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Big Florida houses exude soul, comfort

Clever new-home design helps eliminate 'museum feel'

In recent years, architects and media alike have denounced big houses. These behemoths, they say, are ugly, vacuous and without soul; in short, "there's no there there." While such criticisms certainly characterize some big houses out there, they do not describe every big house built today. Many are well designed, with soul oozing from every corner. This truism came to mind as I toured six large furnished models at the Founder's Club, a new subdivision in Sarasota, Fla. The houses had 4,700 to 7,500 square feet of "conditioned space," plus another 1,000 square feet of shaded outdoor living space around a swimming pool and 800 to 1,500 square feet of patio around the pool itself. The shaded area, called a lanai, is a common feature in Florida houses. In most households, it is a center of activity for all but the hottest months of the year. Large lanais like the ones in these houses have outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, sitting areas with inviting spots to enjoy an afternoon siesta, and sp...