'Isle of View' a true Sarasota mansion


A large part of the Sarasota housing market occupies the extremes.

At one end, a third of homes in the Sarasota market are in negative equity (underwater) and the median sales price of a home is $176,360, more than 40 percent lower than it was during the boom, eight years ago.

At the other end are homes like the Bird Key mansion Doug and Cindy Tibbetts built. It's on the market for a bit more than $8 million — a price that no longer turns heads in Sarasota.

Rich people need housing, too; the people who buy the Tibbetts' house probably will be Europeans or out-of-staters looking for a vacation home in turn-key condition. That's why the furniture and all the accessories are for sale under a separate contract.

Their nearly 8,000-square-foot mansion, on a cul de sac on Seagull Lane, is offered by Cheryl Loeffler of Premier Sotheby's International Realty. When you include the outdoor entertaining space and the four-car garage, the property is nearly 11,000 square feet, and all of it is luxurious, including two full master-bedroom suites (one upstairs and one down) in the five-bedroom floor plan.

The precise price is $8,150,000, or 6,327,171 euros, which is important because Realtor Cheryl Loeffler believes it may be super-wealthy Europeans who covet this glamorous waterfront property.

"Bird Key is very hot right now," she said, "and this location is exactly what European buyers with a high net worth are looking for when they research Sarasota. The house is big, quality-constructed, full of amenities, such as laundry rooms both upstairs and down, a home theater with leather seating for 10, wine cellar, three fireplaces, big game room, elevator, infinity-edge heated pool and spa, and five bedrooms that all have views of Sarasota Bay.

"Plus there's deep water for a large yacht. And it is expertly and glamorously furnished, right down to fun details. The bar, for example, is made from a big glossy 1954 Chris Craft wooden speed boat."

The floors are travertine marble with onyx insets and the coffered ceilings are a lofty 24 feet. The walls are Venetian plaster; chandeliers are imported; and the library features a rolling ladder, the kind you always see in vintage British murder-mystery movies.

Oddly enough, owners Doug and Cindy Tibbetts didn't built the Seagull Lane house on spec or as a model home, although they are in the real estate business. They bought the lot and built the house in 2006 as their "forever" home, so they insisted on high-quality features both large and minute. The faucets in the downstairs powder room are Lalique starfish mounted on sterling silver hardware.

The restless Tibbettses recently bought a 4,000-square-foot condominium on Longboat Key that they are renovating to their exacting standards.

Cindy has ordered the same wrought-iron doors that are on the Bird Key house for the condo. And a lot of the high-end kitchen appliances, with names like Wolf, Miele, Fisher & Paykel and Sub-Zero, will be the same, too.

They've owned four other homes on Bird Key. This one was designed in a "modern Mediterranean revival" style by architect Mark Sultana, and was built by Kellogg & Kimsey in 2006.

Doug Tibbetts was involved in bringing the Indigo Hotel to Sarasota, and he developed the Regions Bank building. He has a long history in commercial real estate and development in several Southern states over more than 30 years. He is chairman of the board of Hunt Investment Management, a company that has offices in London and Chicago.

When Doug and Cindy Tibbetts met 18 years ago, she was a high school geometry teacher, the daughter of an architect. She is from Orlando. The couple have been married for 10 years. They met at the Atlanta Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which Doug Tibbetts was instrumental in developing.

"I was there for a meeting with three people who were buying my company," he said. "Their flight got delayed and they didn't make the meeting. Cindy and two friends were at the bar having cocktails. I had already made dinner reservations for four, so I just invited the three of them to dinner and the rest is family history. We eventually married at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota."

The couple came here in 1997 as part of a year-long scouting tour of places where they might want to live in Florida. Cindy was sold on Sarasota on their first visit, but it took a second tour of the town and neighborhoods to convince Doug that the west coast of Florida was for him.

"But we both instantly agreed on Bird Key," said Cindy. "We knew it was special right away. We appreciated the location on the water, the privacy, the beauty of the place and the convenience of being a bike ride from St. Armands Circle and minutes from downtown Sarasota. We've lived on several different streets in Bird Key and we've loved them all. I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up back here someday."

This particular house, which Cindy named Isle of View, has seen a lot of parties. A few months ago it was the site of a family wedding, and more recently it was a location for the movie "Lucky 6," a comedy production that is a collaborative project between the Asolo Theatre Conservatory and Ringling College of Art and Design.

In 2009, Isle of View was the venue for a big gala at which the Sarasota Film Festival honored actor Bill Paxton.

"This house has no problem hosting 200 people for a party," said Cindy. "But it's also a perfectly comfortable place for just the two of us. I think that's because it's furnished in a comfortable way that is inviting. It's not overdone, but everything in this house is of the best quality because we built and furnished it to our personal standards."

Cindy oversaw the interior design, but also commissioned the expertise of interior designer Betsy Godfrey of Naples.

Of course, the name "Isle of View" transfers to the new owner. But Cindy Tibbetts can't quite let it go, and has named the couple's Longboat Key condominium Isle of View Too.

"Say it fast and you'll get play on words," said Cindy. "I couldn't resist."

The home of Doug and Cindy Tibbetts in Bird Key is listed for sale at $8.8 million. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil)

The home of Doug and Cindy Tibbetts in Bird Key is listed for sale at $8.8 million. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil)

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: July 5, 2013
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