Boston buyers and local designer turn Sarasota condo into dream home
The journey to their new 4,000 square foot Sarasota Ritz-Carlton condominium took nearly three years for owners Steve Dexter, a recently retired institutional fund manager, and Bill Schroeder, who has traveled the world working on mergers and acquisitions. The men met 35 years ago when they had jobs on Wall Street and have been together ever since, owning and reimagining several residences along the way. Both are graduates of the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Their Sarasota experience began when they walked into a sales gallery at the Ritz-Carlton hotel and studied plans for a new condominium tower. “We knew people who had moved to Sarasota seasonally or full time, so we came from Boston to visit the city and the housing market,” Steve said. “We were both nearing retirement and didn’t want to stay in the northeast. We liked the size of Sarasota, all the cultural amenities, the proximity to an airport – it seemed like a great place to buy a home and become a Florida resident. Additionally, Bill and I have lived at Ritz-Carlton properties in the past and appreciate the amenities and service. We were confident we would buy the pre-build, but always knew we would personalize the whole place once we moved in. This is exactly who we are. We are always personalizing and personalizing.
The new Ritz-Carlton residences consist of 73 condominiums in an 18-story waterfront tower located adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton hotel and in the wharf.
The men bought on the 16th floor and chose an end unit because they wanted to maximize windows, views, and the amount of natural light entering the rooms. For a floor, they chose the Armands model which includes three bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms and a den. During the construction of the condo tower, Steve lived in their urban condominium in Boston at the Millennium Tower and Bill lived in a condominium in St. Petersburg that he had had for 15 years, as it is often a platform for convenient landing for traveling. They have since sold the St. Pete Residence and the Boston condominium is on the market. The men are both full-time in Sarasota now.
A few months after purchasing the Armand model at the Ritz-Carlton residences, the men decided it was time to connect with a Sarasota interior designer to begin design changes for their new home. They searched online and picked the firm Chic on The Cheap, then interviewed lead designer Jill Geisdorf. They knew it was a good fit from the start.
“Jill is experienced, practical, has a great supplier relationship and understood our style and what we wanted to accomplish,” Steve said. “As the three of us spent more time working together, it became evident to Bill and I that his personality made this process even more rewarding. She was never stressed, she remained flexible, offered us many options but never got angry if we rejected them. She definitely pushed us out of our comfort zone a few times as if to test us and she didn’t mind if we pushed back. Overall, it improved our ideas.
The design team decided not to knock down any walls because the floor was open and the rooms were already spacious. But they needed a contractor and made Jeff Francola’s J&K Building and Remodeling their choice. The change has begun.
“One of the most spectacular things we did was customize the foyer of the private elevator,” said Jill. “These areas tend to be a bit boring with maybe art, a mirror, and a table. But we focused on the front door and removed what was there and replaced it with a five foot wide pivot door designed by Real Woods. Then Doudney Sheet Metal added polished chrome trim on all sides and I had the door coated in taupe gray. It’s a wow factor before you even enter the apartment. We finished it off with a chandelier from Hubbardton Forge and a rug from Rugs As Art.
The team also opted for a suspended ceiling in the great room so that they could add personalized overhead lighting. Above the dining table in this open space is the focal point of the large room, a modern chandelier made up of swirling, shimmering objects that from a distance resemble abstract fish (or perhaps birds).
“I was in Sarasota looking for a fixture for this space and Steve and Bill were doing the same in Boston,” Jill said. “Regardless, we came across an art chandelier from the Ocher company. It was really expensive and I was hesitant to bring it to them. Then I realized they had chosen the same and that was it. The light fixture is a subtle nod to the apartment’s view of Sarasota Bay. Steve and Bill didn’t want a beach look at all, but this modern art lamp recognizes the location of the house in a witty, modern way.
The ocher light fixture (called Moonlight Murmuration) is such a dominant element in the dining room, kitchen, and great room, that the owners have opted for recessed lighting in the kitchen instead of pendant lights on the white quartz island. They didn’t want to disrupt the space around the chandelier with other hanging objects.
Next to the sleek white and gray kitchen (appliances hidden behind the cabinets) was a large walk-in pantry. The owners didn’t need it, so they turned it into a wine cellar. In a transition area between the dining room and the great room was a bar with sink. The owners didn’t need it since they had a wine cellar. So this niche could be anything. Jill came up with the idea for a custom designed blue velvet bench with deep drawers underneath wired for docking stations for electronics and general storage. It is a dramatic and unexpected built-in piece of furniture that is both functional and very glamorous.
Men’s taste for design and furnishings is what they call contemporary European, but they asked their designer to source furniture, appliances, and cabinets made in the United States to the extent of the possible.
“My clients had furniture in their Boston apartment that they left there to decorate the rooms to show,” Jill said. “So five months after they hired me, they took me to Boston to see the apartment because they wanted to bring key pieces to Florida after the Boston place was sold. I took pictures, took measurements, noted the color scheme, and when we shopped for the Sarasota condo, left room for what would come from Massachusetts. Some of the Boston apartment art that we cropped and chose new things that would complement the existing pieces.
In the furnishings, the owners lean slightly towards minimalism. They don’t care about accessories, don’t tolerate cushions, don’t display collections, avoid a lot of table lamps or stacks of books masquerading as decor, and they severely limit the number of end tables allowed in. any room.
“One of the things we love about this Ritz-Carlton apartment is the size of the rooms,” Steve said. “They are big and open. We want to take advantage of it, so our approach is to avoid cluttering them up with stuff. Their wall mounted television is concealed behind artwork that disappears when the device is turned on. In the custom den, a beautiful paneled wall with concealed storage options accommodates the TV at its center.
Homeowners don’t like a lot of bright colors or lively patterns, but they like the color blue – a deep, strong blue, not a pastel. Their designer therefore focused on texture for additional visual interest by using leather, buckle, linen and silk in the curtains and upholstery. The high headboard in the owners bedroom is a custom wood installation from Lambright Construction. All rugs in the region are one hundred percent wool. All the cupboards have been personalized and the window treatments are automated.
The whole process of working with their designer from Sarasota took two years. All three say it didn’t seem like so long ago that they had a good time discovering new products and considering various options. With patience, consultation, and skill in getting around the inconveniences of sourcing COVID-related materials, Steve and Bill reinvented a new condominium through focused construction and design projects. They realized their vision of their ideal home in Sarasota and turned something generic into something unique and personal.