Sometimes a design flaw can inspire a stunning interior redo. That's what happened when Anne Folsom Smith was asked to make over a master bedroom suite. She walked into the room and was stopped in her tracks-literally-by a structural defect. "A massive wooden beam ran the length of the bedroom," Smith recounts. "This thing was at eye level, measured more than 18 inches thick and hung right above the bed." Talk about your focal point.
The pretty little cypress house was built in the 1930s when beachfront property was a bargain and water was all you could see from the back door. In 1978, the residence was split into two pieces to move it across the street from the Gulf side of Siesta Key to a tropical bayside paradise complete with lagoon. Then the structural halves were rejoined and pieced together-thus the vast beams. These supports were clearly visible throughout the house, blocking views, inhibiting furniture placement and, in some places, obstructing passage, too. But the residents lived with the peculiarity until Smith came onto the scene.
Apart from the jarring aesthetics of the place, Smith quickly realized that the old house did not meet today's hurricane standards or building codes. She informed her clients that a simple updating of the master suite was impossible. But would they be game for a full-scale renovation?
"We had to literally take the house apart and put it back together like a puzzle," says Smith. "Every plank of cypress that was not too badly damaged was salvaged. Some of the wood was wiped, some was lightened. We moved sections to different areas of the house to match them perfectly and avoided sanding because we wanted to maintain the rich patina of the older wood."
After this major construction, it was time to focus on the master bedroom, which became a charming space with peaked ceiling, a roomy seating alcove and a balcony overlooking the lush backyard and a pretty pool surrounded by palm trees. A luxury wool floor covering in sophisticated tones of taupe and pebble replaced the old pink carpeting. An outdated platform bed gave way to an elegant contemporary design with curved lines and a sleekly upholstered headboard. An old laminated cabinet was re-laminated and fitted with a gleaming slate top, transforming a shabby has-been into a handsome dresser.
The alcove was retained as a cozy nook for curling up and reading the newspaper. Smith added an oversized window seat with richly padded cushions, sumptuous throws and piles of pillows. She also replaced the unimaginative lighting fixtures with artistic wall sconces and indirect light sources that create a near-theatrical effect.
Natural light filters into the room through plantation shutters stained to match the original cypress paneling. Her clients can open the shutters and glass doors to enjoy the balcony, poised at treetop level above the pool and lawn.
For fabrics, Smith used neutral tones of pewter, sand and linen to fit in with the calm, natural colors of the room's cypress paneling and ceiling. She kept accessories to a minimum to emphasize the room's clean lines. Like a piece of techno-art, a wafer-thin television hangs on the wall; a concealed closet houses the controls and wiring. The new master bedroom provides a tranquil, subdued space in an island landscape bursting with light and color.
Interior design by Anne Folsom Smith
Cabinet laminate work by Elite Woodwork
Slate top on cabinet by European Marble
Custom-designed carpeting by Edward Fields
Plantation shutters by The Shutter Shop
Custom-made bedspread, pillows and window seat by Jo Woodworth