When friends in St. Petersburg took the condo plunge, Claude Guidi and Wayne Lewis knew they'd be next to go high-rise. The couple purchased two adjoining Bayshore Boulevard condos in late 2014, enticed by the promise of concierge service, resort-like amenities and above all, amazing panoramic views from the 22nd floor of Monte Carlo Towers.
"Dusk is breathtaking," said Lewis, communications leader for Bristol-Myers Squibb in Tampa. He practically inhales the sunset from his favorite spot, the kitchen breakfast table, although seeing sunrise from the master suite is pretty tough to beat.
"You can see downtown Tampa and as far south as the Sunshine Skyway," Lewis said. "On a clear day, you can see stingrays and turtles."
"And dolphins," adds Guidi, 64, the senior radiologist of Tampa-based Radiology Associates of Florida. "Day and night, the view is very entertaining," he said, picturing the endless stream of joggers, bikers and dogwalkers.
"The only thing missing is the pool boys to bring you a drink," Guidi said, approving of the swimming pool, tennis courts and gym, all recently updated in the 30-year-old building.
When they're not entertaining, the partners of 16 years are likely to be traveling.
"We love to cook and have old-fashioned dinner parties, then lock up and take off skiing or to South America," said Lewis, 49. Chilean-born Guidi visits his mother at least twice a year.
Although the previous owner had knocked down some walls and removed one kitchen, the double unit still felt like two apartments with two entrances.
Each of them created a wish-list and a must-list. For Lewis, smart home technology was No. 1. "I can operate the air conditioning, audio system and window blinds from my smart phone," he said, always happy to demonstrate.
Guidi wanted a gourmet kitchen. "Cooking is my relaxation," he said, "I love to try new recipes… empanadas, fancy desserts, especially French cuisine."
He grew up in Santiago, where his French-born parents owned a hotel that the family lived in. "No matter what you do, everyone gathers in the kitchen," said Guidi, whose desk sits three feet from a fancy, built-in Wolf coffee system.
"I can't start the day without my latte."
Tampa custom home designer and developer Thomas Everett Lamb was just the person to marry their strong opinions with sound ideas in a pre-defined space.
Lamb drew up four options, each featuring four bedrooms with en-suite baths plus a powder room. The winner is modern, handsome and streamlined.
And functional. There are large walk-in closets in the kitchen and dining room. One is a giant pantry with a sink to function as a caterer's kitchen. One is a butler's dream hidden behind a mirrored door opening to shelves loaded with nine sets of china, glassware, linens and serving accessories.
Much of their furniture moved with them, including the living room sofa and a grand piano, "automated since neither of us plays," Lewis notes. The piano fit in the elevator, but an 11-foot sofa segment was hoisted up to the 22nd floor catwalk.
Lewis calls the new 80-inch television "overkill but amazing." The linear fireplace below is fueled by ethanol, leaving no residue or smoke.
"We made sure our art was made to feel at home here," Lewis said. Their collection includes several works he bought in Japan and quite a few paintings Guidi bought from Chilean artists. They own two Salvador Dali lithographs and are big fans of Tampa artist Alberto Murillo. An 18th-century tapestry that hung in the dining room of the Guidi family hotel fits in perfectly. Most everything was framed by Master Art & Frame in Tampa.
The learning curve was steep and stressful during the 18-month renovation, twice as long as anticipated. But, they said, personal gains far surpassed the inconveniences:
The privilege of a year of living with Lewis' mother, building a lasting friendship with designer Lamb and reinforcing their own relationship.