BY CHARLYNE VARKONYI SCHAUB
Leonardo da Vinci once said: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” The same could be said about decorating.
No matter how much we spend on a room, it can always evolve. We change it with new art, new experiences or just a desire for a change of pace without a total redo.
Four decorators and a color expert give their suggestions for making your home look fabulous with little effort.
Prescription for high ceilings
Designer: Bea Pila
Photographer: Manuel Buznego
Soaring ceilings may seem dramatic, but often after homeowners move into their palatial residences they feel like they are living in a museum.
One of the best remedies I have seen is in designer Bea Pila’s Coral Gables home designed by her and her architect/builder husband. When I walked into her living room, I was struck by the feeling of comfort and coziness despite the 20-foot-high ceilings. Pila has shared her ideas on HGTV and DYI network.
Her solution was painting one wall black at 12 feet and topping it with a molding that matched the architectural treatment used for the staircase. She hung a gallery wall of varied size framed art pieces over the sofa to add color.
“I really wanted to have the artwork stand out and, to me, creating a dark background gave it the pop that was needed,” Pila says. “It is incredible how much of a huge difference it makes. The darker color draws the eye and makes the trim stand out. It is all about reducing the magnitude of that black wall. The little pieces of art become one piece of art because our eyes have the ability to see all the pieces as one.”
Homeowners could obtain the same result with other dark colors such as navy blue, hunter green, deep burgundy or chocolate brown, she says, adding these beautiful, rich tones are a little less scary than black.
Another way to bring down the scale is to suspend a chandelier or a large ceiling fan down low, such as at the top of a window.
A third option is to create horizontal stripes with paint, especially if it is a more contemporary home.
“A lot of South Florida houses have high ceilings because many of them are designed by developers who don’t spend the money on hiring an interior designer,” Pila says. “You get the wow factor but end up losing human scale. They often don’t spend the money on detailing such as molding and trims, which I believe are the things that finish a house.”
Paint plus prints make a difference
Designer: Joseph Pubillones
Photographer: Daniel Newcomb
Joseph Pubillones, a Palm Beach designer who has appeared on HGTV and writes a syndicated column that appears in newspapers nationwide, has a knack for creating everything from high-end designer show-house rooms to giving suggestions for designing on a budget.
One of my favorite examples is a dining room Pubillones designed for a West Palm Beach 1920s cottage. A simple but inexpensive trick – creating a grouping of repetitive botanicals on the back wall – made all the difference. He suggests buying a print book of botanicals, flowers, shells or animals in a thrift or antique store, carefully removing the pages and framing them identically. The trick is to make them look like a single unit.
“It should cost you only $25 to $50 for the book,” he says. “Matted and framed they create an incredible art wall that looks like you spent a lot of money. The most important thing to keep in mind is this is an architectural format and the more rows, the better it looks.”
Take one of the colors in the prints and paint the walls to match. Pubillones used Benjamin Moore Butter 2023-60.
He continued the theme of repetition on the tabletop with three vases and above with the lighting fixtures. Two lighting fixtures were combined and hung at different heights, but he says this also works with a series of pendants hung side by side.
The homeowners already had the chairs and table. Pubillones recovered the chairs in vinyl faux leather that cleans easily.
“The new faux leathers are uncanny,” he says. “You can’t tell the difference unless you pull them close and smell them. They have perfect texture, shine and feel.”
His final touch? Three-inch-wide louvers on plantation shutters stained in a contrasting wood. The goal was to make them look as if they were always there.
Quick, easy color
Color Expert: Jackie Jordan
Photography: Sherwin Williams
Most of us know that the easiest and least expensive way to update a room is to paint the walls. And each year, paint manufacturers tempt us with their new color palettes.
We caught up with Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing for Sherwin Williams, a couple of weeks before she was scheduled to share her knowledge at Allied Kitchen & Bath in Fort Lauderdale.
“Our forecast is based on opposites and extremes,” she says. “A lot of it has to do with our lifestyles. A massive amount of information is fed to us. Everything is history within two minutes. We started exploring that concept. What we discovered is part of what we want is an escape from reality in a couple of different ways. One is having an intrigue for mystery and the unknown. Escape from reality may mean going to the theater.”
Jordan points out escapist movies such as Snow White and the Huntsman, Sherlock Holmes and Dark Shadows. They are the masculine, dark and moody colors of the Midnight Mystery palette – earthy Plum Brown, Bottle Green, the metal gray of Outerspace and rustic red evoking Sherlock Holmes’ cloak. These Midnight Mystery colors could be used here in small doses, but Jordan says the best colors for South Florida come from the Honed Vitality palette and Vintage Moxie palette.
Honed Vitality is nature driven. It is all about natural, artisanal, crafts and home baking. Jordan described them as neutrals infused with a little more pigment. They are restful and comforting. The colors are chalky grays and blues and earthy, cider-colored browns.
“These are colors that say I want to turn it all off and get away from it all,” she says. “Computers are off. Phones are off. They have more of a tactile interaction with the environment. There is a lot of texture. It’s a different kind of escape.”
Vintage Moxie is fun, flirty saturated pastels. It evokes the retro glamour of pearls, florals and classic feminine silhouettes. It can be punctuated with black and white accents.
“Vintage Moxie says we are tired of being uptight, tired of being frustrated,” Jordan says. “It is younger, influenced by fashion, the resurgence of Twiggy. It is a little softer than the colors we think of in South Beach. It is a bright, sunny palette.”
Despite all the new choices every year, Jordan says top sellers are neutral tones such as whites, off whites, gold colors and taupelike grays.
“I think [people] don’t want to make a mistake,” she says. “The biggest fear is ‘What if I don’t like it?’ ”
If you are fearful, she suggests painting one wall or a small space such as a powder room.
“It gives you the opportunity to try something bold and dark,” she says. “Try it there first and see what happens.”
A trio of upgrades
Designer: Sharon Binkerd
Photography: Decorating Den
Sharon Binkerd insists you don’t have to obtain a building permit or hire a contractor to make a big difference in the appearance of a room.
She suggests a trio of ideas to update your look – adding faux ironwork or stained glass overlay to windows, covering walls with weathered stone and adding an elegant upholstered headboard.
“The faux iron is something that adds a lot of architectural interest,” Binkerd says. “From a distance you would never know it wasn’t wrought iron. It is more like open fretwork placed within a window.”
It comes in numerous standard finishes, or you can customize a finish. There are also lots of designs. Binkerd has even used them as ceiling medallions. Another idea is to pick up the wrought-iron pattern of a stairway and incorporate it into a window design. (See www.fauxironcreations.com.)
The stained-glass overlays (www.fldesignerglass.com) appear like a gel. Binkerd rarely uses color except in a shower door or a cabana bath and prefers to use the stained glass above a window treatment.
Another product, weathered stone, can go directly over what you are trying to hide, such as unattractive wood paneling or around a fireplace.
“The weathered stone looks and feels like wallpaper,” she says. “You can order it in bigger sheets, and when you step back it looks like travertine without the cost. It takes only about one-fourth the installation time.”
Upholstered headboards are becoming more popular, and Binkerd says she has done about a dozen of them in the past six to eight months. You don’t have to worry about stains from leaning against the headboard because most of the fabrics today have a coating that has a stain and soil release finish for easy care.
Binkerd designed a bedroom for a Fort Lauderdale couple who have been married 50 years and wanted to switch to a king-sized bed. They told her they wanted to incorporate some transitional pieces with their traditional furniture and would consider more contemporary fabrics.
The ikat fabric used for the comforter was the inspiration for the color palette of soft grays and ivory with a pop of citron, which matched the couple’s Vaseline glass collection used on a side table. The 67-inch-high tufted headboard adds drama and helps the scale of the room, which has 9-foot-tall ceilings.
Binkerd’s design was a hit with her clients and her peers. She recently won the Donayre Award in Decorating Den’s Dream Room Contest.
Designers: Alison Antrobus and Ruby Ramirez
Photographer: Charlyne V. Schaub
Small spaces cry out for big ideas.
One of the best solutions I saw recently was the bedroom designed by Alison Antrobus and Ruby Ramirez for the Artefacto’s second annual Design House at the Coral Gables showroom.
The designers used a round theme to give the room a sense of depth and create a warm, womblike feeling. The theme was repeated in the way the drapes were hung, the shape of the rug and the oversized drum chandelier.
“We always like to engage the ceiling in the design because often the ceiling is forgotten,” Ramirez says. “We printed an image of a peony on the bottom of the shade to visually lower the ceiling.”
Another great idea for a guest room is to put together a group of accessories that can range from stilettos to faux coral and spray paint them the same color to provide unity throughout the room. In this case, they were painted fluorescent pink.
“An injection of something like this reflects our personalities,” Antrobus says. “It is unexpected and creates dialogue.”
The circular theory is also repeated in the round tables and lamp bases, whose reflective surfaces add an illusion of light to the room.
The Design House will be open through June 2, 2013 at Artefacto, 4440 Ponce de Leon Blvd., in the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables. Hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
Alison Antrobus and Ruby Ramirez: Antrobus + Ramirez, 169 E. Flagler St., Suite 1701, Miami, 305-421-7266, www.antrobusdesignco.com.
Sharon Binkerd: Decorating Den Interiors, 3415 NE 12th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, 954-564-7870, www.sharonbinkerd.decoratingden.com.
Jackie Jordan: Sherwin-Williams, www.sherwinwilliams.com.
Bea Pila: B. Pila Design Studio, 2610 SW 28th Lane, Miami, 305-856-7916, www.bpiladesign.com.
Joseph Pubillones: 44 Cocoanut Row, Palm Beach, 561-655-1717, www.jp-interiors.com.