There is the art of living, and then there is learning to live with art. It is a refined talent of curating one’s own collection, picking and choosing what stays and what goes. When a Midwestern couple purchased a high-rise vacation residence nestled within Naples Cay, they created a luxurious living environment showcasing their treasured collection of fine art. Trading the powder white snow of their main residence for the powder white sand of Southwest Florida, the couple located the ideal beachfront community, surrounded by 33 panoramic acres of protected nature preserves.
The 6,000-square-foot, high-rise residence is only accessible by a concierge escort in a private elevator. Rich wood double doors open into an Asian-inspired grand foyer. What lies next resembles a veritable art gallery. A stunning, modern, equestrian painting becomes the focal point of the entrance and is perched opposite a luminous, antique mirror. Onward to an Anthony Quinn stone sculpture of an embrace, artfully lit and nestled within a velvet-lined niche. And just as you turn the corner, a gallery hallway reveals a masterpiece; a portrait of William Shakespeare by Pablo Picasso. This special commemorative portrait was created in the 1960s to honor the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. A masterful work of the revolutionary Spanish artist, it is cleverly flanked by a pair of colorful Asian paintings and sits just above an extraordinary black and gold Ming Dynasty chest.
This magnificent residence was completely renovated — and expanded — by Mike Vitte and his expert team at Mike Vitte Construction. With over twenty years experience, this former aerospace engineer and perfectionist, and the son of a home builder, was just the man for this challenge. So proficient in the field of high-rise construction methods, he has even published a book, Renovating Condominiums with Less Stress and More Success. According to Vitte, the greatest challenge here is that the architects and builders must be keenly aware of what is above, below, and what came before. For the most part, plumbing can’t be relocated and concrete floors and ceilings cannot be drilled. Most notably, extending the interior living area to the boundaries of the balcony, which was carefully executed in this redesign, cannot be done in many older buildings if structural modifications were not considered at the time of the original design. For three days, Vitte removed entire rooms of drywall and other demolition materials using a large, commercial-grade crane. Before the project was complete, the crane would return several times to hoist large furniture, wooden structures, and building materials which could not be transported within the private, residential elevator.
Throughout the residence, many improvements are actually aesthetic. Natural surfaces provided by UMI, United Materials Inc. of Naples — shimmering marble floors and unique granite countertops — form a striking backdrop for the beautiful art, abundant Lalique and Baccarat glass, colorful carpets, and rich, leather upholstery. The creamy lustrous floors radiate throughout the circular, open floor plan of the main living area. A wrap-around balcony facing the Gulf of Mexico includes an enclosed portion of screened lanai, and frames both the sumptuous living and dining room in a warm, sunset palette. Bronze sculptural artwork, which was purchased on the couple’s last trip to France, is silhouetted between plush sofas and the breathtaking beach views of the Florida coastline. Now, this is the art of living.
The custom circular kitchen, designed by Bob Ostrowski of AlliKristé Fine Cabinetry & Kitchen Design, is a focal point with its innovative, curved, walnut cabinetry accented with custom, brown leather pulls sourced in London. “We were commissioned by our client to create a sophisticated kitchen design that would complement their extensive art collection,” shares Ostrowski, Senior Designer and Partner. “Serious collectors with discriminating tastes, the client desired a showcase space that would perform on a grand scale, either for everyday living or hosting large parties.” One challenge in creating the culinary command center was to design around the building’s existing structural columns. Composed almost completely of radial lines, the perimeter cabinetry encircles two round islands. A technical feat, the curvature of the walnut cabinetry is complemented by a contemporary cabinet door style. The Sub-Zero refrigerator, icemaker, and warming drawer are integrated seamlessly behind the concave cabinetry. The Wolf range sits center stage under a unique, convex hood. The wine storage assists with entertaining, and the elliptical island is ready for cocktail parties; the triple sinks, double dishwashers, and a walk-in pantry all maximize convenience. Just steps from the circular kitchen, the chic dining table is lit from above by a luminous Baccarat chandelier.
The warm family room features an intricate, carved, flat screen, television frame by AlliKristé, and a built-in cabinet equipped with backlit niches, down lighting irreplaceable ancient artifacts and wine urns on display. The superbly soft, custom, lambskin, sectional sofa provides guests an unencumbered view of the entire Naples shoreline and creates a luxurious space in which to unwind. “The views are gorgeous, and the home has been remade to capitalize on them,” says Vitte. He artfully created more space by bumping the ceilings upwards, and carefully tucking lighting and ductwork within the ceiling trays complimented by solid, walnut molding.
The master bath retreat was elegantly designed with the “tiger iron” precious stone, which is a natural combination of black hematite, red jasper, and golden tiger eye. Additionally, they used a light, beige Navona Travertine. Sourced by UMI, the slabs create a spectacular spa shower with mysterious natural color variations in the stone. Jimmy Watts, UMI Sales Manager shares, “Naples is a luxury market, and so we have the demand and can stock spectacular and unique natural stones. We are able to provide stone in our showroom that you would not find in many other places in the country.” Careful detail was taken in the design of the bathroom’s vanity, closets, sliding storage walls, and custom cabinetry. The master tub peers out over the Gulf and allows the owners to unwind and relax among the tranquil surroundings.
In the master bedroom, luxury awaits with a king-size bed incredibly dressed in rich, shimmery fabrics that reflect the sunset’s colors over the Gulf. The bed is flanked with spectacular oil paintings and a custom wall cabinet created by AlliKristé for the flat screen television, family photos, and books.
Guests will never want to leave their quarters, which share the view and the solitude. Extraordinary artwork, including a mixed-media nude, envelopes the visitor in culture. A private balcony off the guest suite offers a sunny seat overlooking the natural preserve, which will delight naturalists and bird watchers as the Osprey, Heron, and occasional American Bald Eagles soar above the tree line hunting for their fish dinner in the waters below.
Great design, innovative custom craftsmanship, and successful renovation mix seamlessly with a world-renowned art collection and luxurious furnishings. Obviously this couple knows how to incorporate fine art into their lifestyle, as they skillfully weave a priceless collection among their luxurious Naples surroundings.
Written by Mary Lou Smart
Photography by Michael McVay
Mike Vitte Construction
1390 Oakes Blvd
Naples, Florida 34119
AlliKristé Fine Cabinetry & Kitchen Design
633 North Tamiami Trail, Suite 300
Naples, Florida 34102
UMI, United Materials Inc.
1998 Trade Center Way
Naples, Florida 34109