World traveler and well-known Sarasota personality Judy Rossmoore Veale is selling her distinctive purple house in the coveted area of Palm Island on Siesta Key.
She’s ready for a new chapter in her life, one that combines her zeal for charity fundraising and her role as an owner of a vacation home in Italy, a place that figures into her charity giving.
Meanwhile, the Sarasota house is of special interest in real estate and design history because it was built in 1948 by John Lambie Sr., who devised a poured-in-place concrete building system called “Lamolithic.” Lambie also used steel forms in the process. He built several reinforced concrete houses designed by architect Paul Rudolph and other modernist architects in the1950s in Southwest Florida. The Veale house is one of the first.
The passive-solar Veale house has 12 inches of poured concrete for walls and ceiling, and was designed in accordance with the Sarasota school of architecture’s principles of integrating indoor and outdoor spaces, deep overhangs for sun control, simple clean lines and optimum air flow, as there was no central air conditioning when it was built. Back then, it was less than half the size it is now at approximately 4,000 square feet.
Judy and George Veale bought the house in 1975 from a commercial fisherman. It had been on the market for five years.
“We weren’t married yet, and George was renting a place on Siesta Key,” Judy said. “I was teaching school and had only been in Florida for three years. I moved from Long Island to visit my dad and ended up loving Sarasota. George wanted something with two bedrooms near water, but not this thing. It didn’t look great, but the location was ideal and I could see the potential and I knew it was solidly constructed.
“I told George it was my dream home. He probably thought I was crazy, but he trusted me and took a leap of faith. He paid $37,500 for the house and there we were, suddenly with a house and a life together on this beautiful little heart-shaped island.”
Soon they also had a daughter, Carlyle, and son, George, and over the years the house evolved and changed, as did their lives. In 1981, the Veales hired architect Rick Garfinkel to do a major remodel and addition, roughly doubling the size of the residence and reconfiguring the living spaces. What was the original courtyard entrance became an enclosed living room that can accommodate 20, and the house expanded to include five bedrooms and four baths, a big eat-in kitchen and extensive outdoor living space. Three of the bedrooms now have direct access to a garden, swimming pool, porch or deck. They added central air and heat. The house, which comes with a dock, sits on a double corner lot on a saltwater canal and is an easy walk to the beach.
Judy Veale gave up teaching and opened a travel agency. George’s profession as a financial planner prospered, and the family of four began spending summers in Menaggio, Italy, on the shores of famous Lake Como.
Then the unthinkable happened. In 1995, while riding his scooter through Menaggio, George Veale was struck by a truck and died a few days later from his injuries. “I came home to Siesta Key with the children to heal,” said Veale, “and this Palm Island house became a safe place for us to adjust to the new reality and feel protected.
“Slowly, I started redoing every single room and space in this house. It was therapy. I remember one of the first things I did was Carlyle’s room, with a canopy bed and side drapes so that she could get in there and feel safe.
“The kids were at Out of Door Academy, and I began volunteering to help with school fundraising galas while at the same time working on the house. It filled my time with positive things and truly helped me find a new identity.”
Veale dressed the rooms with vivid colors and bold patterns of wallpaper. She tiled walls, ceilings and counter tops. She incorporated built-ins in each room as a convenience and some of the walls she had done in Venetian plaster by a longtime friend whom she considers a daughter, Astrid Heckert.
Every ceiling in the house is different. Some of the floors are slate, others tile or wood. The house has five bedrooms and four bathrooms, each done in a different style.
Ten years ago, Veale painted the exterior of the house three shades of purple. Then she filled the rooms with an eclectic mix of vintage and new furniture and art along with a huge collection of rabbit art and sculpture.
Veale and her children did not stop going to Menaggio for summer vacations, and a few years ago, she bought two spacious apartments in a 19th-century, terra cotta-colored Mediterranean villa overlooking the famous lake.
She regularly donates a week or two to charities for auctioning off at fundraising galas. This form of philanthropy has been so satisfying for her that Veale is launching a business for philanthropy-minded people called Charity Journeys. People donate a stay at their vacation residences to charities for auction and the donor realizes a tax benefit. She helps put the donors and the charities together.
“Homeowners of vacation properties become charity donors and get to choose their charities and raise money for a good cause without writing a check,” said Veale.
Veale says that she has pretty much detached from her Palm Island home, and even admits that the house she put so much love into might be torn down because the land could accommodate two new homes.
She has traveled to more than 100 countries and speaks several languages, so she could live abroad. But although she will continue to summer on Lake Como, often with her grown children and their friends, Veale says it’s likely she will either go west or remain in the Sarasota area.
“Either way, I’ll downsize considerably,” she said. “As it is now, I actually live in three rooms of this house, my bedroom, kitchen and den. This is a family home or one for entertaining a crowd. Not for me; I’m starting a new kind of life.”
The house is currently not listed in the MLS, but is for sale by owner.