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A now house that’s a wow house – Sarasota Herald |

A now house that’s a wow house – Sarasota Herald

People coming to the Laurel Oak home of Paula and Rick Dies are likely to describe the 3,900-square-foot house as chic, contemporary and comfortable. The homeowners see why those descriptions are apt. But when they talk about their house and its design, they call it the “now” house because it is designed and furnished for the way they live at this moment.

When the couple moved from Atlanta in 2011, they had criteria for choosing a neighborhood and a house. Rick Dies had retired from his career with UPS and Paula was ready to close her 30-year-old interior design firm. 

“Rick plays golf and I’m learning so we wanted a golf course community,” Paula Dies said. “Also, I wanted a home smaller and more contemporary than the six-bedroom, formal place we had in Atlanta and we both wanted a home for the way we live now. Kids are grown, Rick is retired and we wanted a carefree life with plenty of time to relax, enjoy Florida outdoor life and entertain friends and neighbors in a place where the pool, summer kitchen, eating and relaxing areas would merge with the indoor spaces.”

They chose the Laurel Oak community and bought a 1992, one-story Arthur Rutenberg-designed home with three bedrooms. They were impressed with the generous size of the lot and the oversized three-car garage. 

“We liked that the house was oriented to the lanai and to views of the golf course,” Rick Dies said. “But we knew that we would eventually renovate to update but also to reconfigure and repurpose all the spaces to conform to how we wanted to use them. We didn’t want wasted space and rooms we wouldn’t use and enjoy every day — didn’t want a formal separate dining room, didn’t need a formal living room, didn’t want three bedrooms, didn’t want the kitchen closed off.”

It took nearly four years, however, to get ready to tackle the job.

“Before undertaking a massive and expensive renovation, I wanted to be absolutely sure that this was the right neighborhood for us and that this was the right house,” Paula Dies said. “So every weekend I dragged Rick to model homes, new communities, established neighborhoods — we went all over this county. At the same time, we were making notes and drawings of how we’d ideally change things where we were living.

“Finally, we agreed that Laurel Oak was for us and that we could make this house our perfect ‘now’ house.”

They gave their architectural drawings to a draftsman for an official house plan. Paula Dies signed on as interior designer and Rick Dies took on the job as general contractor. He estimates he saved about 30 percent of the overall designated budget by being the general contractor.

“It wasn’t as daring as it sounds,” Paula Dies said. “Rick was raised on a farm in Oklahoma, which means he can do anything. Also, after he retired, he and a couple friends formed a small company buying derelict homes, reconditioning and then selling them. So, he had experience with supervising the remodeling of several properties. 

“We both knew he could do this job but since we were relatively new to the area he had to do a lot of interviewing of sub-contractors before hiring any. Also, he took the job truly seriously. He was on the site every single day of the 18-month renovation, paying equal attention to the details and the overall project.”

The couple did not change the footprint of the house. But they did take every wall down to the studs. During the renovation, they lived in a rented house nearby, storing the furniture they brought with them from Atlanta. During the renovation, as it became clear which pieces they would not use in the new house, they got rid of furniture and accessories in garage sales.

Other pieces Paula Dies recycled with new upholstery or paint. 

“Nearly all of our art was framed in gold, which was our metal of choice in the Atlanta home,” she said. “I just painted the frames silver since that’s the metallic color we chose for this place. I repainted lamp bases, mirror frames, knobs on consoles and bedside tables, things like that.

“I did invest in custom lampshades that fit the style of the house. For the money, custom lamp shades are a great investment.” 

For new furniture, lighting and accessories, the designer went to Sarasota Architectural Salvage, Franklin Lighting, Robb Stucky, Z Gallerie, HomeGoods, the internet and sources that are open exclusively to people in the design trade.

They relocated a bathroom, made the kitchen-bar-dining-family room one big, flowing space oriented toward the pool and the lanai with its summer kitchen. They converted the interior space into a two-bedroom house. One former bedroom is Rick Die’s office.

“I did put a sleeper sofa in there,” Paula Dies said, “but we just have one designated guest room now and it’s enough.”

The designer turned a home office that had been off the master bedroom into a world class walk-in closet/dressing room. 

“It’s glamorous, fabulous, and it’s everything I wanted in a closet,” said Paula Dies, who arranges her clothes by color behind glass doors. Handbags and shoes are displayed as if there were in a high-end boutique. “I’m one of those designers who says you should put a lot of the budget into the kitchen and into closets that function beautifully and look stunning.”

The centerpiece of the open kitchen is a quartz-clad 10-foot-by-9-foot center island with a pop-up television that swivels at one end.

Instead of bar stools, comfortable upholstered chairs are placed by the island, the same chairs that are at the dining table a few feet away. The galley sink is a 5-foot-long beauty with two faucets, built-in sliding cutting boards and a built-in colander. The cabinets are hand-glazed and painted Hammered Silver and the walls throughout most of the house are Popular Gray (both from Sherwin Williams). The couple chose a neutral color scheme with infusions of cobalt blue coming from accessories and wall art. The floors are marble. The couple opted for plantation shutters and simple window treatments.

“This house is the opposite of the Atlanta one,” the designer said. “Here we have no arches, columns, fancy molding, no tray or coffered ceilings. We chose clean lines, low maintenance and comfort with style.

“We put most of our budget into the area that’s the kitchen/bar/dining area and great room with its feature wall and electric fireplace. These are spaces we use and enjoy every day,” she said. 

“Renovation is a challenge even for professionals but it’s worth taking the time to do it right. Now, we’re staying put.”


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