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This Tuscan-Inspired Downtown Sarasota Condo Reminds Us of How Warm Home Decor Used to Be

An author and artist couple’s luxury waterfront condo at Condo on the Bay in downtown Sarasota is on the market for $4.45 million.

Amid the pared-down modern craze that seems to have turned much of Sarasota into neat rows of sugar cubes, we don’t see much of this condo’s Old World style on the market anymore. Maybe the trendsetters and influencers don’t go for it—but the craftsmanship gleams in the mosaic, crown molding and wood and stone details throughout this ground-floor, downtown Sarasota condo.

For Susan and Bill Kelley, it’s a place where creative juices flow in ink and oils, often fueled by the long water views of Sarasota Bay and the sunsets over the Ringling Bridge, right across from their almost 1,500 square-foot terrace on the ground floor of Condo on the Bay (formerly 888), which is on the market for $4.45 million.

The author and artist have lived here since 2000 after they rented it, fell in love and bought it in 2002 for $700,000. The previous owners spent roughly five years remodeling it “and had a woodworker from Michigan live here for two years while he worked,” Bill says.

“It’s all top of the line, and we haven’t changed much,” Susan adds. “It would have been silly to touch any of the incredible woodwork.” Indeed, her workspace is covered in black walnut and you can’t see even one screw.

Susan is the author of several books including, Real Women Send Flowers; The Second Time Around: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Remarriage Happy; a memoir called Forever Florence and, most recently, The Diagnosis Diaries which covers her experience with chronic illness. Over the years she’s been a guest relationship expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Early Show on CBS NEWS and Fox TV, to name a few.

The couple agrees that it’s dramatic and elegant, but homey. And unique. One of the two-and-a-half bathrooms has a marble-carved, Italian toilet with a gold leaf top, which they learned was similar to one owned by Frank Sinatra.

“I had to get it fixed once and was checking out parts online, and Frank’s popped up,” Bill says.

Bill is an accomplished painter, whose work reflects the people and places he’s traveled to, including pubs in Dublin and street scenes from Bangkok and Kyoto. But after the couple split time in Florence, Italy for more than 20 years, his latest work captures the cypress and vineyard rows Tuscany is known for. His oil paintings are rich in color and whimsy, and luckily, he has a gallery above Mediterraneo restaurant downtown, where breaking off for a dash of Italian flavor is steps away. It’s handy. “We’re big wine lovers,” he says.

The connection between Tuscany and Sarasota, for Bill, is the light. In Tuscany, the light is “a soft golden hue, he says. “Here, the Gulf light is brilliant and changing.” Both inspire his paintings and the vivid colors he favors. “One thing we love about being here is painting on the terrace by the sunset,” he says.

Their condo, in contrast to the slick-looking lobby, evokes another time and place, with its arched stone doorways and terracotta flooring and details in the dining room ceiling.

The Kelleys’ 2,315-square-foot condo is on the ground floor, which means the future owner won’t have to engage with the elevator–a significant perk for pet owners who need to dip out with their dog multiple times a day, says Michael Moulton, of Michael Saunders & Co., who is representing them in the sale.

The 18-story, two-building Condo by the Bay, at 888 Boulevard of the Arts, occupies a massive, 8-acre chunk of land at the water’s edge. It was built in 1982 and remains impressive even among the newest luxury towers shooting up around it lately, and it’s next door to the new The Bay Park.

But boating, along with some of the other amenities like tennis and pickleball courts, are no longer something the Kelleys need to access, and they’re looking to downsize to a smaller location but remain close to downtown. As detailed in The Diagnosis Diaries, Susan has an autoimmune disorder that affects her muscles, and walking a few steps is a challenge.

The condo has three bedrooms with two-and-a-half bathrooms. A private entrance adjacent to the gardens connects the private terrace to the heated swimming pools and fitness center.

The two guest bedrooms have been combined to function as an office with black walnut paneling, shelving and elaborate moldings, but they can be converted. It also has its own adjoining walk-out terrace.

Then there’s all the icing that comes with the cake of condo living, like a security gatehouse, concierge, bayfront pools and social get-togethers including happy hours, trivia nights and mah jong.

Is the throwback decor a factor for condo shoppers? The pictures tell all, and it’s attracting fans of the style. So far Moulton says most of the interest is coming from area residents who want to leave the islands, those transitioning from a part-time to a full-time Sarasota address and empty nesters looking to downsize. All of them want to be downtown, close to it all.

As for the Kelleys, they’re planning on returning to Florence in the spring. For now, they’ll enjoy that ever-changing Gulf light.

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