No more playing it safe in kitchen and bathroom designs, says Lisa Klempner, showroom manager at Hill's Showcase of Designer Plumbing. "The savvy customer is adventurous and creative. They no longer want what everyone else has," she says.
Klempner advises filling bathrooms and kitchens with lots of color-especially with fancy glass vessels and bold sinks-and finishes like stainless steel, brushed/satin nickel and oil-rubbed bronze alongside unique fixtures that "reflect the customer's home and lifestyle."
For the latest in luxury showers, Klempner adds, install his-and-hers shower controls and new water tiles that "can be mounted nearly flush to the ceiling or wall and have multiple nozzles for a rainy day-type shower," she says.
IN LIVING COLOR Sarasota's cultural scene attracts artsy folks from around the world, many of whom come here to stay permanently. Living Walls Furniture and Design focuses on bringing that creative streak home using clean, uncluttered lines and easy-to-maintain home designs. Owner Alison Levine Bishop recommends color most of all, especially for those homeowners in search of a bolder look.
"We've always been known for using color in our store, so it's no surprise people look to us to help them express the sense of adventure they feel when starting a new life in Sarasota," says Bishop. "An accent wall (or two, or three), a funky light fixture or a dramatic area rug are great ways we create these looks using the clean, classic furniture we love."
UP NORTH How quickly the real estate industry changes. Bosshardt Realty Services had no inventory a year ago, according to owner/broker Dave Minton. "Homebuilders had sold faster than they produced and were having trouble getting new projects approved," he says. Now, with 30,000 new homes approved for northern Manatee County, Bosshardt is celebrating the January opening of its second location: a 16,000-square-foot, 15-associate office near Ellenton's Prime Factory Outlets. "We're going where the growth is," Minton says. Bosshardt is planning to open a third location sometime this year.
In addition to the many new homes for sale, some investors believe home appreciation has peaked and "are dumping their inventory on the market" to be purchased by people interested in being residents-not speculators-during the area's busy winter season, says Minton. With the recent bump in interest rates, Minton predicts most people who buy homes in 2006 will actually live in the homes they purchase.
A TOUCH OF GLITZ Award-winning designer Catherine Kerr says today's interiors mirror the funky side of contemporary fashion trends. "Think of Paris Hilton," she says, adding that new design trends like red and aqua walls or "wild pillows mixed with classic, sophisticated design" are the interior equivalents of "large earrings, funky belts and bags."
Leading that funky trend, Brazilian marble is the latest thing, Kerr says. Actually a type of granite quarried in Brazil, Brazilian marble features swirls of aqua, lapis, yellow, green and red, giving it the nickname "Van Gogh." The Netherlands also boasts granite in shades of blue, and bright-red and snow-white varieties are now coming from Greece. The stones are cut at an angle to reveal their swirls, giving these granites their marble appearance. "The old specked granites and patterns like gold leaf and ubatuba are out!" says Kerr. "The builders just need to catch on."
CONDOMINIUM MANIA Specializing in new condominiums has allowed the Penny Hill Group from Chase Home Finance to reap success in downtown's booming condominium market. Although there were initial fears of speculative buyers wrecking the market, Hill explains, "We've already seen many 'flips'-or assignments to the next owner-and these second purchasers are often end users [who plan to hold on to the residence]." She adds that many of the remaining investment buyers have already rented their condominiums, and with the low mortgage rates available, these landlords have been able to cover their carrying costs entirely. Building delays affecting the next round of new downtown condominiums mean the current buildings have an even greater appreciation potential than was initially predicted.
Chase Home Finance's No. 1 national producer for 2004 and 2005, the Penny Hill Group has maintained a specialty in new construction condominiums since financing the majority of Longboat Key's L'Ambiance (Tower I) in 1994.
TREES COMPANY In August, landscape maintenance and design specialist ArtisTree opened a new state-of-the-art design studio on Cypress Road in Venice. The studio features a high-tech conference room capable of displaying examples of the company's previous work as well as generating electronic mock-ups of potential landscape and lighting configurations. Clients are able to see a variety of options and choose the colors, height, scale and type of their landscape materials within a comfortable setting. Using computer-aided designs based on the blueprint of a client's house, ArtisTree's designers can actually show how a custom landscape design will complement a specific home, all before a shovelful of dirt is displaced.
Serving Southwest Florida for more than 15 years, ArtisTree's maintenance division is responsible for the upkeep of landscapes in maintenance-free communities such as The Oaks, Venice Golf & Country Club, Riverwood, Pelican Pointe, Placida Harbour, The Sanctuary on Longboat Key and parts of Lakewood Ranch. The company also works with local builders like Sam Rogers Homes and Arthur Rutenberg Homes.
CUSTOM COOKING John Cannon Homes, one of the area's leading custom homebuilders for 17 years, has partnered with award-winning chef and local restaurateur Paul Mattison to create custom luxury kitchens for John Cannon's "The Royal Melbourne" homes, which are featured in The Concession, a new 255-home golf-course community on the Sarasota/Manatee county line.
Mattison will contribute to kitchen, storage and wine cellar designs and will be available to consult with John Cannon customers who are building their new homes in The Concession. "Everyone has their own particular way of organizing their cabinets, preparing their food, cooking, eating and entertaining in their kitchen," says Mattison. "This can be a challenge, since most kitchens are often generically designed."
Catering kitchens can even be included in the custom designs as an attractive option for customers who enjoy catering larger gatherings from their own home. Mattison, who owns Mattison's Catering Company as well as three area restaurants and Mattison's Culinary Outfitters on Longboat Key, recognized a growing need for catering kitchens in private homes. "That doesn't mean that the party won't end up in the kitchen," he says. "But if it does, I want The Concession homebuyers to be proud that their guests are in a kitchen I designed just for them."
As Sarasota and Manatee county land prices continue to swell, there's a tendency for lot sizes to shrink, even in communities featuring homes with larger floor plans. Vision Homes takes pride in being one of the few local builders offering larger lots and estate-size properties to accommodate homebuyers looking for a little more legroom-and a little space between their new home and their neighbors.
Offering one-acre and half-acre lots, which are increasingly rare in today's market, Vision Homes isn't skimping on floor plans, either, and features spacious homes in communities like Rye Wilderness in Manatee County, which has 78 half-acre home sites in its second phase, and Regent Lake and Osprey Woods in Sarasota County, both of which offer acre lots convenient to downtown Sarasota.
SPRING THINGS It may be February, but this is Florida, so spring has already sprung, and interior designer Sally Trout has the dish on the season's big trends. Starting at the bottom, try whitewashed wood floors or contrasting, hand-scraped black bamboo, then give the room some color. "Anything goes as long as it's not too bright or primary," says Trout. "'Saturated' and 'muted' are key words; try to avoid anything trendy. I gravitate to complex color schemes that are always unexpected and interesting." She says chestnut, espresso, citrine and aquamarine are colors to keep in mind.
Sally Trout Interior Design recently relocated its Palm Avenue showroom to 83 Cocoanut Ave., adjacent to the design studio.