Bye-bye 'burbs: Couple moves downtown


Susan and Paul McIntyre are symbolic of youthful empty-nesters who’ve sold in the suburbs and bought in a downtown Sarasota high-rise. Their chic and modern, 1,300-square-foot, ninth-floor unit at 1350 Main is about half the size of their previous home, and has one fewer bedrooms and bathrooms. But this place has a bay view, no maintenance, a guest room for their visiting grown children and is a short walk to stores, restaurants, art galleries, theaters and movie houses. It has everything they want at this stage of their lives.

PHOTO GALLERY: More images from downtown condo

Susan McIntyre in the dining area of her new condo at 1350 Main in Sarasota.   STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

Susan McIntyre in the dining area of her new condo at 1350 Main in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

They are part of a substantial demographic of homeowners (empty-nesters, single professionals and seasonal couples) being lured to downtown by existing buildings, both vintage and new, as well as towers about ready or already rising with names such as Sansara, Echelon, Allure, One 88 and Orange Club. They all promise carefree, chic city living, and many of the new ones on the water have an entry level price of just under $1 million. Glamorous urban life comes with a cost, but it’s one that an increasing number of home buyers believe is worth the price tag.

In the 30 years that the McIntyres have been married, they’ve had 12 homes in places as different as London, Houston, India and Cleveland. This is because of Paul’s career as an oil company executive. He travels constantly. They’ve lived in apartments and homes in surroundings that were full of antiques, an eclectic mix of possessions, as well as streamlined modern furnishings.

A sitting area on the McIntyre terrace on the ninth Floor. Chairs are acrylic Louis Ghost.   STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

A sitting area on the McIntyre terrace on the ninth Floor. Chairs are acrylic Louis Ghost. STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

The longest they were in any one place was seven years in Texas, where their son and daughter completed high school. Last year they moved from England to Sarasota, bought a 2,500-square-foot home in a leafy gated community, and settled in. But within a few months, Paul McIntyre was traveling again, and Susan realized she wanted something more interesting than suburbia. It didn’t take her long to scout downtown condo buildings and to settle on one at 1350 Main. The couple purchased a ninth-floor, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment from the original owner, a wheelchair-bound woman who had redesigned the unit to make everything in the kitchen, bathroom and master bedroom easily accessible to her.

“I chose this place because of the location,” said Susan McIntyre. “I can walk everywhere. The building is new enough for us, and we appreciate the amenities and the views. I also realized there was a certain amount of renovation and redesign necessary, so I contacted interior designer Jill Geisdorf, who helped me with the house we had recently sold in the suburbs. I wanted to take as much of my existing furniture and art as possible, but I knew I couldn’t take it all, especially things like my baby grand piano and ping-pong table. I need expert help with editing, as well as doing the new floor plan in the condo.”

With professional help and lots of measuring, the McIntyres ended up taking about 70 percent of what they cherished — a lot of it art work as well as European antiques and midcentury American classics. The only new furniture they had to purchase was a curvilinear custom white leather sofa from Robb & Stucky for the living room. It fit the space and matched the homeowners’ existing pieces.

“Susan is always clear about what she wants in furniture and accessories,” said designer Geisdorf. “Many of her paintings and pieces of furniture she’s moved from country to country, house to apartment, and she’s flexible and thoughtful about moving things from room to room without preconceived notions.

For example, there is a wonderful signed Picasso print, which belonged to the artist’s granddaughter, that Susan bought in London. Turns out it works in the guest bathroom here, reflected in the mirror and is right at home with the surrounding black and metallic gray geometric wallpaper in that room.”

The designer said her job was easier because homeowners kept the same color palette and wall paint colors (shades of gray with white trim) for their city dwelling. The furniture and accessories palette is black, white, gray and wood tones, both warm and cool. And there are some acrylic pieces, such as lamps and four Louis Ghost chairs on the terrace, two in black and two clear. Splashes of color in some of the art are the accent colors consistent in all the rooms. The McIntyres removed all the carpeting and installed engineered hardwood in a dark finish. The challenges came in specific redesign projects. “Susan wanted the tub removed in the master bath and a custom vanity installed instead,” said Geisdorf. “While we were at it, we totally renovated that bedroom wing, closing off an entrance to the bath from a hallway and redoing the awkward closet, making it a walk-through dressing room and custom closet arrangement. Now the master bedroom, dressing/closet room and master bath are all form a single private suite.

However, we kept all the wide doorways that the previous owner had installed for her wheelchair access.”

The designer redid the kitchen, raising the ceiling, enlarging and making the center island more functional, and installing new white cabinets. The Calacatta Gold Italian marble backsplash wall was costly, but it ties the black-and-white space together and is a piece of art with its milk white background and broad sweeps of grey/ black veining.

“It took me a long time to pick out exactly the right piece of marble for that backsplash,” said McIntyre, “and I stressed about getting it right.

But, I’m glad now that I was patient and persistent, because every morning when I go into that kitchen to make coffee, I look at that marble and I just love it. It makes the whole kitchen, and you see it from the dining area and living room, too.”

The designer exposed the duct work in the public part of the apartment, making the space more like an urban industrial loft. The duct work is painted the same white as the ceiling. “We also lowered the ceiling three inches in the living room so that we could slip in recessed LED lights,” said Geisdorf.

“I’m doing that a lot in concrete condo towers as an alternative to track lighting, and clients love it. These tiny LED cans are just the thing when you don’t have a lot of ceiling space to work with, but you want good overhead lighting. And, they are on a dimmer.”

The renovation took four months and the homeowners lived off site. When they came back and moved in, Susan McIntyre said the surroundings now look both familiar and yet new. Her furniture and wall colors are the same, but situated in different areas of the apartment. Best of all, the views and the location are as different from the suburbs as could be.

“I feel comfortably connected to city life here,” said McIntyre.

“I like the bustle, the noises, the fact that I can go out my door and be part of it all. Living here is convenient, fun and never boring. Paul and I have decided that even if we have to move again, we are keeping this Sarasota home. It’s the one we’re going to come back to again and again until we can stay permanently.”

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: November 23, 2015
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