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SHADES OF HOME

In Florida, living in a bowl of sherbet never goes out of style, designers say.

But the homeowners featured in this issue, many of whom migrated here from the North, didnt want to discard their dark wood antiques and needlepoint pillows. They didnt want their homes to look like time-share units or vacation villas, even though, for some, these are second homes.

Rather, they wanted a look they are accustomed to: European styling, hardwood floors, cozy, sophisticated fabrics, architectural details and a touch of the urban.

But those elements dont always mix with coral stone, chintz, rattan-and-cotton or the pastel color schemes typically found in Central Florida.

So designers are coming up with new looks. They start with elements of typical light, airy and plant-filled Florida decor, then add a touch of the Northern influence, often with darker, richer colors and warm, cozy fabrics.

It all adds up to a new hybrid style: Florida houses that look rather exotic in Florida.

CHICAGO FLAT:

When designer Sam Ewing first decorated his Winter Park home six years ago, aside from its sophisticated black slate herringbone floor, the decor was largely bone-on-bone with sand-colored upholstery.

However, he recently gave the interior a face-lift, making it look more like a cozy and sophisticated Chicago flat.

The textures in the fabrics have a lot to do with that, says Ewings partner, Gail Winn.

In typical Florida homes you see a lot of cool, uncomplicated cottons and chintzes, but not a lot of fabric texture mix, Winn said.

He used heavier weights, more chenille suedes, needlepoint and velvet typically found in colder climates, Winn said. For instance, he placed a suede French arm chair, needlepoint-texture pillows, and an ottoman of printed, cut velvet in the living room.

The variety and dimension of the fiber warms a room a lot more and eliminates any blandness, Winn said.

Although the house is a relatively small square feet, Ewing used soft, deep colors, mostly russets, and black and butterscotch weaves. He added overstuffed furniture to further enhance its warmth and depth. The rich look continues with formal antique furniture, such as a burled walnut chest with a marble top, and an eclectic mix of other fine pieces.

Then he balanced the rooms heaviness with a sisal rug, a stone coffee table top, contemporary art and lighting, and white walls, which lighten the look for Florida and ensure that the smallish rooms are not overpowered.

When it comes to choosing accessories, Ewing is fearless, always going for the unexpected. No pink flamingoes or seashells for him.

One thing that makes Sams rooms so interesting and appealing are his unusual accessories, which involve a mix of textures and materials, Winn said.

Glass bowls, an Oriental box, a Portugese pottery urn, a bronze salamander on the round table between the chairs, art books. . . . Having books and objects that relate to your interest on your cocktail table make a room more personal.

TRUE ITALIAN:

When Montanna & Associates designer Sharon Gilkey began designing this award-winning Winter Park house, she decided to try something completely different.

I go to the Enzian all the time to look at their foreign films. I usually see very rustic interiors, with lots of bold, dark colors and brown primitive furniture. . . . I said to myself, Im going to do a house like a foreign film!

I wanted to make a pure Italian statement with warmth, drama and simplicity. I didnt want to make a watered-down Florida-ized Italian statement. Thats the problem with the Mediterranean styles done here in Florida. Theyre so vanilla-looking. But I felt there were enough people in the area now who would enjoy the boldness of this look.

Gilkey was correct. Although Realtors balked at first, the dark, moody Orlando house was a big hit, winning awards in all the design shows it entered.

The color scheme, which Gilkey took from traditional Italian pottery, is darker than one would normally find in a comparable Florida house: russet, terra cotta, deep blue, and dark green.

Before we had any of the faux painting up, a group of Realtors previewed it and said, Eeeeew!

But Gilkey persevered. True Mediterraneans dont use wallpaper, she reasoned, painting the kitchen a deep blue and all other walls rosy colors that vary from pale blush to dark cinnamon. Some also feature tiles, or painted finishes made to look like ancient plaster or frescoes.

Gilkey also painted the ceilings, which added further warmth to the look.

She chose rustic, old furniture with primitive, simple lines, including antiques from Central Java and Indonesia as well as Europe.

I wanted texture. . . . I also wanted the visual weight of dark pieces. Often, you get these spaces with all these big volume ceilings and when you have that high a ceiling and the room is all off-white it just floats. Theres nothing to anchor it.

You start putting some heavy, dark wood pieces and the room suddenly has a base to it.

For instance, the vestibule leading to the master bedroom, looks like a Northern Italian outdoor courtyard with a fresco on the wall and dark wooden benches resting against it.

Similarly, the family room features a dark brown leather sofa, which Gilkey purposely chose over a lighter color. And the living room features a large, dark-colored armoire.

Its pretty bold and incredibly the opposite of light and airy, Gilkey said.

But people need color and variety in their lives, said Gilkey. Even if your house is on the small side, chances are, since its in Florida it has lots of glass and can probably handle more color than you think it can.

COZY COCOON

Comparatively speaking, glass and metal are used in the Southern climates because theyre cool and slick-looking, said Mark Tremblay of Marc-Michaels Interior Design in Winter Park.

But following a national trend towards cocooning, the owners of this Melbourne home wanted a warm, cozy, personalized haven where they could spend lots of time nesting.

We used cold-weather comfort fabrics, multiple textures, overstuffed furniture and rather beefy, chunky wood mouldings, Tremblay said. That depth and bulk creates a nesting feeling that hearkens back to homes in the North yet gives a secure, comfortable feeling no matter what the climate.

In their quest to add warmth and depth to the home, the designers at Marc-Michaels went a step further than they normally do with color, making this home look less Floridian than other recent projects. While normally they deal primarily with neutral colors, they added bolder, deeper colors to this design, such as the hunter green walls in the library.

And the homeowners didnt want to give up their large, bulky traditional wood dining room set. So the designers, who frequently place stone and glass tables in their clients homes, managed to create a dining room around the darker wood that still had an airy feel. The designers used the rooms natural light and light-textured fabrics to balance the look.

On the upholstered furniture, designers used chenilles and silks, which are cold-weather fabrics, as opposed to the cottons and linens they often use.

They also layered voluminous, billowy window treatments. That has a warm feel compared to the simplicity of a padded cornice or verticals that are so typical of so many Florida condos, Tremblay said.

Continuing the warm Northern feel, they layered fabric patterns of the furniture and throw pillows. Rugs were placed upon other rugs.

Also contributing to the look are authentic stone architectural elements salvaged from buildings in the Northeast, one of Marc-Michaels trademarks.

You dont typically see those types of architectural stone pieces in Florida, Tremblay said.

TUDOR MANSION

The owners of this south Orlando home hail from the New York area and enjoy traveling in Europe. So when they decided to build their dream home, they departed completely from the Mediterranean style they had been living in and opted for a British classic.

The house features English architectural elements, columns, turrets and stone detailing on the outside.

Those elements guided interior designer Sam Ewing of Ewing-Noble Interiors in Winter Park toward rich woods, formal fabrics, jewel tones and accessories from Europe.

We talked to them about colors they liked, asked them to pull photos out of magazines of homes they liked. She liked Mario Buotta and the more formal things, said Ewings partner, Gail Winn.

Ewing and Winn pulled deep jewel tones of blue, green and burgundy from the tapestry fabric on the two sofas and two chairs and used them throughout the the house.

In their travels, the homeowners found gilded chandeliers and architectural elements, including sconces and walnut paneling, which Ewing and Winn used in the library.

The homeowners also bought a massive stone mantel in Europe which they had to import an artisan to install. The formal, hand-carved mantel punctuates the cavernous living room.

The designers used the homeowners existing paintings and dark wood furnishings and antiques for a very un-Florida look.

The light walls and open spaces are still very tropical looking, Ewing said, as are playful splashes of color that turn up among all the traditional elements, such as a sprightly lavender that pops up in fabrics, throw pillows and custom-designed rugs.

Yet using tapestry fabrics, damask weaves, satin stripe and leather chairs signify a more formal, definitely an un-Florida approach.

ADD SOME HONEY

The owners of this south Orlando home hail from Miami. Still they were tired of the typical all-white interiors popular throughout Florida.

They wanted warm, inviting and cozy. Not pretentious at all, said Gail Winn, a designer with Ewing Noble Interiors of Winter Park.

Winn and designer Sam Ewing added warmth with colors, as well as rich, deep wood finishes, and comfort fabrics.

They covered floors with wood or French terra cotta rather than typical all-white saturnia or travertine marble. They covered ceilings with warm, rich fruit wood for extra warmth.

Similarly, the house features fruit wood paneling and trims rather than coral stone columns and accents that have been used all over this area in recent years. Built-ins are also done in honey-colored wood.

No prints were used, rather the sophisticated feel of the house comes from the variety of textures in the fabrics and the thick carpeting, which was done in a heavy cable yarn.

Bold, modern art punctuates the warm color scheme. Three Arman violin sculptures in fuchsia, cobalt blue and metallic gold catch the eye immediately as visitors walk through the front door.

The furniture is an eclectic mix of traditional styles and finishes, but all of the pieces share one thing in common: good proportion and good design. Gregorius Pineo of California, the company that made the dining room table, finished it to look like an antique complete with rings on the table top, as if somebody left a glass sitting there without a coaster for too long.

Everybody comes away with a real impression that its warm and relaxing, totally unpretentious, Winn said. Its got white walls and lots of Florida plants. Yet theres something about it that makes it look like a house not from this area.

It takes the unexpected to give a room some personality.

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