Designer Ed Biggs is not a man afraid to speak his mind. When it came to his first visit to the site of a proposed condo renovation, the words he used were “vanilla” and “generic,” and those were some of the kinder descriptions. “I walked through the condo with the new homeowners and I saw a very dated look overall, with five different types of floor treatments with an ugly floor medallion right in the middle, a brown marble master bath, and builder-grade cabinetry,” says Biggs, owner of Biggs Design Group.
But the biggest sin in Biggs’ book was the lack of a view. “The kitchen, particularly, cut off the sweeping view over Tampa Bay and down to the Skyway Bridge,” he says. “I knew we had to remedy that problem immediately.”
Biggs also had to find plenty of space for the couple’s art collection and encouraged them to buy other pieces they loved, no matter if they thought what they chose would suit their new seasonal home or not. “I told them of a T-shirt I had years ago that read: Good art doesn’t have to match your sofa,” says Biggs.
The homeowners took him at his word and even bought a quadriptych they found while sailing in Antigua. Their boat captain built a crate for the art so it could sail home with them to Connecticut, eventually finding its perfect home on the wall of their new dining room.
Biggs joined the couple on antique hunting trips in Connecticut to find vintage artifacts to bring warmth to the space. The designer kept most of the backgrounds neutral, allowing touches of color to be introduced by the art — such as the blown glass by local St. Pete artists, in the living room and kitchen island niche. Biggs even found himself using a bit of his own artistic expression by designing architectural details to overcome some of the challenges he faced, due to unchangeable elements from the existing floor plan.
“I asked the builder, Bill Konecy, to assemble what I call ‘clouds’ to cover the existing lighting in the ceiling, allowing me to move things to where I needed them without having to resort to using a big, heavy plate for camouflage,” says Biggs.
“It is in the nature of existing condominium buildings that the ceiling in one unit is the floor of the unit above you, so we had to be careful and respectful of other tenants and the building management,” says builder Bill Konecy, vice president of Brenneman Building Company.
“We needed to solve the problem, while complementing what was already there,” explains Chris Westberry, Brenneman Building Company’s other vice president.
Besides taking down the wall between the kitchen and the living room to create a 180-degree view, the builders also upgraded all the surfaces, which had not represented the finest in materials. “The building was finished during the downturn,” Konecy explains. “So this was a great opportunity for us to upgrade everything to the very highest standard.”
Out went the marble and in came gorgeous large slabs of porcelain tile. The entire appliance package was upgraded, countertops became elegant quartz, and stunning new cabinetry was installed and up lit to greet the night with a soft glow throughout the space. “We are very sensitive to our customers needs,” says Konecy, “and with 40 years experience, not much throws us for a loop. We find solutions for all challenges.”
Though this project has some of those, Biggs and the homeowners were delighted with the outcome of the project. “If you could have seen what the condo looked like before, as opposed to what it looks like now, you would say it is miraculous,” Biggs says with a smile.
This 400 Beach Drive condominium was sold by Lisa Siver with Benoot Realty.
The expansive living room has three Lazar Furniture sofas atop the wool carpet inset into the porcelain wood-look flooring so that the tiles and carpet present no tripping hazard. Hourglass-shaped chairs were customized to swivel around the oversized cocktail table imported from Italy. Interior designer Ed Biggs had the valance — which hides motorized shades — made and painted to blend into the surrounding walls so as not to take away from the view.
The wine room, usually furnished as a chat area, is here shown as it was for a party the homeowners held after the renovation was completed. The guests of honor were all the contractors, subcontractors, and artisans who had worked on the home, and the baby grand piano was rented for that evening. Underneath it is a geometric velvet upholstered bench by Chaddock.
Faced with the problem of hanging artwork on a curved wall, Biggs made the wall itself the art. Sarasota’s The Shower Shop created ¾-inch strips of colored glass affixed to a lightbox. The curve of the installation echoes the round ceiling detail, highlighted by a Recoil chandelier from Corbett Lighting. The entry doors were originally designed to be glass to afford immediate views of Tampa Bay, but were replaced by commercial doors — painted a shimmering metallic — with contemporary commercial handles selected by Biggs.
Warm white walls host contemporary artwork in the gallery hallway. Portrait lighting illuminates the paintings and reflects softly off the large-format porcelain tile floor from SRQ Modern in Sarasota.
The countertops around the perimeter of the kitchen are a lighter colored quartz for contrast, and custom cabinetry above is fronted both by acrylic and glass. Underneath, the cabinets feature stainless steel pulls, set with alternating left or right handle openings. Outlets are set into the bottom of cabinets, so as not to break the sightline.
The white quartz island, previously a wall separating the living room and kitchen, now functions as a dine-in kitchen island. The main island, now four times the size of the original, is a darker quartz, with a vegetable sink, two refrigerated produce drawers, a prep sink with Hansgrohe faucet, and a lighted niche showcasing glass art by a local artist.
A three-section floor-to-ceiling panel headboard wall was custom created by Lazar Furniture for this spectacular master bedroom. The matching bed is dressed in Legacy organic cotton linens. At the foot of the bed is a leather Macon bench, also by Lazar Furniture, and the surrounding carpet is inset into the wood flooring to mirror the ceiling detail. The hot tropical colors of the Lady Liberty painting are echoed in the room’s sitting area.
The master bedroom sitting area overlooks the new St. Petersburg Pier. Vibrant blue cotton covers the Venzano chairs, and the ottoman between them is covered in the same fabric as the bed. A desk made of zebrawood with a leather top and a matching chair perfectly fits the long wall. To the right, a balcony — also accessible from the wine room — offers seating at a trio of Beechcraft chairs.
His-and-hers glass showers took the place of an outdated sunken corner tub surrounded by brown marble. Here porcelain flooring is run from wall-to-wall, with no grout lines visible and special grooves cut by the master installers from SRQ Modern to ensure proper drainage. Mosaic natural stacked stone covers the wall behind the tub and large-format porcelain tile was used on the shower walls, both supplied and installed by SRQ Modern.
Dual vanities in the master bath have quartz countertops that run straight up the wall and act as backsplashes above and below the mirrors. Berkeley sconces from Hudson Valley Lighting shed light on the floating vanity with engraved nickel pulls by Richelieu Hardware.
In this guest room, Biggs borrowed an idea from an Italian bed he saw in a design showroom to have a wall-to-wall walnut wood slat headboard. The bedding is by Legacy Linens and the colorful accent pillows are by Ryan Studio. Biggs made good use of the owners’ own brass and frosted glass lamps on the nightstands.
Each guest bedroom has its own bath and each has a different design scheme. In this one, Biggs chose the same porcelain wood-look tile that is seen throughout the condo. In the shower, SRQ Modern grooved and installed it so that water will drain properly, and Biggs chose to run it up the middle of the wall eliminating the need to cut the contrasting 16-by-13 white porcelain tiles. The vanity features leather and acrylic handles, a Hansgrohe faucet, and a rectangular undermount sink set into a quartz countertop.
Written by Kitt Walsh
Photography by Jimmy White
Brenneman Building Company
5303 Palmetto Point Drive
Palmetto, FL 34221
Biggs Design Group
Lisa Siver of Benoot Realty
70 Beach Drive NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
2054 13th Street
Sarasota, FL 34237
The Shower Shop
5775 McIntosh Road
Sarasota, FL 34233