Nancy Finkel was so determined to live in Sarasota at 988 Boulevard of the Arts that she scouted places for sale in that building for two years from her home near Washington, D.C.
Then, on the Internet, she found precisely what she wanted.
It was a penthouse on the 19th floor with sweeping views of Sarasota Bay and the city. She contacted the listing agent and made an offer the minute it popped up on her screen. Then she competed against 30 other offers and persevered until she triumphed.
That accomplished, Finkel retired from her career as the office manager for a property-management firm, packed her bags, picked up Peanut, her 8-year-old Himalayan cat, and moved to Sarasota to start a new life and embrace a vibrant design style.
To demonstrate her decor commitment, she bought two bright purple contemporary sofas online.
“I had lived with pastel colors for most of my life, and I was done with all of that,” she said emphatically. “I was ready for vivid colors and a Euro-contemporary style of furnishings.
“I knew this style would match my sleek new home that’s in the best location possible for me. It’s near downtown and all the urban amenities, but it’s on water, high in the air and has that peaceful and serene Sarasota vibe I wanted.
“I can look down into the boat basin and see manatees.”
To realize her vision for how the inside of the condominium would look, Finkel contacted Barbara Gardner of Collins Interior Design. Finkel has once enjoyed an evening in a home where Gardner had been the interior designer. She was impressed. And the interior designer had lived for a time at 988, also known as Condo by the Bay, so she knew the layout of the building and what could and could not be accomplished in a makeover.
The two women spent about six months collaborating on colors for walls and furniture, finishes, art and accessories. They might have finished sooner, but many of the items Finkel chose, such as the vibrant sofa pillows made of Cowtan & Tour fabric, were custom-made, which required a longer wait than if the women had simply gone to a store and bought them. They also chose furniture that has a low and trim profile so that the water view is not obstructed.
“The apartment had been updated by former owners five years ago,” said Barbara Gardner. “So we did not have any major changes to make, or walls to take down. The floor plan of the main living area is open and oriented toward the fabulous views, and the two bathrooms are modern and comfortable. What we did was mostly stylistic, taking the apartment from a more traditional look to one that is definitely contemporary with lots of color.”
To make the rooms more modern, the designer removed baseboards and crown molding. She painted the walls in an eggshell finish using Benjamin Moore colors of Ice Blue, Calm (in the master bedroom), Chantilly Lace, and, for the ceilings, Decorator White.
An accent wall in the foyer is sheathed in grasscloth. The floors throughout are birch and marble; a birch inset is in the ceiling of the white kitchen.
The terrace was upgraded to limestone flooring. When the 10-foot high sliders are open to the terrace, the dining area, living room and terrace become one large entertaining space, making the 1,600-square-foot apartment function larger than it actually is.
Because the colors in the home are so bold, the designer kept patterns to a minimum, using them for area carpets and toss pillows or artwork. She liberally used metallics (in the silvery tones) for end tables, wall art and trim on furniture. The homeowner has collected shells from her travels to Hawaii and other tropical places, and she brought them with her to Sarasota.
Gardner found a glass and acrylic coffee table that doubles as a display case. “Using glass, acrylic, mirrors and metallics is a good idea when you want to visually expand space,” said the designer. “They bounce the light around and keep the space bright and airy. And they are great accents in a contemporary or modern design scheme.”
Although homeowner Nancy Finkel is a relative newcomer to her 988 penthouse lifestyle, she’s not a stranger to Sarasota.
“Thirty years ago, when I was married, I lived in Sarasota for seven years,” she said. “The marriage didn’t last and I moved to the D.C. area and worked and lived there for more than 20 years. But, as I would travel on vacation and think about where I’d like to live someday when I left my job, my mind would often wander back to Sarasota.”
After eliminating a lot of other destinations, Sarasota was the city that had the most pull for Finkel.
“Two years ago, I knew this would be my happy home. Waking up every morning and seeing the bay from my bed is a dream come true.
“What’s been a surprise is the urban skyline. The last time I lived here there really wasn’t any to speak of. What a change. At night, it glows and is just beautiful. Sarasota has grown to be sure, but I think it’s still as charming as ever, and it’s a great place to begin a new life.”