The similarities of lifestyles between California and the west coast of Florida are blissfully evident: They're both all about casual elegance and the blurred boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces. Where else will you find lanai, pool, terrace, patio and outdoor kitchens that occupy more real estate than conventional living room, dining areas and family rooms of homes in other parts of the country? Tall walls of glass silently glide away to double our living space and provide a flow that makes entertaining crowds a breeze. Garden rooms converge with bedrooms; fountains and waterfalls entertain us from every vantage point; and at least one outdoor shower is a must.
When Californians and west coast Floridians furnish homes, we factor in bright sunlight, warm weather and profuse foliage. So we're not afraid of saturated colors, lots of bright white, dramatic lighting and plenty of water elements. We orient our furniture to the views of Gulf, bay or nature preserves, and we pick our upholstery fabrics and window treatments for luxurious durability and minimal maintenance.
That's why a look some are calling the New California style is drawing interest from Florida designers and homeowners, including at a special Robb & Stucky event later this month. (See accompanying story in this issue.) We asked the designers at the well-known Southwest Florida furniture store to show us four recent projects that exemplify the style. Here's what happens when west coast meets west coast.
Timeless Hollywood Glamour
Greta Garbo didn't sleep here. But she could have, because this luxurious bedroom is scripted for nostalgic sophistication and quiet elegance. The close-up reveals a refined retreat fit for an haute studio star. The homeowners, who live in Washington, D.C., and use this Ritz-Carlton Tower residence for weekend getaways, directed designer Susan Dabney of Robb & Stucky to set the stage with something hip and fresh with a genuine sense of bygone elegance.
Dabney started with a color palette of aubergine, amethyst, champagne and metallic silver, with touches of rich chocolate brown. "Because the colors are subtle, I've emphasized texture," says Dabney. "The walls are metallic paper over grasscloth, and the leather bench at the foot of the bed is tufted. It provides a nice contrast to the champagne-colored carpet and the bed, which is a light exotic wood. The embroidered and channel-stitched bed linens are silk; and while the striped drapes look and feel like silk, they're polyester to withstand the sun."
A glass-and-metal chandelier complements the metallic walls, and the designer added glass bedside lamps made of stacked crystal spheres. This is definitely a grown-up, romantic, modern bedchamber that yields nothing to classic drama and the kind of luxurious comfort we associate with Hollywood royalty.
The Asian Influence
Selby Gardens' spectacular orchid collection inspired this California contemporary living-dining area in a Ritz-Carlton Tower residence that Dabney designed as a model. The present owner liked it so much he bought the apartment completely furnished, down to the Holly Hunt beeswax faux-candle electric chandelier over the dining table. "There's that hint of Asia that informs a lot of California design," says Dabney, "and it works so well in Sarasota too that I didn't hesitate to bring it forward."
The designer played to the contrast between white and dark with polished woods, dark banding on the cream Calvin Klein carpets, picture frames and trim. "The real trick was in not over-accessorizing," she says. "The room is clean and edited; certainly modern but not one bit remote or cold." There's contrast, too, between the Barbara Barry for Henredon chocolate velvet chairs and the Barbara Barry ottoman weave cream sofa.
A key piece is the mahogany frame sideboard that's wrapped in raffia and has silver pulls. The only strong color pattern comes from the orchid drapery panels and the hand-painted orchid china on the table. This calm and alluring space achieves intelligent high style.
This Longboat Key vacation residence is home to a British family with small children, so designer Jeff Hart, also of Robb & Stucky, created a living room that requires only minimal upkeep. Kid-friendly fabrics and wraparound built-in bookcases for maximum storage were two smart choices. "The color scheme replicates our glorious Florida sunset and is both vibrant and relaxing," explains Hart. "The custom-designed wool carpet pulls together all the hues we've used and is nicely set off by the light oak floors."
The big comfy sofa is raffia-backed for a tropical look, and the cushions are soft cotton for comfort. The patterned drapes frame the magnificent Gulf of Mexico view, and a clever valance conceals glare-controlling shades when not in use. Raffia side chairs, plenty of tropical foliage and natural light help define this spacious vacation apartment that would feel like home in either Southern California or Sarasota.
Back to the Garden
The owners of this contemporary condominium are a Canadian couple with grown children in Sarasota, so they recently decided to move to town to be near them. They chose a city high-rise with exceptional vistas and maximum convenience. A trip to Hawaii provided the artwork and the Far East inspiration for this light-filled conversation area that's part of a family room-breakfast area.
The indoor-outdoor cast aluminum chairs and ottoman are from Robb & Stucky's Pompeii Collection and would work poolside as well. The custom-designed modern wool rug references the colors in the five orchid paintings and anchors the space on the cherry floor. "Fresh plants and white walls establish a crisp, easy-breezy style that defines both the California and Southwest Florida lifestyle," says Jeff Hart. This space speaks eloquently about no-fuss comfort, but it expresses plenty of individual style.
SARASOTA Magazine and Robb & Stucky invite you to explore the New California Style at a special in-store event Thursday evening, March 30. Call (941) 922-2274 ext. 132 to RSVP. And these following in-store seminars will take place in April; reservations are required; call (941) 922-2274 ext. 178:
Wednesday, April 5, at 10:30 a.m.
Luxuriate in Chocolate-Sculpting, That Is!
Wednesday, April 12, at 10:30 a.m.
Architecture and Interiors of Wine Country
Wednesday, April 19, at 2 p.m.
It's All About Wine: Wine Cellars and a Wine Tasting
Wednesday, April 22, at 1:30 p.m.
Outdoor Living California Style