Love story is wrapped in a home renovation project



We’ve all watched enough television to know that home renovation projects are either love stories or they generate grounds for divorce. This story falls into the former category, although the tale is not without strife. For instance, the groom lived on the east coast of Florida and the bride lived in a borrowed RV in the back yard of a torn up vintage Sarasota ranch house for six months while their shared vision of domestic bliss was slowly evolving. Realtor Sandra Voss met financial planner (and former military man) Mark LaFlamme in January 2012. Later that year, they knew they were destined to be together despite the fact that they lived and worked on opposite Florida coasts.

They married and honeymooned in Costa Rica at the luxury resort that gave them plenty of ideas for what their shared house should look like. They agreed on no clutter, quality elements, an open floor plan and features custom-designed for tall people, as Mark is 6 foot, 4 inches tall and Sandra is nearly 6 feet.

The couple decided to make Sarasota their home because Sandra has been growing her business here since 2007 and did not want to relocate. Mark compromised. While he dismantled a life in another city, Sandra looked at houses with a practiced eye toward location rather than house condition. She found her ideal spot in an older established neighborhood in Sarasota, off Tuttle Avenue near Bahia Vista. The modest ranch was built in 1958 and the LaFlammes bought it from the son of the original owner.

“The neighborhood is exactly what we were looking for," said Sandra. “And we knew the house had possibilities. But, the weeds were 30 feet high in the back yard and thick as trees. The house, which was built in 1958, needed new wiring, plumbing and central air.

“The existing floor plan made the rooms cramped and the kitchen was a total gut job. The washer and dryer were in there, among other things we needed to change. On the other hand, we agreed that we could live through a major renovation and we were excited that we were going to create a custom home just for the two of us with exactly the things in it that we wanted.”

They bought the house and hired John Bunger Construction to work with them on a design. While Mark went back and forth from his other home, Sandra gave up her rental apartment and lived in a 22-foot RV (borrowed from her mother) in the back yard of their dream house during the six-month renovation project.

They started with the kitchen as they both cook and bake, and it’s something they enjoy doing together — from shopping at farmers markets to preparing everything fresh from local ingredients.

The couple worked with Tracey Scalzo, (lead designer), Eric Asher and David Asher of EuroTech Cabinetry.

“Over the years I have sent clients needing kitchen renovations to David’s firm,” said Sandra. “So when it came time for me to tackle a kitchen upgrade, I knew who I wanted to work with. We decided to make the kitchen, living room and dining room one big open space, and we took our color palette and design scheme from the beautifully preserved terrazzo floors that run through the whole house.

“We found out that when the original owner contracted for these floors, it cost him $320 to do the whole place. We just had to clean, buff and seal the terrazzo to bring back the original finish.”

The decor is updated mid-century modern that supports the time period and architecture of the house. Dark-stained maple kitchen cabinetry contrasts with white CaesarStone counters, and the glass tile backsplash pulls the colors from the floor up onto part of the walls. A linear bank of glass-front cabinets over the kitchen window open garage-door style and are just the right height for Mark. Stainless steel appliances and brushed nickel fixtures give the kitchen a clean and modern aspect.

The living room and dining room decor fall from the kitchen colors. The dining room features a pub-height table and chairs.

In the center part of the house, the ceiling soars to 15 feet. The decorative ceiling beams were salvaged from cypress that clad all the interior walls of the original house. The couple had blown-in structural foam put into the attic and then chose a metal roof.

“This is probably a good time to talk about budget and how naive I was,” said Mark. “I underestimated, especially since at every choice I wanted to go with the higher-end quality selection. We picked a really expensive metal roof, but we justified it by agreeing that this is our custom luxury house and it’s the one we’re going to live in for a very long time. We should have it the way we want it with no regrets.”

Instead of blending furniture from previous dwellings, the LaFlammes decided to buy everything new and they shopped together.

The LaFlammes increased the three-bedroom, two-bath home from 1,320 square feet to 1,560 square feet. They converted the garage into a master bedroom, bath and walk-in closet suite.

“We raised the floor by six inches and kept the original cypress ceiling in that space,” said Mark. “We relocated the washer and dryer to a concealed niche in the guest bathroom. In both bathrooms we used the same dark tile that we saw in our honeymoon suite in Costa Rica. Everything is modern, efficient and has a spa luxury took to it. Sandra did the Venetian plaster wall treatment herself.”

When the project was nearing completion, landscaper Hilario Ramirez came in to give the house maximum curb appeal with a strong approach and just the right combination of green space and hardscape. Ramirez also worked with Sandra to install her new vegetable garden.

Now that the couple is settled into their custom vintage home, they’re ready to start their personal “farm-to-table” method of cooking in a kitchen that functions as well as it looks.


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: September 26, 2013
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