Welcome to Sarasota's Marble House



Musician and homebuilder Mark Marshall didn’t have an ordinary house in mind when he bought property in the secluded and bucolic part of Sarasota County known as Saddle Oak.

He wanted a home that would open up completely to nature, and he wanted it to be unique, incorporating some intriguing features that he’s seen when touring the world. He was inspired by the fact that he’s a professional award-winning musician and thus thrives on creative ideas. But, he is also a certified home-builder, highly skilled and practical.


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He designed his Saddle Oak home of about 5,000 square feet (with additional outdoor areas), and then built it himself with a crew of five in 2002. It was made to take advantage of the rural setting, and he saddle2positioned it carefully for both privacy and views. For example, the upper guest bedrooms face east, and, from 30-foot-high balconies, Marshall and his friends have watched about two dozen space-shuttle launches.

Downstairs, in the family room, disappearing corner glass walls expand the public part of the house to the pool area, where there are entertainment areas, an outdoor shower, a summer kitchen, a spa and dining spots.

There’s an uninterrupted flow from the inside to the outside in almost every part of Marshall’s home, including the master bathroom, where a door in the expansive green marble walk-in shower opens to the back meadow. Marshall’s 12-year-old golden retriever, Molly, uses that door and the shower when she comes in from chasing deer, investigating the pond, or checking out nearby horses.

“Everything about this house opens to nature and maximizes natural light,” said Marshall, who now has the home on the market through Lee Byron of Michael Saunders & Co. for $1,090,000. He said he’s loved every minute of living in this custom hideaway, but the three-story home is just too big for the life he’s leading. With studio work in Los Angeles and Chicago, and a big impending project in California, he’s never in town long enough to enjoy the place.

“It’s really a family home,” he said, “and would be a great place for kids to grow up. You can ride horses out here, see wildlife everyday and just take advantage of all the natural life of this part of Florida and still be just a few miles from downtown, schools and shopping. Most people don’t realize how convenient or how special this area can be until they experience it.”

Experiencing what Marshall has included in his custom house would be great fun for kids (of all ages). Take the marbles, for example, all 40,000 of them.

“It was all about getting more natural light into spaces,” said the homeowner. Instead of using grout between the travertine floor tiles in the family room, Marshall sunk rows of marbles that he bought online, at first a few boxes, and then a few more until he had 40,000 in the house.

“I started in the master bedroom and outlined the built-in, California-king bed with a border of marbles on the floor that I actually sunk into the grout. Then I continued with the rest of the tiles in that room.

“The glass marbles on the floor did reflect the natural light coming into the room. but it wasn’t quite what I was after. Later, when I got to the family room, I realized I could eliminate the grout entirely and just inset the marbles directly into the channels between the tiles. It worked, and its a unique feature in the house.”

Marshall also has used marbles in transoms above doorways, and he made a set of French doors opening into the downstairs bedroom wing out of blue-green marbles. The marbles are encased in a double-sided metal grid, and they move.

“Kids can’t play enough with these doors when they come here,” said Marshall. “And it is actually pretty cool. When you run your hands over the marbles, they rotate, changing the overall color pattern. And they sparkle in the light. The more I got into working with marbles, the more possibilities I realized, although the applications can be tedious.”

The Marshall house is three stories, although the top story (accessed by a jazzy red spiral staircase) is a lookout area 34 feet above ground that provides grand vistas of the natural surroundings.

The house has three bedrooms and possibly four, if the second floor media room were converted into sleeping quarters. There are four full baths and two powder rooms in the house, plus another in the three-car garage.

The kitchen features a gourmet gas range, walk-in pantry, cherry cabinets and crown molding, mariachi granite counters and Italian pendant lights over the breakfast bar. The colors in the pendants reference the marbles in the floor of the family room.

The designer kitchen sink was a intentional splurge by Marshall. and cost $6,000. A central fireplace in the dining area is clad in hammered copper. The homeowner was inspired to do the treatment by a copper wall in a restaurant in a Sheraton Hotel that he once worked on when he was trying a second career in construction.

Marshall repeated the copper treatment on a larger scale on the ceiling and on a feature wall in his upstairs media room, his favorite room of the house. This ultimate man cave has seven television screens as well as a movie screen, long plush red leather sofa, and a kitchenette with copper sink, microwave and bar refrigerator. There’s an en-suite bath and big tree-top deck.

The walls in the home feature a faux-finish treatment that required three different textures and six different paints to achieve an Old World look. Some of the light fixtures are Belgian, but the double ceiling fan in the grand foyer is a kind of steam-punk contraption that Marshall bought at auction when a Michigan brewery was being demolished. It’s as much kinetic art as a practical piece of air circulation.

Marshall admits that his favorite home in America is the Biltmore Estate, so he wasn’t afraid to make a few grand gestures in his own home, like the $7,000 French sink in the spacious laundry room.

Marshall has lived on and off in Sarasota since boyhood, when his family moved from Chicago and chose Sarasota because of his father’s health and his mom’s love of baseball. He attended Out of Door Academy on Siesta Key, Riverview High School and the University of South Florida.

“Some of my best memories are being a lifeguard on Siesta Key Beach and growing up on that island,” he said. “Later when I got my musical career started in Chicago and New York and began traveling and seeing other beaches of the world, I realized how really special Sarasota is and how amazing our beaches are. I always just took it all for granted.”

Marshall’s mother still lives on a barrier island, and he owns a smaller home in Sarasota. “Even though I’m selling this place, which I loved creating, I won’t be leaving Sarasota for good,” he said. “I’ll always keep a place here and know it’s my home.”

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: April 18, 2015
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