Sarasota Style

by Pamela Hughes

One of the things we like to do in our work is to celebrate the place we’re in.  If we’re in the mountains, be rustic and bold; if we’re in the city, be sophisticated and urbane; and if we’re at the beach, then be casual and light. 

My first project in the Sarasota area was working on The Ritz-Carlton.  We had done other projects for The Ritz in locations across the country, but when I first came here to look at the area and start working I knew this was someplace special.  And by the time we were done with the project, I was looking for a home to call my own here.  Somehow, you just know when a place is right.  It feels like home.  For me it was the warmth, the light, the colors of the sea and sky, the drama of the sunsets.

So working here, I like to use and emphasize those colors that are this place.  I like my palette here to be full of lightness.  The walls are a creamy pale sand, just like the beach.  The fabrics are light and airy, with lots of natural fibers and colors, and accents of blues and aquamarines.  Interest can be found in the counterpoints of dark or painted furniture and bold lamps and, of course, art. 

In other articles, we’ll talk about these things in greater detail, and give examples and solve problems that are common to Sarasota and part of what gives it its charm.  We’ll go shopping in the area and look for art.  We’ll look at projects and answer questions that both newcomers and those who have been here for quite a while are looking to solve.  We’ll talk about lighting and furnishings, keeping rooms open and spare, planning room layouts, “aging in place”, palettes derived from the area, materials, fabrics and the gamut of elements that make up design.  But through it all, will be the things that are unique to western Florida and especially our beloved Sarasota. 

For now, though, we’ll talk in generalities.

Some of the things that we did at The Ritz, that first project of ours here, can be used in individual residences as well.  We kept the palette light.  The floors are a rich, but pale polished marble – overlaid here and there with thick, richly patterned rugs.  The floors were polished for the hotel and suitable for it, but for a residence, we often prefer honed or “tumbled” stones, which give a more casual, softer finish and appeal.

We kept the furnishings spare.  That is one of the lessons of working here:  fewer large pieces in the rooms make the rooms more airy and light.  It is refreshing to be in places were there is room to move, and space and light are as much a part of the furnishings as a sofa.

It is always better to have a few really good things as many things of lesser quality.  A few fine antiques show off so well against an open room, where the details and patina of a piece can stand out.  We like to mix antiques and contemporary furnishings.  Good design knows no borders or time periods.  We can love a fine old armoire or desk as much as a spare elegant sideboard from today.  And they usually go well together!

Another thing that we love to do is keeping things casual – we are at the beach after all.  But keeping things casual does not mean sloppy or inelegant.  Our rooms are often treated with crown mouldings (of the proper scale), and perhaps added wainscoting for the more important rooms such as the living room, dining room and entry areas.  Then the materials are kept light, the spaces open and the colors fresh and pale.  The lines of furniture are not heavy or fussy.  Even chairs are often open-armed and not fully upholstered.  All in an effort to create that open, easy mood.

So come back from the beach club or the golf course, kayaking among the mangroves, or shopping on St. Armands and nestle in to your light and casual, fresh and breezy Sarasota home.  And if it’s not all that already, then keep an eye out for our additional tips on making your home that and more.


Hughes Design Associates