This is a renovation story.
But it’s also a tale of love and a marriage that evolved between two people in their 70s.
He was a widower living in a big traditional house on 5 acres with a barn in bucolic Connecticut. She was long-divorced and living comfortably in a Colonial home in Rhode Island.
With their grown children and grandchildren very much in the picture, Lois Booth and David Mattoon still felt that something was missing in their lives, and that it wasn’t too late to find out what it was.
Living 50 miles apart in different states, they each took a chance in 2011 and signed on to a senior dating site, where their carefully penned profiles brought them together.
Internet pen pals at first, their relationship led to dating, and then to love, and then the willingness to make a life together.
Lois subsequently sold her Rhode Island house and moved to Connecticut, where they renovated David’s large, two-story Colonial house to suit the two of them, although both were comfortable with traditional New England furnishings and antiques.
David was a collector of both large and small toys. His barn held nine dune buggies that he built himself. They talked about marriage, but on the advice of their financial planners, decided against it.
“But on a vacation to Sarasota, we decided to have a private commitment ceremony on Siesta Key beach; that was November of 2012,” remembered Lois. “Dave had never been to Sarasota, but I have a daughter here, and friends. He connected with Florida right away, and we subsequently bought a villa condo with the idea of spending winters here.
“But a year later, we wanted to be here permanently, so we put the Connecticut house on the market and began looking for a neighborhood and the ideal house and grounds in southwest Florida.”
The couple searched from Parrish to Venice, and all over Sarasota and the barrier islands, before their real estate agent took them to Woodlands II in Bent Tree.
“It was just like coming home,” said David. “The houses have generous space between them and the setting is natural with plenty of trees and canopied streets, as well as several lakes. Like country, but in the city.”
They bought a one-story custom ranch, built in 1986, that had been well maintained over the years but not updated or renovated in any way. At 2,200 square feet, it was on the small side for the neighborhood, but plenty big enough for a downsizing retired couple.
“We loved the setting of the house and grounds, but not the inside,” said Lois. “We knew we’d renovate. But, since we had a good experience with the Connecticut place, we believed we could do this together and that it would be an adventure, because we decided not to go traditional, but to try something new.
“I had somewhat of a vision, but absolutely no idea how to get there.”
Lois’s daughter did an Internet search for interior designers and recommended to her mother Mark Dalton and Jessica Napoli of Dalton’s company, Chic on the Cheap Mark came for a consultation,” said Lois, “and walked through the house without saying anything for about 30 minutes. Then he sat down with us and laid out a plan that we immediately saw through his eyes, and we liked what he saw. It was all about making the spaces lighter, brighter, open and totally contemporary.
“That contemporary part was completely foreign to me, but Dave and I could see what he was getting at, and we signed on.”
They signed on for a lot, because less than halfway through the renovation process, their Siesta Key villa sold and they had to move into a construction site.
“We lived in our bedroom and master bath, which got done first, and we cooked on the grill on the lanai,” said David. “It was quite a mess, but it got me used to living with white walls. I’d never lived in a house before where almost all the walls were white. It does make everything seem cleaner, lighter and bright. Now, I like it.”
Designer Napoli reports that the main part of the house is painted in Benjamin Moore White Opulence.
Dalton and Napoli tore down walls, expanded the kitchen, removed wooden beams in the living room, got rid of popcorn ceilings, modernized bathrooms and took up old carpeting. The new flooring is wire-brushed white oak, just right for easy care, and it’s dog-impervious, which is good news to Gus, the family pet.
The kitchen, dining area and living room are all one flowing space, and the only thing the designers kept was the stacked-stone, raised-hearth fireplace at one end of the living room. It’s a focal point to be sure, but now it shares the spotlight with a life-size carved statue of a clown.
David, ever the toy collector, spotted it, brought it home and named him Woody (after the Woodlands II neighborhood).
The orange color in Woody’s costume is picked up in other areas of the house. The guest room and laundry room are painted a shade of orange called Buttered Yam, by Benjamin Moore. The laundry room is twice its original size because the designers took space from an adjacent powder room that the couple didn’t need.
“The kitchen is double its former self, and it’s completely open, with lovely views to the back yard,” said designer Napoli.
“The island is the centerpiece of the kitchen, and, indeed, this whole part of the house. It’s 4 feet wide and 10 feet long with a beautiful granite called Copenhagen.
“We had to exactly match two pieces of stone to get the continuity and sweep of the veining. It’s absolutely gorgeous and has incredible movement. The homeowners don’t call it a counter, they call it the Mystic River.”
Lois says that when they entertain, which this kitchen is made for, everybody gathers around the Mystic River. “No matter where I plan to serve food or drinks, guests end up in the kitchen. It’s so beautiful and so functional that it’s fine with me.”
Lois and Dave entertain often and are so fond of their Bent Tree Woodlands II neighborhood that Dave is now on the homeowners’ association board; Lois wrote the new welcome brochure. The Woodlands II and Woodlands Lakes have a total of 178 homes on 220 wooded acres. There are four neighborhoods in Bent Tree, a gated community that was started in 1973 and finished in 1998.
The couple’s most recent renovation was to their “single” status. Lois and David expanded upon their private commitment ceremony by officially getting married on Venice Beach on June 24, 2015, which is Lois’s birthday.
“I turned 75, but Dave didn’t until the following December,” reveals Lois. “Does that make me a cougar?”