Sarasota Casual

by Pamela Hughes

One of the things so many of us love most about Sarasota is that it is casual, but also elegant.  We dress casually but elegantly, achieving this look with sometimes just one small detail: a stunning necklace with white jeans, or perhaps a silk handkerchief in a sportcoat pocket worn with blue jeans.  We have so many elegant places to go: fabulous restaurants, The Van Wezel, The Asolo, festive social events and a myriad of other cultural and social venues.  Being casual but elegant is a great way to be comfortable but still look and feel appropriately and beautifully dressed.

The same concept applies to interior design.  In Sarasota, particularly, we love the outdoors: the water, the sun, the beach and our gardens.  A successful interior here is one that celebrates all of these glorious exterior elements in a casual but elegant manner.

Sarasota designs are looser and lighter than up north.  We use less furniture and lighter fabrics.  The floor plans tend to be more open, rooms flow from one to another, and especially to the outdoors.  Elegance remains, but there is a transparency to the open air.
Light is allowed to be a part of the overall design, and windows are either left uncovered or softly draped, sometimes hiding a required solar shade for functionality.
Mirrors are effective in that they reflect the outdoor spaces, increasing that sense of oneness with the natural world.

Another design element that is used frequently in Sarasota and similar climates is the outdoor “living room” or loggia.  These rooms are furnished as comfortably and as beautifully as any interior room, and often can be closed off from the elements or when the owners are out of town. 

Outside rooms are the utmost in luxury--gorgeous furnishings to be enjoyed in gorgeous weather.  You can create these outdoor living spaces on balconies with oversize and comfortable chaise lounges, and on terraces with smaller seating and tables.
In fact, there are so many new and stylish outdoor furniture designs available today that these outdoor spaces truly can look and feel as luxurious as any interior space.

The casual look is also achieved with not only less furniture, but lighter colored furniture, often with a painted finish.  Use darker pieces for accents to keep the room light and airy.  Go easy on the accessories.  Let the furniture and art carry the room.  A few large pieces are much more dramatic and effective then a collection of small items.  And easier to take care of also!  Remember, less is usually more, and this holds true when creating a casual yet elegant interior.

We previously wrote of our exquisite Sarasota waters, skies and sunsets.  We spoke of capturing the sparkling azure blue, clear aquamarine and effervescent sea greens so often seen in our celebrated environment.  Color is so important that it is worth mentioning these tones again.  Pair them with some soft neutrals and sand tones and you have an easy, but striking color palette.


And speaking of water, tie that wonderful element into your design scheme by using fountains, pools and ponds, large or small, to create that other sense of casual elegance.

Gardens are often an integral part of a Sarasota home.  Lush foliage adds freshness and can create an extension of the house that is used all year long.  Courtyards and intimate garden areas allow us to enjoy the outdoors in an elegant way.  Because of this relationship, patterns and textures from nature, captured in fabrics, add to this special casual, yet elegant feeling. 

Casual but elegant natural materials, which also bring the outdoors in, are special wood species for ceilings such as clear cypress, pecky cypress, and douglas fir.  Flooring can be rustic but elegant using any number of porcelain tiles or terra cotta.

Mix all of these elements together, remember that what is most beautiful is our natural environment, and you have a casual but elegant Sarasota style home.


Hughes Design Associates