Since 1965, Jane and Albert Wohlers have left Chicago's winters behind for the white sands and soft breezes of Longboat Key. The couple has enjoyed a variety of residences, including a bayfront home and several different condominiums.
But recently they sought something a bit more spacious. They decided they wanted room to entertain, a beautiful stretch of beach and good elevation. When a penthouse at Regent Place became available, the Wohlers knew they had found a prime property, with more than 3,500 square feet of living space, wonderful high ceilings and superb Gulf-to-bay views.
The couple was pleased with the unit's large rooms and private elevator. Gracious balconies enhance living space dramatically with breathtaking water views from 10 stories above the beach. But, alas, nothing is perfect. One entered the condominium via a long hall that ended abruptly with an awkwardly placed bar that dissected the living room at a sharp angle. Ceilings and walls were painted stark white. Unattractive rows of can lights threw out high- volume illumination with overwhelming intensity. Designer Gwen Sears referred to the effect as "that cozy operating room feeling." And the Wohlers wanted a place that felt like home, with warmth and color and comfort. "They wanted a Florida look," explains Sears. "An interior that looked tropical without losing a certain sophistication."
They immediately decided to remove the bar that jutted out into entry and living room. Sears reconfigured the space, designing a wet bar and walk-behind counters fitted snugly against the wall. She finished the entertainment center in handsome granite countertops and rich cherry cabinets. The bar is adjacent to both living room and dining area, offering an elegant service spot and beautiful glass-front cabinets and shelves for storage. But the new bar is unobtrusive. Guests glide past upon entering with no impediment to traffic flow or view.
Next, Sears attacked the entry hall. Elegant marble columns were added to delineate the transition from entry to living space and create a true foyer. A muralist covered the walls in native flora and fauna accented by statuesque herons and waterfowl, using burnished gold tones, cool green and an occasional splash of red. Lavish crown molding was added to enhance the ceiling height and add a subtle touch of formality. With better lighting and a few pieces of furniture placed just so, the transformation from boring hallway to vibrant entrance was complete.
Those white walls were next on Sears' hit list. She opted for a rich shade of toast that complemented the existing tawny and buff marble floors. Recessed ceilings-one of the condo's best features-called for something extraordinary, so Sears identified those spaces and drew attention upward by painting ceilings in dramatically darker shades and a vibrant brick and taupe faux finish. The resulting depth and texture imbue the rooms with warmth and provide a nice backdrop for recessed lights on rheostats replacing the outdated cans, and a restored European chandelier from the 1700s.
Gleaming wooden blinds trim windows, and the living room's glass doors are draped in a tawny and red linen screen print with deep cornice, side panels and miles of silk bouillon fringe. Oriental rugs splash color on the floor and frame the Wohlers' beloved piano. Their clock collection adds a personal touch of whimsy to the walls and creates that vital sense of comfort.
"We absolutely love this place," says Jane Wohlers. "I eagerly look forward to getting here," Albert adds. "When the weather in Chicago begins to grow cold, we just cannot get on a plane fast enough."
Interior design by Gwen Sears
All furnishings and accessories by the Palmer House Collection.
Faux ceiling created by Erica Moore.
Mural created by Judy Eidge.