Wendy Ross has confidently predicted the weather for ABC affiliate WWSB-TV for nearly a decade. But the atmospheric conditions in her very own living room defied explanation. "This was the room we walked by but never used," says Ross. "No matter how we entertained, the living room was totally avoided. Guests looked in, but they did not stay."
The space should have been inviting. Ross’s living room is seen upon entrance with easy access from the foyer. The room offers good light through glass doors, and sweeping views of the pool and patio. There’s an interesting vaulted ceiling and Mexican tile floors. Additionally, Ross owns good pieces, including some fine original artwork, a wonderful iron coffee table discovered by her husband, Larry Morris, and some marvelous antique lamps. The couch was comfortable and the room attractive enough.
Still, it sat empty. So Ross sought help from designer Lee Younger of The Pineapple House Collection.
At first glance, Younger identified three major problems. First, there wasn’t enough comfortable seating to create natural conversation groups. "People do not want to line up next to each other on the couch, nor do they want to yell at each other from across the room," Younger explains. "The best seating groups are close and cozy, creating a sense of intimacy and safety." Second, the living room lacked warmth and color. "Large expanses of white wall space kill a room," says Younger. "I believe in color, and tell my clients to have courage and paint the walls."
Finally, there was a problem with proportion, including paintings that were framed badly and a lack of balance among various pieces of furniture. "We’ve all seen rooms with doll-sized chairs next to gargantuan sectionals or overstuffed furniture taking over tiny living spaces," says Younger. "Pieces in a room must work together."
Fortunately, the problems were minor and solutions affordable. And to make matters easier, Ross had a clear sense of what she wanted. "Wendy was a love to work with," says Younger. "She already had a vision, a sense of where she wanted to go with the room and a number of gorgeous pieces. This is the kind of job one can only hope for."
During initial discussions, client and designer settled on a color scheme and appropriate feel for the room, inspired by the retro glamour of Florida’s historic grand hotels. Rich upholstery fabrics, warm color and texture on walls and floors, marble and iron surfaces, architectural accents and tropical foliage reminiscent of a plush lobby were found or created. White walls were skip-troweled by hand in the style of Venetian plaster and then washed and glazed in variegated shades of toffee. Handsome wooden blinds at the windows were installed for privacy and light control; but Younger wanted something more above the glass to draw the eye upward and emphasize the high ceilings, so cornices were covered in cinnamon-colored fabric with fancy scrolled architectural moldings affixed to the front. Mounted above windows, these original treatments add depth and eye appeal along with historical integrity.
Club chairs are covered in a luxurious chenille palm leaf pattern, and a wrought-iron wall console with green marble top echoes the foliage theme with leaves scrolled through the metalwork. Natural frond paddles in the ceiling fan slowly stir the air; and tall potted palms, underlit to create wonderful shadows on walls and ceilings, bring life to the room. Paintings were reframed in heavy silver and bronze to emphasize importance and improve proportion. An end table was placed to one side of the creamy couch and covered with yards of raw silk finished in cording and beadwork.
Family pieces, such as an antique metal birdcage painted dusty red, lamps in silver, bronze and painted wood and an aged iron oval mirror, were all juxtaposed into the room for a pleasing mix of old and new. A tall, slim floor lamp with veined alabaster globe casts illumination upward, and several small table lamps create the romance and elegance of a hotel lobby. So do the family piano sitting proudly in the foyer and a diminutive drum table between the club chairs, just perfect for placement of a drink.
To help the space seem to flow into the living room, Younger had the wooden dining chairs washed in the same warm shades of red found in the living room rug and accessories, and then anchored the dining room to the living room with a beautiful mahogany buffet that provides abundant storage and doubles as a serving space during dinner parties. Now guests fill their plates in the dining room and return to sit in the living room, enjoying comfortable seating and a beautiful view.
"You do get the sense that you’re in a wonderful old hotel lobby overlooking the terrace and pool," says Younger. "The atmosphere is very comfortable, and the room now has a decided sense of style."
"When my husband and I walked into the room and saw the finished product, we both thought it was fabulous," says Ross. "It seemed as if Lee had taken all of our ideas and wrapped them up into a perfect gift with a gigantic bow."
Design by Lee Younger
Furnishings and accessories by Pineapple House Collection
Wall and window treatments by Pineapple House Collection