Longboat Key home goes glam



House hunters often are faced with the same compromise Wisconsin residents Patti Ann and Christopher Curtin considered when scouting Longboat Key for their ideal winter vacation home.

Two years ago, they discovered the neighborhood they loved, but an available villa in that neighborhood of Winding Oaks was far from a favorite. And yet, they bought the 2,700-square foot, three-bedroom, three-bath place without much hesitation, realizing that what was fixed (the location) trumped what could be altered with time and money.

curt2Although they weren’t thrilled about committing to a major renovation project, they knew it was the sensible compromise.

“The neighborhood is lovely, quiet and gated,” said Patti Ann, “so that we could lock and leave the house without worry. The villa style is more like a home to us than a high-rise, and this one came with a garage. The living space is on one level and the three bedrooms mean that our three adult sons and daughter-in-law can come and visit often. The exteriors of the homes in this neighborhood have a contemporary Cape Cod feel that appeals to us a lot. Everything about the outside of the place said home to us right away.”

But then came the inside assessment of this 1991 villa. “The entrance foyer was huge and just a major waste of space,” continued Patti Ann. “And the kitchen had a dysfunctional U-shape that I hated. The place was carpeted, and there was no color anywhere except for white and beige. The three bathrooms needed updating, and the all the lighting was insufficient. The fireplace in the living room wasn’t our style, but the worst feature of the house was an atrium off the foyer that was nothing but a gloomy dungeon as far as I was concerned. On the good side, the place had been well maintained and it was in great shape.”

The Curtins wisely decided to live in the house as it was last winter while compiling a list of plan changes and upgrades.

During this time they researched Sarasota designers online and ultimately hired Mark Dalton of Chic on the Cheap. He brought in designer Jessica Napoli and also Jeff Francola, owner of J&K Building and Remodeling, for a project that took six months. For all of that time, the Curtins were back in Wisconsin and communicated with the two designers by phone, photos and texts. They shared online sources and did some shopping that way. Patti Ann Curtin made two trips to Sarasota to select furniture, area carpets, tile patterns, and lighting with the designers at Robb & Stucky, Rugs as Art, Franklin Lighting and Ikea.

“The biggest change we made was to take out three walls in the kitchen area, add a big center island and reconfigure the space so that now it’s open to the living area, has expansive views and functions for a family,” explained Dalton. “It’s big, open, airy and white, with stainless appliances and vivid yellow walls. Since the house had very little color and the Curtins were eager to add some, we kept the Hawthorne Yellow, by Benjamin Moore, as the major wall color throughout the public places of the villa.” Then the designers did a daring thing that Dalton is pretty sure no one else in the neighborhood has tried.

“We took that long and wide, useless foyer and converted it into a roomy contemporary dining space, with a glass-and-chrome chandelier over a long wood-and-chrome table paired with Plexiglass chairs,” continued the designer. “The six sculptural chairs were the most expensive accessories the Curtins chose for the place, but the impact is worth it. And the chairs are quite comfortable.”

Dalton carried the Plexiglass presence into the third bedroom (being used as a den) with nesting tables. He added other Plexiglass tables in the living room.

“My clients wanted a sophisticated, contemporary beach house,” said the designer. “and touches of Plexiglass speak to that modern look. But no wicker or shells: These rooms had to be crisp and clean with coastal influences coming through in the artwork and some of the lighting.”

Dalton and his team tackled the dungeon atrium by visualizing it as a walled garden, serene and private. “We kept it simple with slate floors, minimal furniture and yet there’s plenty of space for container plants, herbs and small shrubs if the Curtins want to maximize the garden aspect,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s a calm and pleasant place to read or sit.”

The feature in the atrium that really transformed it into a focal point came late in the renovation, when Dalton decided that a waterfall wall would be just the thing. Francola designed and installed the wall of cascading water out of stacked slate. “Now it’s both a lovely view from the kitchen and dining areas and a garden room that we use as an everyday part of the house,” said Patti Ann. “And we love the tranquil sound of the water.”

In two of the bathrooms, the designers used sand-colored travertine to clad the rooms, including floors, walls and walk-in showers. In the master bedroom, the whole room is white Carrara marble.

“Patti Ann was really unsure of an entire room of marble, but she took the leap of faith, and now the room is like a five-star resort,” said Dalton. “The bathroom isn’t huge, but it looks big and there’s a feeling of maximum luxury. We did the walls, floor, counter and two vessel sinks all in white marble. The cabinetry is white with modern chrome drawer pulls. It’s really stunning, but it’s also a sound design strategy. If you want the epitome of timeless beauty and glamour, do what the best international hotels have done for years, go with white marble.”

This season the Curtins are living in their improved and personalized villa and it’s proven to be exactly what they wanted in style and convenience. “We’re staying longer this year and will come back more often,” said Patti Ann. “Perfect location and now the perfect house.”


Chic on the Cheap offers these tips for making the most of a renovated space:
• The best way to integrate public spaces in a home is the most obvious: Take down walls to open up the rooms and create an easy flow. Work with a contractor.
• You want a consistent floor throughout. Visually, this enlarges the space and creates a seamless flow with minimal maintenance.
• Window treatments are simple today. Opt for plantation shutters or blinds. If you want to soften the look or bring in color, fixed drapery side panels are a good option.
• Recessed LEDs is the way to go for lighting.
• Paint is the quick and most effective way to change the look and the spirit of a room. Flat finish for walls if you don’t have children or pets. Otherwise, choose an eggshell or satin finish. Ceilings, flat paint; crown molding glossy or semi-gloss.
• Pick an accent color (in the Curtin home it’s orange) and bring a bit of that color into every room of the house. This creates unity and a seamless flow from room to room. And it establishes personality.
• Most people undersize their art. Go bigger than your initial inclination.


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: February 26, 2015
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