When Polish-born Maggie Fillman and her husband, Janusz, first toured the home they would eventually buy on Freeling Drive on Siesta Key, Maggie said she immediately felt that the place was familiar and much like the home where she grew up in Krakow, Poland.
Later, she learned that the 4,000-square-foot home, its detached studio and extensive private gardens were the unique creation of Polish artist Stanislas Kostka, who started work on the house of his dreams in 1997 for himself, his French wife, Anne, and their two daughters.
The artist’s inspiration was Palladian classicism combined with Kostka’s personal vision of what a Tuscan country home might look like in Sarasota. This creation of art and architecture is now on the market for $3,200,000 through Sharon Gould and Betsy de Manio of Coldwell Banker.
The Fillmans are the third owners of the property, and only know of the artist-builder through a coffee-table book about the Kostka house that is part of the home’s furnishings. Because all the furniture in the home is original to the house and much of it custom made, the Fillmans will probably sell the furniture and accessories, too, as Maggie Fillman believes they belong with the property and are part of Kostka’s artistic perspective.
Koskta sold the home in 2000 and the family moved to Longboat Key. Anne Kostka died in 2007; the artist, known for his intricately detailed paintings in the Old Masters style, no longer lives in Sarasota.
The current homeowners bought the property in 2007 as a vacation home; their primary residence was in Chicago at the time. The couple has been coming to Siesta Key since 1998 and already owned a vacation home on Siesta Key. The Freeling Drive property was larger and came with a dock and deep-water canal, which were of prime importance to Janusz Fillman, whose hobby is boating.
Three years ago, the couple sold their Chicago home and moved to Florida full-time, making the Freeling Drive house their only residence.
“Our two children were still home, and my mother-in-law intended to live here,” said Maggie, “so we converted the detached artist studio into a guest house for her.
“But now our lives have changed. Our children are out on their own, and our son will be married in the fall and plans to live in Chicago. My mother-in-law decided to return to Europe, and our daughter has finished medical school and is working at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. I am retired from a career in medical research.”
The couple has determined to downsize to a much smaller home on water because, while they need less living space and less yard to maintain, Janusz still wants deep water and a dock for his large boat.
The home is on one floor and has three bedrooms (a possible fourth with the study) and four baths with an interior space of about 4,000 square feet. The back of the home, which is designed like a Palladian country villa, wraps around an open-air swimming pool and stone outdoor entertaining area that is surrounded by lush gardens, all enclosed by a 5-foot-high wall. The house is not visible from the street, and a coded entry that opens ornate wrought-iron gates further insures security and seclusion.
Artistic flourishes are everywhere inside, with murals, tromp l’oeil, paneled walls in the study and a 20-foot beamed ceiling in the living room with plaster rosettes. Classical columns, elaborate moldings and trim, archways, oval and Palladian windows and big metal chandeliers are hallmarks of the property.
Many of the rooms have French doors that open to the pool area or a private walled garden with a stone patio.
The floors throughout are Saltillo tile from Mexico, and the roof is barrel tile. The stucco house is painted in strong Tuscan colors. A tiered and columned veranda runs the entire length of the house.
There’s a three-car garage as well as a brick-paved herringbone drive and extra parking area. Besides the detached, 1,000-square-foot guest house, the property includes a dock with synthetic Trex decking and a 12,000-pound boat lift, plus a jet-ski lift. Mooring pilings can accommodate boats up to 50 feet.
There is water and power at the dock, as well as a fish table. A brick pathway leads from the back gardens to the dock and canal, and there’s landscape night lighting throughout the property.
During the time the Fillmans have owned the property, they’ve made significant improvements, starting with converting the artist studio into a luxurious guest house. Additionally, they updated all the appliances in the kitchen and added a laundry room off the kitchen.
“What I love about this house is its European character, combined with the gardens, which are full of Florida fruit trees and colorful flowers,” said Maggie Fillman. “It’s the best of both worlds, and being on water is wonderful. Also, the street is very quiet. Once you come through the gate, this place is its own world — private and so beautiful. We love living here; I just hope we can find something a little bit like it now that we are downsizing.
“Moving is the practical thing to do, but I will miss this house.”