Downsizing Sarasota couple put priority on coastal views



The way Sara and Jim Bagley came to live in Sarasota is fairly typical. It started with a vacation and ended with a lifestyle.

The Bagleys, from Columbus, Ohio, were living in Pittsburgh when they found a place on Siesta Key and vacationed there for five years. Sara Bagley used the condominium more often than her husband, because he was working full time as a contractor. Then, in 1990, the couple decided to trade harsh winters for a life of sun, sand and canoeing.

They knew they wanted to be on the water, but they didn't want the barrier islands. They found their perfect spot on a cul-de-sac in the Cloisters section of The Landings, a lushly landscaped, gated community. (FOR A GALLERY THAT GOES ALONG WITH THIS STORY, CLICK ON THIS LINK.)

rBagleyThe 5,159-square-foot, two-story Bagley home backs up to Roberts Bay and Siesta Key and has the serene, sweeping vistas the couple wanted. The Landings, a community built into the Little Sarasota Bay watershed, is composed of 700 properties in eight distinctive subdivisions. The west-of-Tamiami Trail neighborhood is popular because of its privacy and proximity to beaches, shopping, schools and nature-centered activities. A racquet club in The Landings offers tennis options for members.

Sara Bagley designed an island-type house that merges inside and outside, and her husband oversaw the construction. It was the fourth home the couple have collaborated on in their married life, and it might be the last. About a year ago, with children and grandchildren grown and not living in the area, the Bagleys admitted they no longer need such a big house. Like many homeowners in their age bracket, they've decided to downsize to a condominium, either downtown or at The Landings.

Their house is on the market for $1.6 million, through Ann Moore and Marianne LeBar of Michael Saunders & Co.

The non-negotiable item in choosing a new place is being on the water.

"I've lived so long with this wonderful view that it's something I'm not ready to give up," Sara Bagley said. "But the house is a different story. We've loved it and used every single bit of it with friends and family for many happy years. But it just no longer makes sense for us to keep living here. I've already started to downsize.

"There's a pool table downstairs, and as I take things out of the closets, I stack them on the table. Then I pack up stuff and take it to places where it will be recycled and distributed to people who need things that we don't anymore.

"I've filled that pool table eight times now, and I'm still at it. That's what comes of designing a house with plenty of storage. Over the years, I just put stuff away and forgot about it."

Sara Bagley designed her the home to be both gracious and practical.

Traditional features include such things as deep crown molding, 12-foot ceilings, oak floors, a statement staircase, a wood-burning fireplace in the living room and a big eat-in kitchen (25 by 21 feet) that references the Provence region of France. For practicality, she emphasized built-ins for storage, the display of collectibles and for Jim's woodworking projects.

There are spacious closets galore on both levels of this home, an extra-big laundry room and a dumb waiter so no one has to carry groceries up from the garage. That garage has more than 1,000 square feet and includes a 12- by 28-foot workshop.

The master bedroom has his-and-hers walk-in closets and his-and-hers bathrooms, with a big, shared shower.

"But my No. 1 must-have for the house, when I was designing it, was that the whole back should be glass so we would have unobstructed views of the water and wonderful natural light," Sara Bagley said. "When I'm at the kitchen sink, I can look at boats passing by. And there is a nice, wide veranda across the back of the house, too. It's an extension of the living space, and we use it every day.

"I never bothered with window treatments, because I didn't want anything to interfere with our connection to the outside. But, in the kitchen, I do have fixed French blue shutters on either side of the glass because it adds to the feel of a Provence kitchen."

The house has five bedrooms and three and a half baths. Sara Bagley uses one of the upstairs bedrooms for her sewing room and one of the downstairs bedrooms as craft space and a place to wrap gifts. She knows it's a luxury to have all that space.

The house can function like two separate apartments, because there's a small kitchen downstairs and a large family room, as well as baths and bedrooms. That space has walk-out access to the swimming pool and to the private dock.

"The last time our grandson visited, he had the ground-level space and came and went as he pleased," Sara Bagley said. "We would all have dinner together every few days. The lower level is quite private and completely self-contained, making the house ideal for several generations living together."

When the Bagleys want to have a large dinner party for 30 or 40 people, they stage it downstairs in the big family room. They have plenty of storage for extra tables and chairs.

Sara uses the kitchen downstairs as her flower-arranging space. She is a Garden Club of America flower-show judge and an award-winning floral designer. A past president of the Founders Garden Club, she is active in that club and is a community resource on flower shows regionally and nationally.

When the house is being shown to potential buyers, she'll often do three or four impromptu arrangements of flowers, foliage, fruits or vegetables, and the arrangements never fail to elicit comments from people touring the house.

Given the size of the Bagleys' home and its prime location, you might think families with more than one child would be looking at it, and they are. But Realtor Ann Moore said a lot of potential owners are from Europe and tend to be couples who want a big house on the water for entertaining.

Family home or luxury vacation house, the classic island structure that Sara Bagley designed 23 years ago turns out to be appealing not just for its water views, but also because of its flexible living space.


Marsha Fottler

Marsha Fottler has been a newspaper and magazine lifestyle, food and design writer since 1968 first in Boston and in Florida since 1970. She contributes to regional and national publications and she is co-publisher and editor of a monthly online magazine that celebrates the pleasures of the table called Flavors & More. (941) 371-8593.
Last modified: June 9, 2013
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