The greatest journey begins with a single step, and sometimes the greatest interior design begins with a single sofa.
When Judy Osney answered a telephone call from Patricia and Dave Glen, the request was simple enough: The couple wanted to replace their worn-out couch. "The Glens are from Canada and they referred to the desired piece as a 'Chesterfield,'" explains Osney. "In the United States, we call it a sectional sofa."
The Glens wanted something that could stand up to the wear and tear of frequent guests and occasional renters occupying their second-floor condominium at Siesta Dunes. Weary of pastels, they preferred something in a solid color and a warm tone. In addition to providing ample seating, the sofa would also be called into service periodically as an extra bed. Naturally, it needed to fit within the existing living room and not overwhelm the space. And there was an issue regarding Mr. Glen's favorite recliner. The sofa would have to work with his beloved albeit shabby armchair.
Osney and partner Susan Leive of J & S First Impressions threw themselves into the search, which culminated with the purchase of a butter-soft leather sectional in a delicious shade of café-au-lait. The piece incorporates a pullout queen-sized bed with a comfortable mattress, and Mr. Glen was thrilled when they showed him the individual end section that transforms into a recliner with the gentle tug of a lever.
Perfectly proportioned for the room, the gorgeous leather couch filled the space and filled the bill-until one glanced up and looked around the condo. "The new sofa made everything else look old and tired," explains Osney. "This new acquisition was so strong that Mrs. Glen suddenly realized she hated everything else in the room."
Not that it wasn't time for a makeover. "The Glens are the original owners and they bought the condo back in 1978 for less than $100,000," says Osney. "Their existing decor was a monument to the condo interior 'packages' everyone bought back then." The couple developed a wish list and wrestled with what to replace first, until Mrs. Glen finally threw up her hands and picked up the telephone. "I answered a call from Canada one evening and she told me to go ahead and do it all," says Osney with a laugh.
Since they had already tossed Mr. Glen's ratty old recliner and the floral sofa in classic '70s mauve and aqua, Osney and Leive pressed on with the purge. They carted away a dining set with rectangular glass on a Lucite base and blonde dining chairs with rigid backs and stains on the cushions. Gigantic turquoise bar stools on white metal bases were discarded, along with a metal chandelier shaped like a large white funnel. Generic ginger-jar lamps with vanilla bases and vanilla shades were removed. Forgettable framed prints and poorly painted egrets and herons got the heave-ho. Bookcases and end tables in mock woods and faux bamboo followed suit. The beige carpet, complete with red wine stains, was ripped up. At last, the living space was stripped bare after nearly three decades in bondage to outdated décor.
Since complete makeovers begin with the basics, Osney started at the bottom with alabaster ceramic tile, laid on the diagonal to visually elongate the room. Baseboard molding and quarter-inch round trim were a perfect solution to bothersome gaps that occur between tile edges and wall whenever new tiles are placed on 30-year-old surfaces that have shifted and settled. Walls were left white to contrast against darker furniture tones and maintain an airy and light-filled room.
But it was an accidental discovery that established the decorating theme. "I was shopping for furniture for another client when I noticed a large painting leaning up against the wall in back of a store," explains Osney. "This was White Sails by Juame Laporta, and the rich, warm colors depicting boats beached on an island just looked right. The Glens love boating, and Siesta Key is their island escape. We built the room from there."
For the dining room, Osney chose carved wooden chairs and a round pedestal table with pleasing pineapple shape and handsome etched-frond design. Bronze bar stools with soft padded seats were covered in fresh floral fabric, and the same material was used to cover a cushion that sits atop a woven cane ottoman. This versatile piece now serves as extra living room seating or smart table, and the lid opens to provide storage for the hide-a-bed linens.
An armoire with plantation shutter doors conceals stereo and television equipment, and the ornate carved crown molding carries through the palm leaf motif. Osney found the perfect companion piece for the dining room in a carved wood and caned console with marble insets on the surface. A Bora Bora mirror with caned frame hangs above the console. Bronzed lamps with pineapple finials and vividly colored prints of Polynesian fruits in bronzed bamboo frames accessorize the room and bring in a rich mix of tones and textures. A gorgeous bronze and gilt chandelier is suspended over the dining table, and Osney disguised the slightly off-center ceiling placement with a wood medallion that was faux painted to match the fixture.
Final touches-candles on tall pedestals, silk palms and ferns, and baskets filled with wooden fruit-polished the room. When the Glens were due to arrive, Osney and Leive felt tremendous anticipation, wondering whether their clients would be as pleased as they were. "The Glens got in at midnight and left a message on my phone," says Osney. "The message said, 'It looks so beautiful in here that we are unable to close our eyes and go to sleep.' That was exactly what we wanted to hear."
Design by J & S First Impressions; furnishings from Haverty's, Pier One and Rooms to Go; accessories, artwork and lamps from decorator resources; fabrics by Boca Bargoons.