Don Connelly bought a comfortable family home in Gator Creek, but what he really wanted was a sophisticated bachelor pad. Golf fanatic, art collector, pool player extraordinaire and music buff, Connelly envisioned a house where he could relax, work or entertain with ease when not traveling around the globe as a public speaker.
Enter interior designer Janice Robinson, hired to transform ordinary living space into a luxurious and handsome masculine retreat. Connelly told her he wanted "a guy place, nothing frilly," and the focal point of this transformation became the oversized family room with 20-foot ceilings and sweeping outdoor views.
Robinson began the overhaul at ground level. Wood floors were stained a deep, rich walnut hue and given low luster for a casual finish. Outdated ceramic tiles were ripped up and replaced with oversized cross-cut travertine squares in a neutral buff color. Ho-hum beige paint and fussy floral wallpaper came off and walls were faux-finished in warm shades of cream and ivory. Muralist Joan Kresek, formerly of Ringling School of Art and Design, was flown in from Colorado to paint subtle golf vignettes depicting the course at St. Andrews and a Tuscan-style still life of fruit, wine and bread, framed by a brick arch between family room and open kitchen. A cooktop beneath that same arch was surrounded by a thick slab of granite in rich verdigris streaked with brown.
Then came the challenge. A very visible staircase at one end of the family room added nothing in the way of aesthetics yet sliced the wall diagonally into angles, making furniture placement difficult. Solution? Create a false wall to square off the space and custom-build a mahogany media center from floor to ceiling that completely eradicates the stairs from the visual picture. "The mahogany is stained for a dark, rich finish that gives the room depth," explains Robinson. "Then, for eye appeal and continuity, we used the same wood to craft a gorgeous, solid mantel and to wrap two skinny, nondescript support posts to create a beautiful pair of paneled columns."
Next, a freestanding bar in crackle finish with a stone top was fitted into the space beside the massive brick fireplace and surrounded by leather bar stools. A pair of rattan wingbacks, a console table with woven copper top and wrought iron base and leather couch and chairs brought texture and luxury and a sort of sumptuous weightiness to the room. Ralph Lauren breakfast room chairs in carved wood and butter-soft leather look over pool and patio to the wilderness areas beyond. The enormous Mastercraft coffee table is a five-foot square of painted leather. The top rests on a solid brass base and, Connelly says, has actually doubled as a dance floor.
The new media room was finished by perfect placement of Connelly’s collection of artwork. David Steiner’s contemporary paintings and metal sculpture were suspended on walls close to the lofty ceiling. Art glass from Hodgell Gallery adorns the mahogany media center’s symmetrical open spaces. Howard Garnitz’s sculpture "The Caddy" offers a whimsical golfing accent to the room. A giant splash of color in acrylic on canvas by artist Bunny Klein draws the observer into the space, while sand-cast crystal pieces on hand-forged bases by Swedish artist Bjorn Ekegran diffuse the sunlight that streams through a newly opened wall behind the bar. The resulting mix of rich materials, strong color and vibrant accessories makes for an energetic space for a man who enjoys life.
Murals by Joan Kresek of Denver, Colorado
Faux wall finishes by Peter Drew
Mahogany media center, mantel and columns by Dan Strothers
Wood floors by Dawn Wood floors
Marble floors by Robb & Stucky
Granite countertops by Architectural Marble
Furniture and accessories by Churchill’s, Robb & Stucky