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Designing Sarasota Architect Cliff Scholz

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Where Gothic Meets Modern

MARCH 2013 $3.95 U.S.

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Sara By Sue Cullen Photo of Cliff Scholz by Herb Booth/Booth Studio

Like a stroll through one of the world’s great art museums, a Cliff Scholz designed home or commercial structure conveys a feeling that wherever the eye wanders, it will be rewarded by beauty that is truly timeless. One also has the sense that function and form have been held in the same high esteem to create spaces that embrace, rather than simply encase, their purpose for being. Although Scholz’s firm, CMSA Architecture, is known for

and tell you how they live,” he said. “I consider every element

maintaining a low-key approach, the 11 million monthly vis-

from the mailbox to the back yard; what that space does, how

itors to, an online platform for residential

it’s supposed to operate and what clients want to feel like when

remodeling and design, found his portfolio so compelling that

they are in it. When you put time and creativity in every part of

it was named a design category winner in the Best of Houzz

the house, you end up with a lot of good spaces.”

2013 Awards. “The recognition is nice, but we take a more under-the-radar approach and focus on what our clients like,

The approach is similar for custom commercial projects, which

which is to work with an architect who knows how to make

locally have included a diverse portfolio, including the Aqua-

the process as easy as possible and is really creative,” Scholz

culture building at Riverview High School, Laurel Oak and The

said. “My satisfaction is not in awards and praise, but in the

Oaks country clubs, Jaguar and Lexus dealerships on Clark

satisfaction I see in my clients. If I can walk away knowing my

Road, and nine retail stores on St. Armand’s Circle. Scholz

clients got more than they anticipated, and I made a friend

currently is designing MGA Insurance’s new headquarters in

along the way, then I’m happy.”

Lakewood Ranch. “I look for commercial clients who are innovative people and truly are interested in providing a workplace,

Whether it is a residential or commercial design, after the site’s

a tenant building or a retail space that is better than the other

physical nature and regulatory requirements are considered,

mousetraps out there,” he said. “It’s not that they spend more

Scholz lasers his attention on what his clients need, envision

money, but that it is a better, more thought out design based on

and dream about the spaces he will create for them. “For resi-

what their mantra is and what made them successful.” Coun-

dences, I have to put myself in the client’s position in order to

try clubs are particularly challenging, he added, because they

be effective. We get into the true emotional and physical life-

require a seamless blending of activities, commerce and food

style of our clients. They must trust you because they open up

service while retaining a residential feel.


Waterfront Coral Cove

Scholz said each project, residential or commercial, is considered unique. “When we create, it is one of a kind,” he said. “We never repeat a design because each one is created around our clients’ true lifestyle, and the best approach for that is to be a good listener.” He also refuses to be pigeonholed style-wise, although perhaps that is also due to his classical training. He is known for having a solid grounding in proportion and circulation. “As a listing and selling agent for many fine homes designed by Cliff Scholz, we appreciate the livability and the ‘wow’ factor of his homes,” said Marcia Salkin, a broker associate with Michael Saunders & Company. “He is masterful with scale and symmetry. No matter how large, his homes exude a comfortable feel. Pairing this with his artful placement of windows and doors to maximize the view, he continually creates breathtaking experiences throughout his homes.” Joel and Diane Schleicher have known Scholz for nearly 30 years, and during that time he built homes for them on Bird Key, in New Jersey and most recently, a new home in Harbor Acres into which they have just moved. Each home has had its own character, Joel Schleicher said. “One of Cliff’s great attributes is he is a great listener. For this house, my wife and I wanted it to be a bit Tuscan and we told him what we envisioned for the exterior and interior,” Schleicher said. “We bought a lot with a terrific view and wanted Cliff to maximize it, which he did. I’d recommend him to anyone.” Bud and Chari Polley also are pleased with their Cliff Scholz design, in which they have lived on Bird Key for more than a decade. The Polleys admired the work of architect Addison Mizner whose designs in the early part of the 20th century have made a lasting impact on South Florida architecture. “Cliff was instrumental in moving us in the direction we wanted to go with many authentic touches like cypress moldings and ceilings,” Bud Polley said. “We also told him we wanted more open space and not a formal living or dining room.” Polley said they particularly appreciated Scholz’s attention to detail right down to the room-by-room design of the travertine marble floor. “It’s all quality. There’s no scrimping,” he said. “We’ve never had an issue with anything.” While continually honing in on the evolution of the trends in what buyers want in their new homes, Scholz takes pains to steer well away from what’s trendy. “A great compliment is when someone walks into one of my designs, and they don’t know if it is new or old,” he said. “That it doesn’t become dated comes from my classical upbringing.” Nevertheless, in keeping his fingers on buyers’ pulses, Scholz said homes continue to move away from small rooms with specific functions to larger, multi-purpose rooms. For example, dedicated home theater rooms, except for the most devoted audiophile, have faded away while the sophisticated equipment they once housed now often is incorporated into the family room where everyone can enjoy it. “Rooms are more open and connected,” he said. “There is a more casual feel about the house, but it still must be filled with light and elegance.” As a result, the heart of the home has migrated from the formal living room, which often is eliminated in today’s designs, to the kitchen, and

Bird Key

incorporates outdoor areas, where family and guests can interact. Scholz’s gift of creating timeless design may have something to do with growing up surrounded by Detroit’s — surprising to some — rich architectural heritage. He earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Lawrence Technological Institute where he not only learned how to design creatively, but also had to present designs that would pass muster before a group of practicing architects. He also has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Miami and subsequently moved to Tampa where he began working for, was mentored by, and became a partner with the highly regarded architect Harry “Bo” MacEwen. MacEwen encouraged Scholz to strike out on his own, which he did and established his firm in Sarasota in 1982. CMSA Architecture recently moved into new downtown Sarasota offices, renovated by Scholz, at 300 S. Orange Ave., that are co-located with his wife Susan’s interior design business SHS Design. “We still work independently with others, but we work together a lot, and it made sense to have a presence together,” he said. Scholz also said his “biggest strength” is his staff, who are hired for their skills, but also for their willingness to be persistent and see a job through to a successful conclusion.

That sense of purpose and connection extends to clients. “We really put our hearts into what we do. We spend an extraordinary amount of time getting to know our clients, their families, and how they like to live. Together, we have incubated an idea and created something three dimensional that can be lived in and worked in,” Scholz said. “In the process, we come to know each other well and that’s why, even after the job is done, so many have remained good and lasting friends.”

The Oaks Club

Scene Sarasota 2013  

Clifford M. Scholz Architects show us how they Design Sarasota.