When Shirley Seidman decided to downsize from her nearly 4,000-square-foot Sarasota home, she despaired of ever finding a suitable space for her beloved antiques and numerous collections. Every condo and villa she looked at oppressed her with narrow hallways, low ceilings and dark rooms. And then she drove through Palm-Aire Country Club for one last open house on a Sunday afternoon
"I walked in the front door," says Seidman, "and before I was even through the living room I was fishing for my cell phone and calling my realtor to ask if she could meet me in 15 minutes and draw up the papers." Bright, spacious and finished with just the right degree of formality, the freestanding villa in Lakeside Woods features handsome crown moldings, nine-foot ceilings, French doors and walled grounds with brick courtyards. It reminded Seidman of gracious houses found in Charleston; and for a girl who loves the Low Country, it looked like home.
"The wall colors were perfect and I loved the owner’s window treatments, which she left for me," explains Seidman. "She also sold me two modified ladies’ wing chairs in matching fabric. Her tile was in perfect condition, in a soft alabaster tone that I knew would be excellent with my Persian rugs. All that was required was to move my furniture into the space."
As a collector of fine antique furniture and an allied ASID interior designer, Seidman possesses many beautiful and unusual pieces found through travel, at auctions and in specialty stores. Her inlaid Hekman table fit exactly between the wing chairs, while the period sofa covered in polished white cotton settled nicely atop her antique wool rug in the Imari colors of blood red and inky blue. Two French caned-back parlor chairs offer additional seating. A flame-grained maple chest houses some of Seidman’s Canton ware; and a massive Baker breakfront secretary holds Japanese porcelain plates, Royal Crown Derby pieces from England and rare Chinese turquoise ducks. The Baker piece, circa 1940 and features its original curved glass insets. It was discovered at the Woman’s Exchange when Seidman saw deliverymen struggling to carry the enormous top piece. "Because of its impressive height and generous depth, the Baker takes up a significant space," says Seidman. "Naturally, there was an empty wall in the living room just begging for a large piece. The proportions and position are perfect."
The awning stripe wallpaper and butter-yellow paint on the walls enhance Seidman’s collection of blue and white porcelain. The cloisonne vase she made into a lamp picks up the soft yellow, as do her quirky 1940s wall curio cabinet and Victorian bamboo magazine racks. Even simple accessories, such as her tapestry fruit cushions and needlepoint pillows fashioned of vintage French fabrics, come to life in the light-filled room. Seidman placed her furniture and accessories in a matter of hours, coincidentally using the same configuration with coffee table, couch, occasional chairs and rugs as the previous owner.
"I have worked on dozens of interior plans," says Seidman, "and have never seen a room come together with such ease. It seems as if each design detail was chosen just for me and my furnishings. The former owner of my house likes all of the same things that I like. Her taste and mine were remarkably similar. The room was empty one minute and the next, it appeared as though my belongings had been there always."
Design by Shirley Seidman of Christe’s Classic Furnishings
Furnishings and accessories from Seidman’s private collection