Marion Weerasuriya of Olde World Design Group grew up in Sarasota, earned an art degree from the University of Florida, and worked on refurbishing historic estates in Miami and Palm Beach before returning home to spend four years developing Villa del Paradiso, an 8,000-square-foot Venetian-inspired home on Siesta Key. Filled with master craftsman details such as Russian pine doors with hand-made pegs and hand-plastered coffered ceilings, it’s listed for $5,995,000 by Marcia Salkin and Paulene Soublis of Premier Properties of Southwest Florida.
I’m big on historical accuracy: Because the proportions and overall scale are correct. Even if people aren’t educated in this, they can walk in a building and feel whether it’s right or not.
In Villa del Paradiso: The front entry is over 21,000 pounds of hand-carved travertine; the master bath is six feet long, carved out of one solid piece of marble; and the fireplace mantel in the grand room is an exact replica in marble of a 17th-century piece Addison Mizner found in Italy.
My one essential design element: Adding some older, authentic pieces—they immediately root and establish the design. We used reclaimed lighting from homes in Palm Beach, for example, that have a few layers of paint and rust; the patina is hard to duplicate.
My own home: Is really rather simple, modern in overall architecture, but the antiques display like museum pieces.
My most precious possession: I just love this one unbelievable 18th-century chinoiserie cabinet that I had sent over from London. It’s so fanciful and whimsical that it’s a lot of fun.
If you want to incorporate antiques in your design: Find a period and style you love, then train your eye by buying auction house catalogues that specialize in these periods. That way you get exposed to the best from all over the world. As long as you buy quality pieces, you’ll never get in trouble, and as long as you love it, you can enjoy it in any atmosphere.
What’s next? Marcia and Paulene are looking for a new beautiful piece of waterfront property for my next project. —Ilene Denton