March 25, 2018 | Herald Tribune

Chicago couple opt for a care-free lifestyle in Sarasota

Alice Tybout and her husband, Brian Sternthal, who both teach at the Kellogg School of Management, the business school at Northwestern University, knew exactly what they wanted
in a vacation residence and were willing to spend quite a bit of time finding their perfect
Florida retreat.

“We started coming to this area 15 years ago to visit friends in Bradenton,” Alice said. “A few years later we came down and rented a house on Oak Street in Sarasota while we looked at a variety of downtown buildings. But nothing was just right so we kept searching. Then we saw some models at the Orange Club and signed on to purchase a unit in 2015.”

They knew it when they saw it and didn’t hesitate in making the purchase.

Their mandates were specific. No barrier islands and it had to be new construction with a contemporary design and virtually no maintenance. And their ideal vacation residence had to be in a downtown neighborhood so Alice and Brian could walk or ride their bikes to restaurants, galleries, farmers market, theaters and more. They didn’t care about water or woodsy views and they wanted to spend less than a million dollars. The Orange Club came through with everything, and they were able to customize their 1,600-square-foot condominium pre-construction with the help of interior designer Jill Geisdorf of Chic on the Cheap. She was recommended to Alice by friends.

Homeowner Alice Tybout with interior designer Jill Geisdorf. They collaborated on a contemporary scheme paying particular attention to the scale of furniture and accessories because they did not want the furniture to overwhelm the space. Alice picked out the rug in Chicago and it set the color palette for the room. [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Dan Wagner]


Still in blueprint stage, the couple were able to reconfigure the laundry room, choose a gas range and grill for the terrace off the living room, customize a lighting scheme, add floor electrical outlets, and put down engineered hardwood floors throughout.

The organization of the spaces is a split-plan, two bedrooms on one side of the apartment and the master on the other. “My main concerns were maximizing the function of every space and not overwhelming rooms with furniture that was too big or heavy,” said Alice. “It came down to a matter of proportion and finding pieces that would be comfortable, flexible and stylish but right for the ceiling height and the size of the rooms. I wasn’t confident about doing this alone so I relied a lot on Jill’s expert eye when it came to the scale of everything.

Together they collaborated on furniture, lighting and accessories purchased in Chicago at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams showroom and at Room & Board. Locally, they found streamlined modern pieces at Arhaus, Bee Ridge Lighting, Sarasota Home Collection, Rugs as Art and Home Resource.

The kitchen, which is open to the living and dining area, in the Orange Club condominium that Chicago residents Alice Tybout and Brian Sternthal chose for their Sarasota vacation destination. They bought the unit pre-construction and were able to customize. The couple worked with interior designer Jill Geisdorf and contractor Jeff Francola. They chose an edgy and modern light fixture from Bee Ridge Lighting for over the quartz counter because it’s a piece of modern art that provides great light too. [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Dan Wagner]


“Alice likes greenery but she isn’t here enough to maintain live plants,” said designer Jill Geisdorf, “so we found some wonderful faux plants at Lux-Art Silks for the terrace along with a candle wall from Crate & Barrel. The candles are battery operated and on a timer. So when she and Brian sit out there at night, the ambience is ideal.

“Inside we did little touches that personalize the home but have a purpose. The seated Buddha is from Pier One and cleverly conceals a wall outlet. The light fixture over the quartz kitchen island is intentionally large and edgy. It’s both an art feature and provides good light. It’s one of the first things anyone notices when they come in.”

One of the bedrooms functions as a den, too. So a Murphy bed system from More Space Place gives the couple the ultimate flexibility of an extra queen-size bed that’s totally out of the way. And, the bed descends over the sofa. Only the back sofa cushions need to be removed. The ottoman in the room conceals a pop-up table.

The master bedroom in the Orange Club condominium that Alice Tybout and Brian Sternthal chose for their Florida getaway. Both teach at the Kellogg School of Management, the business school at Northwestern University. Their vacations in Florida are organized around an academic calendar so they spend long weekends and weeks, not months in Sarasota. [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Dan Wagner]


In the dining area the designer recommended banquette seating to save space. Alice says she can comfortably do dinner for eight. The color palette throughout is a combination of gray-hued neutrals with blue as the primary accent color expressed in area rugs, table lamps, art and the den sofa which Alice admitted was a leap of faith. “I was afraid it was too bright, but Jill convinced me to go for it and I love it. It makes the room.”

The homeowners said they spent about 15 percent of the purchase price on the interior design. “We went a little over because of electronics,” said Alice, “but we wanted everything concealed so we were willing to spend a little more. And my husband, who had very few things he had to have, wanted a specific brand of luxury toaster. It might be his favorite thing in the place. Everything we selected with Jill came together to make this exactly what we want in a vacation retreat.”

The terrace off the living room. The homeowners specifically wanted rocking chairs. Faux greenery from Lux-Art Silks. The candle wall (battery powered candles on a timer) is from Crate & Barrel. The furniture is from Home Resource. [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Dan Wagner]


The couple’s time in Sarasota is measured in days and weeks, not months, because their travel time is organized around a university academic calendar.

“Our house in Chicago is over a hundred years old and the yard is big.” said Alice. “You can imagine the maintenance and we’re both working full time. And then there’s the weather. That’s why it is so wonderful to get away and come to Sarasota. We walk into our little home here at the Orange Club and there is nothing to do but decide if we want to walk to Selby Gardens or take a stroll downtown and find a restaurant for dinner. When we retire, we’re going to be here all winter long.”

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