Inspiration around every corner
Home & Garden
Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 4:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 4:17 p.m.
For Nita Garland and her husband, David Maren, it was love at first sight — with their three-story condominium in Regents Park, a development in downtown Gainesville.
“We fell in love with the way [it] looked and its location,” explains Garland.
The couple had lived in various locations throughout Gainesville. (They also own a second home in Flagstaff, Ariz.) Maren grew up here, and Garland received her bachelor of fine arts from the University of Florida. However, it was the revival of Gainesville’s downtown area that captured their attention and brought them to Regents Park.
“We enjoy the diversity of residents who live here, and all the many cultural offerings that continue to bring people here,” says Garland. “Free Friday concerts in Bo Diddley Plaza, the farmers market in Union Square, the Hippodrome State Theatre for movies, plays and rotating gallery shows...”
While cultural activities are plentiful, the couple were also drawn to the area because of its close proximity to community agencies like Helping Hands and St. Francis House.
“Being part of the downtown revival is a welcome opportunity to enjoy and support the heart of the city,” says Garland, a multimedia artist who is currently working on a re-branding project for St. Francis House.
Its central location was just one of the features that attracted the couple to Regents Park. They both agree that its style and simplicity played a role, too.
“The style is Southern-style townhomes that you would see in nice places along the coast like Charleston, and even as far north as Boston,” says Mike Warren, founder and president of AMJ Inc., who developed Regents Park and worked with architect Jay Reeves on the design.
The handsome brick facade features traditional styling, vaulted ceilings, and energy efficiency — all of which attract a certain type of resident.
“People who want to downsize but not down quality,” explains Warren. “People were going from a home to a multi-family home … we wanted it to be home without the headaches of home maintenance.”
Helping ease that transition, Regents Park residents are asked to select a floor plan and add certain amenities and upgrades. For Garland, owner of Studio 118, and Maren, who has retired from a career in sporting goods, the less complicated the better.
“This was the first time we could start anything from the ground up … we chose a floor plan and tried to keep its appointments simple,” she says.
That simplicity allows the couple to showcase their contemporary style and shared love of art, which is reflected throughout their 1,860-square-foot condo. From the entrance, which welcomes guests with a handmade camphor bench by George Ferreira, to the bathrooms, which feature ethnic woven art from Central and South America, and even the staircase, which displays aerial photography of southern Utah by Michael Collier.
“Plants, paintings, and pottery surround us with reminders of the natural world and how we re-vision it through art-marking, culinary expressions and music,” says Garland.
Their varied collection includes photography by David Edwards, vases by David Greenbaum and Steve Howell, stained glass transoms and windows by Mary and Mike McIntyre, a ceramic dancer by Donna Jensen, a couch table and two camphor benches by George Ferreira, a pastel by Ellie Blair and many more pieces, including some original drawings and watercolors by Garland herself.
Given their eclectic taste and large collection, it’s no surprise that Garland converted the guest bedroom on the third floor into something a bit more useful.
“I co-opted to have the second bedroom for my studio,” she says of the multi-purpose room. “I call it the East Room … it’s sewing, multimedia technology, painting and drawing.”
Instead of a guest bed, the room houses her Mac computer, desk and artwork. The closet also has been repurposed for “archival” work, storing art rather than linens or clothing.
If the studio is where work takes precedent, the master bedroom — also on the third floor — is where the couple find peace. To that end, they recently painted the room a muted jade color.
“It’s an uncluttered sanctuary that brings welcome comfort at the end of the day,” she says.
Whether they are recovering from a busy day or reading a book under the natural light, the couple savor the view from their master bedroom, which features an alcove of windows. A camphor bench on the balcony allows them a perch for viewing the neighboring brick facades of Regents Park, and just beyond, their beloved downtown.
“The balcony is one of my favorite places … I like the proximity to the street because this is the third floor and you get this crow’s nest [view],” says Garland.
When it’s time to curl up with a cup of tea or coffee in the living room, comfort and style are key for the couple. Most of their furnishings are American-made, featuring a simple streamlined design that appeals to their mentality.
“We started with two folding chairs at the end of the room, and slowly but surely ...” Garland says of their sparsely furnished living room. “What we tried to do was keep it simple and keep it open.”
According to Garland, they took their time purchasing each piece (some were custom made) and in the meantime made due without much in the way of furnishings — except for flooring.
“We started literally from the floor up and bought all the rugs for the whole place,” she says with a laugh, pointing out the colorful and warm Oriental wool rugs bought from a friend in Flagstaff, which are scattered throughout the wood-floored home.
With the open floor plan downstairs, the couple are free to entertain friends and family in a casual way, allowing guests to mingle and flow through the living room, dining room and kitchen.
“[We entertain] mainly in the form of small dinner parties,” she says. “When the outside temperature is right, we like to eat or take time out on the terrace.”
That terrace is adjacent to the well-lit kitchen, which features stainless steel appliances, manufactured quartz composite countertops and maple cabinets. It is also framed by several windows to “bring the outside inside, as much as possible” according to Warren.
When it comes to cooking, Garland approaches it with a “farm to table” mentality, partially due to her upbringing on a 180-acre working farm in East Chapman, Maine. She and Maren can be found at the downtown farmers market each Wednesday afternoon, buying locally grown produce and occasionally, meat.
“You could say that we have an epicurean bent in our way of home-making that seeks to stimulate many senses,” she explains.
It’s that zest for art and life that makes Nita Garland and David Maren a perfect match for the urban setting of Regents Park.
“We witness daily a dynamic fueled by creative and compassionate people in this city,” says Garland. “It is this multi-faceted energy in our downtown that interests us and inspires us in many ways.”