The great (looking) outdoors

Bird Key RenovationBird Key Renovation

May 29, 2010 Section: G Page: G01    MARSHA FOTTLER Interior designer Bonnie Lancaster‘s clients, a youthful retired couple who moved to Sarasota two years ago from New Jersey, selected their Bird Key home for the water views and the potential for creating comfortably elegant outdoor areas for dining, relaxing, and entertaining out-of-town family and local friends. “We chose Bird Key for its proximity to downtown and to St. Armands Circle,” said the husband, “and because we like the quiet suburban feel of the community. We picked this particular house because of its views of Sarasota Bay and because we could add a dock. I love to kayak and now I just walk to the end of the dock, climb in and go. We knew from the start we’d have to find a designer and do some renovation on the house as well as create outdoor spaces that would extend our living area and give us options for entertaining.”


The homeowner, who will remain unnamed because the couple likes to keep a low profile, describes the house (about 4,500 square feet) as “a 1960s ranch that’s been renovated umpteen times. Ours is the umpteenth-and-one renovation,” he says. Lancaster came to the project after the homeowners saw examples of her work in publications.


And she was recommended by friends. After interviewing several designers, the homeowners knew they’d found a kindred spirit.


“This couple lived in London and Hong Kong and are widely traveled,” says Lancaster, who also lived abroad. “And they have collections that are basically English and Asian. What they wanted in a design scheme is a British Colonial look that would embrace their collections but also fully incorporate outdoor spaces into their day to day life.”


A swimming pool was already on the property, but no one had developed functional outdoor living rooms.


“Once I had the theme I was ready to go, because when you have water views like this you want outside to be part of your living space,” says Lancaster. “Reworking outside spaces so that they are a natural extension of a home’s interior is the ideal way to live in this part of Florida, and everyone ought to try and achieve it, no matter how small your outside areas.”


At the front of the house the designer transformed the look and function of the dwelling by adding an enclosed entrance courtyard she describes as classically comfortable. The walled courtyard is furnished with a wall fountain, English-style garden bench and a round table and chairs for dining. Lancaster also added a 48-inch square custom mirror inside the courtyard that mimics the black union squares that ornament the exterior of the house and give the residence a British Colonial aspect. She put in new windows and black Bermuda shutters.


“The mirror in the courtyard visually expands the courtyard,” she explains, “and it’s a useful trick if you’re dealing with a small space. The homeowners have two spaniels, black and white, who appreciate the courtyard for lounging, and my clients use it as a private getaway for reading or having lunch together. When it’s too sunny or windy at the back of the house, it’s peaceful and shady here in the front courtyard.”<NO1> The husband says this is the spot where he often<NO><NO1> enjoys a cigar in the evening.<NO>


At the back bayside of the house, French doors open from the inside dining room to extend to the loggia dining area, the focal point of which is a gas-burning fireplace. Lancaster decided not to include a mantel.


“I didn’t want to take up extra space with it, and besides, the look would have been a little too formal. I also knew that a bleached elk skull with antlers was destined to be the art piece over the fireplace – the homeowner is a hunter – so that was plenty enough for the fireplace.”


The loggia ceiling is a white wood plank in a hip-roof design.


A fan and light are over the table.


“I generally don’t like to use a light kit when I install a fan, but the clients needed an illumination over the table so I did this time,” she says. “Additionally, we installed recessed lighting and ambient lighting including pillar candles in black lanterns that can be moved around. People often forget about a good lighting plan for outdoor spaces until it’s too late and then they can’t use the area the way they want. Think about lighting early in the plan.”


For furniture, the clients chose black powder-coated aluminum pieces.


The flooring outside on the loggia and pool deck is consistent in color and texture with the inside dining room.


“It’s marble inside and coral stone in the loggia,” says Lancaster, “but when you look across the two spaces, the flooring looks exactly the same, which creates continuity between inside and out, a harmonious flow. Consistent flooring is a key element in successfully integrating in and out spaces. Another is color, especially wall color.”


Three other more casual furniture arrangements, two overlooking the dock and bay and another one at poolside, complete the outdoor living area.


“Because the primary appeal of this house to my clients is water access and great views of Sarasota Bay, I incorporated the colors of the water into the fabrics that we chose for the furniture, area carpets, paint colors and such, both inside and out. Whatever your views are to the outside – garden, pond, nature preserve – bring some of those nature colors inside and onto your patio and lanai and you’re one step closer to having the perfect outdoor living area.”