If you want to make your friends up North shiver, mention that, in February, the average daily temperature in Venice is 82 degrees and the nighttime temp dips to a bone-chilling 64. Do it at your own risk, though—you may get hordes of out-of-town company. Our mild winter climate is made for outdoor living. To inspire you, here are three examples of homeowners who went above and beyond.
Relaxed Elegance On Casey Key
This Casey Key Gulf-front residence manages the perfect balance of elegance and relaxed outdoor living. Architect Clifford Scholz designed the Mediterranean-style home with ample intimate outdoor rooms that take advantage of the beachfront setting. There’s a lanai that runs across the rear of the home for sunset-watching, an outdoor kitchen/dining area adjacent to the pool and, for nippy evenings, a seating area with a massive fireplace as its centerpiece. “At 9 o’clock on an evening there’s no place better to be,” says the husband of the house. In fact, he says, “Our challenge is what beautiful area we want to go sit in.”
The homeowners have a large extended family of four grown children and eight young grandchildren who gather from across the country to enjoy Florida holidays together. “The 5- and 6-year-olds love the ocean; they love the pool,” he says. “The last time they were here, we saw big turtles on the beach, and dolphins were right off the house doing flips in the air. It looked like Sea World; they were putting on a little show for us.”
And perhaps the pièce de résistance for all three generations, he says, is the outdoor shower. “My wife and I were down for 21 days in November,” he says. “We never took a shower inside the house.”
An Ace On The Gulf
Set on 300 feet of beachfront on Casey Key, this may be the world’s most beautiful tennis court view. It was built by the original owners of the very private, walled Casey Key estate at 411 N. Casey Key Road. “They were strong, competitive recreational players,” says listing agent Tamara Currey of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. She is looking for another good sport with the means to purchase the $8.9 million complex, which includes a main residence and a guest house, one at 5,000 square feet and the other at 4,000 square feet. (Hey, the whole team could bunk here.) The concrete tennis court has outdoor lighting and a sound system—for prerecorded stadium cheers, perhaps—and Currey says it’s been well maintained over the years. Other outdoor amenities include a resort-style pool, a summer kitchen, multiple lounging areas and a bay easement on the south side of the property.
A Venice Island Pool Garden
Peter Sayer recognized a hidden gem when he found a true midcentury-modern ranch on the island of Venice, designed and built in 1955 by Michigan architect Jack Monteith. An architect himself, Sayer snapped it up and developed a thoughtful interior expansion plus pool pavilion and garden that honor the home’s midcentury roots.
Sayer ripped out the existing flat-roofed pool cage and built a handsome dining and lounging pavilion; in a nod to the Sarasota School of Architecture, his materials were concrete blocks and powder-coated aluminum, and he added generous five-foot shade overhangs. The green sculpture on the wall is by Christopher Curnan; Sayer brought it from his Connecticut home when he made the permanent move to Venice. He landscaped the “lawn” at the other end (it’s actually artificial turf) with triangle palms and a Chinese fantail palm. Sayer must have acclimated to the Florida weather, because he swims in the unheated pool every day until mid-December. “Having been brought up on Long Island Sound, I’m used to cold water,” he says.
Trends in Outdoor Living
Outdoor kitchens are bigger and more well-equipped than ever, with high-end grills, refrigerators, wine coolers, sinks and lots of prep counter space and storage cabinets. And they’re designed with long-lasting stone countertops and tile backsplashes, just like the kitchen inside.
Consider a wood-fired pizza oven. Freestanding models are available for under $1,000, though you could spend as much as $12,000 for a built-in pizza oven. Smokers and beer taps are also fun options.
Outdoor furniture is undergoing a renaissance, with top-quality construction and stylish designs that would look just as good in your indoor living room or den. And outdoor fabrics, too, have gone 21st century with a whole new range of colors and patterns without sacrificing durability.
Don’t forget Fido. Furniture manufacturers have introduced outdoor furniture that incorporates dog-sized cubby compartments, pet-sized Adirondack chairs and outdoor rattan dog beds with shade canopies that are smaller versions of outdoor furniture for grown-ups.
Solar is the way to go for path lighting, exterior wall lighting and lighting that spotlights particularly sculptural trees. And for that outdoor bistro effect, go for LED lights on strings.
A whole crop of stylish gas firepit tables has hit the market, in modern geometric shapes that complement your furniture. One good local source is Detweiler’s Propane Gas Service, detweilers propane.com.
Consider using native plants to landscape your outdoor areas to save on water and maintenance. The University of Florida IFAS Extension Program has a Florida-Friendly landscaping program with lots of tips.