Big family, big remodel on Longboat Key


Mike and Cheryl Absher wanted a vacation place where they could relax on the beach with their three sons (all under 13), but they knew that the boys would want to invite friends from their Illinois hometown, and that was just fine with them. They just needed a place convenient enough to suit five for an extended stay but flexible enough to accommodate 10 now and then.

The Abshers bought for location on Longboat Key and agreed on a dated 1,500-square-foot unit in Veinte, a complex built in the early 1970s with stunning Gulf views and direct access to the beach. Their Realtor Rob Dardas referred them to interior designer Mark Dalton who could modernize the apartment and make a two-bedroom, two-bath residence into a flexible residence that could sleep 10.




“The beauty of Veinte is that it is a small and private condominium community situated on a beautiful patch of beach,” said designer Mark Dalton. “The views from inside the Abshers’ unit are spectacular but they weren’t being maximized before the renovation. The whole place was dreary, dark and confining. We were dealing with an outdated Formica kitchen and laminate floors, too.”

The Abshers had a budget ranging from $75,000 to $120,000 to completely update, reconfigure and furnish the place. Mark Dalton enlisted the help of Andrew Winchell, one of the designers in his firm, and then called in J&K Building and Remodeling to knock down walls and demolish the kitchen and both bathrooms.

“This was really a project about creative space planning,” said Andrew Winchell, “and what we did was to create three zones for the family — shared public space in the center of the home and then a kids’ wing on one side, and on the opposite side of the apartment a parents’ wing. Both wings have access to a screened beachside terrace and now there are views of the water from nearly everywhere in the apartment, even the master bathroom.”

The only room the designers left intact is the spacious laundry room. In there they added closed and open storage and freshened up the space with color.

Taking down the wall separating the kitchen from the dining/living room made the biggest impact. But that was only the beginning.

“This is a young family and they wanted a fresh modern look to the whole apartment,” said Dalton. “We used stainless steel appliances in the kitchen along with a combination of glass-front and solid cabinet doors. The counters are blue pearl granite which is sophisticated and contemporary against the white cabinets and its especially gorgeous at night. The glass mosaic backsplash is a little touch of Miami Beach bling.”

The designers had the dining table custom-made to fit the family’s needs and stained it deep blue. The soft color palate in the whole house brings in the blues and greens of sea and sky and the accents of brighter colors such as coral can be found in tropical flowers on Longboat Key.

The designers installed white plantation shutters throughout the place and a porcelain tile floor that looks like driftwood. There’s very little maintenance.

“Open the front door, open the back and go through with a leaf blower is what I always tell people about a well designed beach house,” said Dalton.

The designers extended the tile floor out onto the terrace, which brings that space into the living room as part of the entertaining area. The designers also relocated doorways, created closets, removed interior walls and updated every space with modern lighting and custom features, such as extra-tall and padded headboards in the bedrooms.

Besides cleverly reworking every space in the apartment, the designers say the trick to sleeping 10 is all about furniture with sleeping options.

“Just about everything you can sit on in this home opens up into a bed,” said Dalton, “including part of the 11-by-11-foot sectional sofa in the living room. Cheryl was initially skeptical of the light lime green color. But, when we brought in the rest of the furniture, she realized it blended in just fine.”

The den off the boys’ bedroom is also sleeping space and in the master bedroom is a queen size pull-out sofa beside the bed.

“And all of the sofa beds are extremely comfortable,” stressed Dalton. “We bought the top-of-the-line in every case, because when you’re on vacation you want good sleep. All of these mattresses will give that to guests and to the Absher family. I tell clients to never, never skimp on quality when it comes to beds.”

The Absher project was completed in just three months and the family had the luxury of not being in town for any phase of it. By purchasing furnishings and accessories locally, Dalton and Winchell were able to bypass the long wait that custom furniture always entails.

“The furniture came from Kanes and the Pamaro Shop primarily,” said Dalton. “The lighting is from Franklin Lighting and the are rugs from Rugs as Art. Florida Leather Gallery was where we got the sectional sofa and Fisher Tile provided the porcelain floor tiles. I got all the sheets at Bed, Bath & Beyond and the towels from Restoration Hardware. And I colored-coded all the linens, blue for the boys’ side of the apartment and a cream color for the parents.”

The renovation was finished just before school started in Illinois, so the Absher family flew down to enjoy a late summer vacation in their brand-new retreat by the beach. Their strategy for purchasing in Sarasota was validated — buy for location and then renovate to customize.

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: October 18, 2013
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