When your house is a hotel


When interior designer Holly Dennis’ clients — a retired couple from New York — bought their modest, 2,700-square-foot ranch home in Nokomis in 1988, they soon realized the location made their property a vacation destination for their daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren.


But these homeowners lacked proper space to accommodate the whole family at once for extended stays, and they also needed more room to entertain local friends and to provide a separate living space for the wife’s mother.

nokomis2So, the couple began working with architect Lee Ann Fergeson and Steve Davis to reconfigure indoor and outdoor space.

Initially, they added a 1,100-square-foot detached in-law apartment that connected to the main house by a breezeway. They’ve essentially been renovating and enlarging ever since, and now the house is a 10,000-square-foot (under air), Key West-style, electronically sophisticated home with extensive, walled gardens and multiple water features.

But their most ambitious project started two years ago when the homeowners decided to add a two-story hotel wing to the home. The glamorous addition is composed of five en-suite bedrooms, with furnishings customized to the tastes of their daughter and grandchildren. Two of the bedrooms are downstairs on the lobby level, three are upstairs.

The hosts’ version of a hotel entrance lobby is a clever transition space between the homeowners’ living room and the hotel wing. The “wow” factor is a gigantic art feature wall of swirling white plaster designed by the homeowners. It took an artist two months on site to fabricate.

The amenities on the lobby level include a kitchen, professional theater room, poker table, game table, pool table, and walk-out access to the swimming pool, slides, waterfall, koi pond, al fresco dining areas and a series of garden rooms for long rambles over a stone bridge along paths through lush tropical Florida-friendly foliage. And there’s a lake.

Experts from both Living Waters and Biological Tree & Landscape have installed a swale and rain garden, natural grasses and palms, multiple linked cisterns for water collection and drip irrigation. A centerpiece of one of the garden rooms is an oak tree that the homeowners planted 26 years ago. The colorful outdoor spaces resemble a five-star resort.

For the inside of the house and the new hotel wing, the homeowners contacted Holly Dennis, who has been working on the project for the past two years. Dennis has done hotel rooms and hotel common areas galore, so she has brought to the project specialty resources for custom furniture and bath fixtures, as well as designer strategies for how to make a guest room luxurious, comfortable, and, in this case, personalized to the occupant.

Each bedroom is about 18 by 20 feet, and the en-suite bathroom is 100 square feet.

“Each bedroom and en-suite bath is done in the favorite colors and design style of the person who stays in it,” says Dennis, “but each room also has essential features that make a guest room comfortable and luxurious.

“For instance, we paid attention to glamorous lighted headboards, so the guest can read in bed; a comfortable chair somewhere in the bedroom; and spacious custom-designed closet space. Every bed is king size, and the bedside tables are generous.

“We’ve included docking stations for electronics and a wall-mounted television in every guest room. The floors are white oak, with a custom area carpet that references the design style of the room. Additionally, on this property everyone has a great view to the outside. You know you’re in Florida.”

Each bath coordinates with the bedroom in paint colors, color of the granite counters and the tile trim in the walk-in shower. All the cabinetry is custom made by David Thomsen of Elegance in Wood. A grandson wanted a man-cave bedroom and bath. His bathroom fixtures are black. The floors and wall tiles in all the bathrooms are porcelain.

A granddaughter, recently wed, chose teal for part of her color scheme, since it’s what her bridesmaids wore.

Another granddaughter loves the sea and ocean life. The faucets in her bathroom are dolphins, and her room is done in shades of watery blue.

The youngest granddaughter wanted “purple and sparkly,” so her bedroom is fresh, fun and hip, with a dash of South Beach glitz.

But besides being glamorous, the bedrooms are practical and electronically up to the moment. Each room has a wall-mounted tablet that allows the occupant to control and customize all the electronics in the space.

Most of the relatives who inhabit these elegant guest suites have started to leave summer clothes, bathing suits and flip-flops in their Florida closets. And their grandparents have supplied each of the suites with things such as sunscreen, bath and beauty products, beach towels and such. This makes packing in New York a breeze and drug store shopping unnecessary once the family members arrive in Nokomis.

“And here’s a hospitality trick from fine hotels that we used here in this house,” said designer Dennis. “Keep all the sheets — 400 thread count, please — and towels white. That way when you do laundry and make up the guest rooms, you don’t have to sort linen. Saves time and the rooms always look fresh and crisp. Just like the finest hotel.”

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: March 15, 2014
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