Longboat Key project sees client and architect in concert


Architects and homebuilders routinely face the challenge of creating a dwelling that realizes the dreams of the owners, yet conforms to restrictions set by the neighborhood association’s architectural review board. So, as architect John Potvin was designing a modern home for Jill and Neal Colton in gated Bay Isles on Longboat Key, he had to take into account limitations on the amount of flat roof he could incorporate into the design, as well as other local mandates that would mitigate the appearance of the house from the street.

PHOTO GALLERY: Jill and Neal Colton home on Longboat Key

long2The two-story, masonry-and-glass residence needed to blend in with other homes in the area (not many of them are either contemporary or modern), and yet satisfy the clients’ wishes for something artistically modern and unique. Potvin put his 20 years of experience to practical and aesthetic use, remained flexible and gave the Coltons a house facade that he calls coastal contemporary. But the interior space and outdoor living area are up-to-the-minute modern in design, with sleek and unusual finishes and 2014 technology.

The house is 4,978 square feet under air with an additional 1,893 square feet of outdoor living space that is completely integrated into the main house. It’s sited on an 18,000-square-foot lot with 200 feet of deep-water frontage.

Inside and out, the linear house is a series of rectangles punctuated by a playful use of circles, such as the round concrete fire pit that is perched on the corner of the spa on the pool pavilion, or the round mirror above the cooktop in the kitchen that is actually a vent hood.

“The design was inspired by a coastal contemporary motif, a natural solution here because it combined the Coltons’ passion for art and architecture with the site’s shape, location and orientation,” said Potvin.

“The home was meticulously designed to complement the surrounding neighborhood, using scale, mass and proportion to govern all the design elements I used. Frankly, I enjoy the challenge of designing for unique site configurations, especially when I can work with interesting and involved clients, which was certainly the case here.”

The Coltons bought their Bay Isles lot in 2012 and broke ground a year later after interviewing five architects and as many builders.

The home was completed this year.

The Coltons lived in their vacation condominium at Grand Bay while Murray Homes, which specializes in luxury waterfront estates, built their dream house. The couple helped design the house. Jill hand-picked everything that would go inside and out, including the glass mobile by artist Sarah Hinds that is incorporated into the facade of the house, the textural gray glass “barn door” that separates the master suite from the public part of the downstairs, the outdoor shower, the fire pit, and a modernistic concrete counter that juts off the Silestone island in the kitchen.

Bittersweet story

And yet, the Coltons never moved in, and the house is on the market through Realtor Roger Pettingell at $4,395,000. The why? is a bittersweet romance that does not have a happy ending.

Jill and Neal were in the same high school class in Philadelphia. Later, when they married (to different people), their two young families would get together socially. But, career moves intervened and the two families moved and lost touch. Then, nearly a decade ago, they met again as widow and widower, brought together by a mutual friend who had no idea they had been friends years earlier. They married one year after their first date.

The Florida house, intended as their permanent home, was to be their joint artistic expression of architecture, art and design, and it was meant to be a big welcoming house that would accommodate their blended family, which includes eight grandchildren.

“We absolutely loved this project, and we were totally focused on it from the day we bought the lot,” said Neal Colton.

“Jill, especially, worked very closely with John Potvin. She would keep notes and they would get together and swap ideas all the time. Together, we picked out everything for the place. It was exactly what we wanted in a home for ourselves and for entertaining friends and family.”

But in March 2013, Jill was diagnosed with an aggressive form of endometrial cancer. In spite of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, she died in September.

“It was, and it is still, an awful shock,” said Colton. “Before she died, we had made the decisions about what the house should look like down to the details. Jill asked me to finish the home, to see our artistic dream to completion. And I’ve done that now.

“But, honestly, there is no way I can live here.” Colton said he’s had trouble disengaging from the home, and it makes him both happy and sad to walk through the rooms because they conjure conversations about choices of finishes and fixtures.

Lavish and practical

The Colton house is in equal measure both lavish and practical, with computer-controlled “smart home” technology installed by Wicked Smart. The kitchen was installed by the Italian firm of Cucine Ricci, and is equipped with professional-grade appliances, Silestone and concrete counter tops and high-gloss modern cabinetry.

The deep, walk-in pantry off the kitchen includes a 160-bottle wine storage unit. The high-style light fixtures throughout are LED, and the lanai area features motorized screens that descend to make the al fresco dining area private. The outdoor kitchen is teak and concrete. The four bathrooms, powder room, and the outdoor shower area are extraordinary in their modern styling, Italian cabinetry and spaciousness. The color palette throughout the house is white walls and ceilings, and everything else is done in black, brown, cream or shades of gray. The home has a three-stop elevator.

“Many of the creative homes that I have designed over the years have been inspired through working together with the client over a glass of wine or two,” said architect Potvin. “This house is special because of fond memories of conferring with Jill over many cups of cappuccino and espresso. She was an exceptional person, and together we made an excellent creative team.”

As for who will eventually live in this artistic home, Realtor Roger Pettingell said, “Well, boaters for sure, because this is deep water and you can have a large boat right outside your back door.

“Also, a family could be quite comfortable here because of the size of the home and number of bedrooms. And you’re automatically a member of the Bay Isles Beach Club, which has lots of amenities.

“Or a retired or semi-retired couple who intends to entertain family and friends and wants to make Florida their permanent home, after vacationing here for years, could fall in love with this place.”

As for Neal Colton, he’s trying to fall out of love with the house. He’s living in the Grand Bay condo and says he has no plans to leave Longboat Key.

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: May 25, 2014
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