banyan tree on the Tampa Bay shore, D.R. Horton Homes has built a gated, waterfront community designed for putting down roots. Banyan Bay's 53 two-story Mediterranean townhome villas in southern Pinellas County feature generous floor plans and gourmet kitchens as part of a leisurely lifestyle just minutes from St. Petersburg. Three- and four-bedroom townhome villas from the $400s are available for immediate move-in, and buyers receive $4,500 off closing costs and a free plasma TV with homes purchased before Dec. 31.
MAINTAINING THE HOME With so many Sarasota homes labeled "maintenance free," prospective homeowners are strongly advised to read the community association's disclosures and be sure they understand who is responsible for what in terms of building maintenance.
"Each community has its own set of rules, and each differs one from another," says RE/MAX Properties agent Marie Monsky. Some community associations are responsible for the exterior physical plant, with the owner responsible only for the inside. Other associations consider each residence, even a villa or townhome, a freestanding home, which leaves the owner to take care of inside and out.
Common area and lawn maintenance are the only items consistently covered by communities, explains Monsky. Who's responsible for upkeep like exterior painting, roof maintenance and repair will likely differ from community to community.
PEACE AND RESTROOM Though it's been in some bathrooms for a few years now, Panasonic's nearly silent WhisperLite ventilation fan deserves a lot more attention, says Kate Brady, showroom manager for the Plumbing Gallery. "It's so far beyond any bath fan that's ever been seen before."
Panasonic builds its sturdy fan motors to run for 15 years straight, which accounts for the WhisperLite's quality as well as its quietness, according to Brady. The enclosed motor has larger blades than those in most ventilation fans, circulating the same amount of air with slower fan movement-and less noise.
And not only is it easy on the ears, the WhisperLite is now being fitted with fluorescent lamps and nightlights, too.
DEVELOPING PLANS A Venice builder for more than 30 years, J&J Homes is in the planning phases for several new residential developments in south Sarasota County, and the company is determined to build responsibly. "We're extremely excited about the potential growth in this area of Sarasota from Osprey and Nokomis south," says J&J's Dan Argenes. "It's just going to explode."
He adds, "We're committed to working with area planners to create the types of developments that make sense for Venice. Just slapping up 1,000 homes doesn't make a lot of sense." The builder will formally announce new plans in early 2006.