SRQ Feature: Modern Fairytale

You meet a handsome, successful business owner who has a habit of designing dream homes for himself. Two nights later, hecooks you dinner, and he calls every night from then on. He asks you to marry him. And then he builds you a modern mansion complete with your own painting studio and space for abutterfly garden. “I thought he was too good to be true,” says Brigitta Wagner Sultana. And from the look on Mark’s face when she passes through the room, the feeling is mutual. Mark, part-owner and designer at DSDG Architects, and Brigitta, a graphic designer at Coldwell Banker, moved into their home last October, which also happened to be the one-year anniversary of their engagementMODERN WARMS UP

From the outside, this 3,200 square-foot, four bedroom, three bath canal-front home exudes sleek modern. A stark white façade slices an ocean blue sky, with reflections of clouds passing through mile-high windows and glass doors. Mark says he designed the exterior to reflect the clean lines of pure modern, but inside, he had something different in mind. “I love modern,” he says, “but I don’t want to live in a stark modern house.” He speaks from experience. Mark has designed two other homes for himself, and his last one was one of the aforementioned “stark moderns” on Longboat Key. “If a glass was on the counter, it looked out of place,” he says. “It was cool, but not family friendly.”

Mark’s quest for warmth proves successful as soon as visitors climb the stairs lined with powder coated steel railings to the raised main level, where an open floor plan presents two living spaces, a kitchen and dining area. Dark brown cork floors anchor the space, adding a sense of softness, both visually and physically. Above, square clearstory windows offer a constantly changing skyscape while allowing light to pour in. Chocolate leather chairs and a sleek-but-comfortable white sofa offer a cozy place for lingering beside the floating fireplace. Low lights suspended from the ceiling give the aura of a late-night lounge, and seem to invite relaxed conversation. “I love modern architecture but not modern architecture you can’t live in,” says Mark.

Inspired by the MOMA on a recent trip to New York, Mark designed his walls with a reglet, or recessed groove, which gives the illusion of a wall floating in space. Brigitta’s paintings, which suggest a love of abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, add bold color and a sense of playfulness throughout the home.

An interior pallet of cobalt, bark, lime, lemon and olive fills the home, reflecting Florida’s landscape and providing a sense of earthy calm. In the kitchen, the centerpiece may be the stainless Viking range, but it’s the marble pebble backsplash tile that will be the center of dinner party conversation. Flat-front blue and white cabinets are finished in a high-gloss lacquer, and Juperana white granite countertops offer both texture and sparkle. Mark and Brigitta love to cook—they’ve taken cooking classes at the nearby Casa Italia, and the couple made a book of their favorite recipes, which they gave as wedding favors—so making the kitchen a focal point complements their lifestyle. The ten-foot, ten-person dining table indicates they might be sharing some of their expertise with friends in the near future.

A wing behind the kitchen holds two bedrooms, one of which Brigitta uses as an art studio. Two additional bedrooms—the master and what Mark currently uses as a home office—sit at the other end of the house just off the living room. “You can see the Intracoastal from here,” says Brigitta of the very Zen master bedroom outfitted with chocolates and blues.

Placed on-center with the master bath door is a floating tub—a modern take on a clawfoot. Caribbean blue glass tiles, shallow square sinks, floating mirrors and a walk-in two-person shower complete the spa-like serenity of this room. A third bathroom can be accessed off the living room and also from the adjoining office (a pocket door to separate the toilet area from the sink area). Instead of using tile, Mark lined the walls with stained plywood, which he framed with metal rail inset.

Down below, an open-air covered space creates a perfect setting for poolside entertaining—and winter weddings, as the case may be. Last New Year’s Eve, friends and family gathered under the stars to celebrate a new house, a new marriage and a new year. Here’s to glass slippers forever, and clocks that never strike midnight.


Mark’s Quest for warm modern goes beyond aesthetics—his house is a certified green building. Mark and Brigitta worked with Drew Smith at Two Trails Consulting to ensure the home met the minimum 200 points needed to land the coveted Florida Green Building certification. Built with all foam construction, R-30 walls, low flow toilets, impact insulated low-E green glass windows, insulated garage doors, a system for collecting water from the roof for irrigation and a one-point butterfly garden, the home scored 220 points, far exceeding the minimum.


A marble stone tile backsplash adds an earthy element to the kitchen. Cork floors are warmer and softer than polished concrete or bamboo. In the back courtyard, coquina shell-lock tiles provide an earthy texture.

Light: Clearstory windows overhead flood the house with natural light. “You never have to turn the lights on during the day,” says Brigitta.

Bright, Colorful Art: Brigitta’s art brings a sense of happy playfulness to each room. Her work can also be found at State of the Arts Gallery in Sarasota.

Comfortable furniture Mark designed a home for the owner of Cassina furniture at Lighthouse Point. So naturally, Cassina was one of his first stops when it came to outfitting his home. A Cassina white sofa and Sunpan traditional chairs are sleek without sacrificing comfort. Modern barstools from Eurway make a statement.

Preservation of Natural Landscape Elements: Instead of creating a garden of stark rocks or hyper-controlled symmetry, Mark constructed his house around a giant oak in the front yard. He allows naturally occurring species to grow beneath the tree’s branches, and says orchids are particularly happy here.


Foam construction Eric Levine at DPL Walls, 561-329-8400. Structural Engineer of Foam Walls David Karins, Karins Engineering, 2206 Joan Dr., 941-927-8525. Green certification consultant Drew Smith, Two Trails Kitchen and bath cabinets Toscana Italian Cabinetry, 830 South Tamiami Trl., Osprey, 941-918-8122. Granite Sarasota Natural Stone 8302 Blaikie Ct., Sarasota, 941-342-7774. Plumbing fixtures Kohler from Ferguson Bath and Kitchen Gallery, 2451 17th St., Sarasota, 941-951-0110. Glass tile Alpha Tile, 1808 Whitfield Ave., Sarasota, 941-727-7433. Cork flooring iFloor, furniture and barstools Eurway, Leather chairs and bench Sunpan Imports, White sofa Cassina, Mecco blinds (bedroom) Shutter Elegance, 820 Bell Rd. Unit C., Sarasota, 941-342-4333. Whole house audio and automated lighting Advanced Audio Design, 4915 S. Trl., Sarasota, 941-925-2673. Pool Water Designs of Sarasota, 1899 Porter Lake Dr., Sarasota, 941-341-9930.

By Britta Alexander. Photographed by Gene Pollux