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The Tampa Bay Home Expo reveals what might be

ST. PETERSBURG — Somewhere between the bubbling hot tub in its sexy little gazebo and the acres of gorgeous marble countertops, I started getting this idea. It grew as I stood on tiptoes in a crowd Sunday at Tropicana Field to see an amazing microfiber mop remove purple crayon from a white tile floor.

Then this nice man cleaned my gunky wedding ring using hot water, soap powder and a piece of perforated metal. Another fellow explained how I could get a gleaming new bathtub and wall surround in just one day, in any color, any style I like.

I saw a woman reclining on a lounger, a blue beam aimed at her mouth to whiten her teeth in moments — right in the middle of a baseball stadium. Then I happened into a plastic surgeon demonstrating (on computer, thank goodness) how an aging gentleman's face might look with a discreet little lift.

That's when I knew it for sure: A good home show is a place to meet people, see new things, get ideas . . . you know, dream a little.

Most of the 500 exhibitors at the Tampa Bay Home Expo were there to help you build a pool or redo the kitchen or get that expensive-looking driveway you've always wanted. The salespeople I talked to were all nice and knowledgeable, even to us tire kickers.

There certainly were sales. Dave LaBell, events manager at the St. Petersburg Times, reports that businesses sold hot tubs, carpeting, windows, all manner of big items, and already are signing up for the next home show at the Trop, Jan. 23-25.

Expectations and bank accounts are, in the main, more modest these days. So on Sunday there were more people walking out with microfiber mops than signing contracts for hardwood floors (which I'm sure is always the case, but you take my point). Either way, we want nice floors, or at least clean floors. Fabulous little glass mosaic tiles around the sparkling saltwater pool would be nice, too, but maybe next year.

I don't have any plans to remodel a kitchen, but I sure liked the guy who confided that an unusual countertop I admired at his display got scratched as it was carried into the show. He said he wouldn't sell it to me for a high-traffic area. I liked his honesty. I got his card.

I learned a lot of things. Did you know they make an electric grill you can put on a condo balcony because it's "virtually smokeless''? Another company said they can refinish floors without dust, mess or odor. I'm a little skeptical, but interested.

Thankfully, I can still climb in and out of the tub without incident, but I liked the look of the safety tubs on display. You walk right in and shut the watertight door. Neat.

Lots of nice people wanted to help me organize my messy garage. I do not have a garage, but I bet if I did it would need help and I would be grateful.

After a couple of hours, I walked out with a big bag full of brochures and business cards, plus a Metal Brite plate like the one that cleaned my ring. I tried it on my grandmother's old silverplate I haven't used in forever because of the tarnish. After it was all shiny and bright, I kept opening the silver chest, feeling like I was looking into Aladdin's cave. My own little homemaking dream, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Charlotte Sutton can be reached at sutton@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8425.

Calling all new homeowners

I recently spent an informative couple of hours with local home builders eager to put out the message that for all the foreclosures, layoffs and other economic gloom out there, for some folks this can be a great time to buy a home. Charley Hannah, head of Hannah-Bartoletta Homes, gently chided me when I asked about the bold souls taking the plunge. "They're not bold, they're savvy,'' he said, and gave me two red lollipops, presumably to help sweeten up my sour self.

What do you think? If you've recently bought a home, let's talk about it. What motivated you to buy? Are you glad you did it? What advice do you have for others contemplating a purchase, and for those trying to sell their homes?

Please contact me via e-mail at sutton@sptimes.com; phone at (727) 893-8425; or U.S. mail at P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. I look forward to hearing your stories.

Charlotte Sutton, Arts and Homes editor

The Tampa Bay Home Expo reveals what might be 11/21/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 21, 2008 7:48am]
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