HOME Home & Decor — 06 December 2014
Finding comfort and joy in interior design

By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

For some of us, comfort translates into a large sectional sofa with a durable coffee table that allows us to prop up our feet. Others desire a large window seat for napping or a padded headboard for reading and watching television. Small details, such as a dressing table or a drink table, are also comfort triggers.

It is rare to see comfortable rooms in the glossy design magazines, but here are some we discovered from South Florida designers and architects.




A comfortable room doesn’t appear over decorated or like a stage set. This condo in Manalapan defines comfort. It combines ideas from William Wietsma, Michael Franck and snowbird clients from Washington, D.C.

The two-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot condo was gutted to the bare walls and transformed into a three bedroom space with a large great room. Hallways were eliminated.

“The window seat is the central theme,” says Wietsma whose company did the architecture and construction. “Anyone can crawl up there and take a nap, read a book, look at the ocean or watch TV.”

In fact, the window seat is so comfortable that Franck admitted he took a nap on it the day of the photo shoot. He says it was designed extra deep so it could serve nap and play time.

Franck, who helped layout the space and select light fixtures and tile, says the wife and her friend were responsible for the decorating. They selected fabrics of worn linen and worn velvet to create a casual elegance.

“It was all about creating something unique,” Franck says. “They wanted a family home that was well done but not so perfect that the kids wouldn’t be comfortable. They want good things but they have to live in it. It is OK to spill Kool-Aid on linen and just wipe it off.”




Erin Pitts may be a newcomer to South Florida, but she has a lot of experience creating comfortable design especially in beach houses.

A vacation house she decorated in Bethany Beach, Del., features deep seating sofas with upgraded fill on the cushions, a large distressed wood coffee table, a padded headboard and chairs with ottomans.

“One of the things I do, particularly in a family or beach house, is to use Sunbrella fabrics on virtually every surface you can sit on. I employed them throughout so they didn’t have to worry if someone sits down in a wet bathing suit.” (Sunbrella fabrics, originally made for outdoor use, resist spills and clean easily.)

Pitts is selective in use of patterns and prefers natural and down-to-earth materials such as marble or water hyacinth. Another trick is to layer textures with a little bit of color and not too much pattern.

“To me, a lot of pattern is busy and unsettling,” she says. “Layers of texture are more inviting and warm. You start from a more tranquil zone. I always add a pop of color on pillows or Euro shams in bed.”

She says there is nothing like a padded headboard for reading in bed with a higher chest side table or dresser for drinks.




Leta Austin Foster describes herself as old fashioned because she believes form should follow function.

“Clients want comfort or they wouldn’t come to me,” she says. “It’s my bag.”

Foster decorated this “British Colonial Retreat” in Hobe Sound for repeat clients. It has all the right elements – comfortable seating in a cozy library, a drink table and an elegant dressing table.

The library features one of the best elements of comfort – a good sofa like this in Bridgewater style with cushions featuring polyfoam core wrapped with down for comfort and support. The room, which seats eight for entertaining, will eventually have books filling the shelves. The drink table provides quick service without a full size bar.

“It is not comfortable to be [asking someone to repeat what they said] every time someone speaks,” Foster says. “The books reflect back sound value. All broken up surfaces absorb sound. Heavily lined curtains also help absorb sound.”

A dressing table is another element women find comfortable. In this case, the kidney-shaped table is dressed with a John Fowler skirt and a blue silk petticoat.

“You get the feeling that these are rooms you want to go in and have a chat, read and have a meal,” she says.




Piper Gonzales got a call from a client who wanted her to design a comfortable family home in Palm Beach Gardens on a tight deadline. The project, approved the first week in January, was installed in March.

“I have two little boys and a dog so I can relate to what she wanted,” Gonzales says. “I have always created spaces in my own home that are livable.”

Her ideas include covering ottomans in vinyl, placing an 18- or 20-inch band on the bottom of curtain panels in a deeper color to hide soil and upholstering the back of furniture in a contrasting performance fabric. She rejects hard coffee tables for storage ottomans or those with a print fabric to hide dirt and spills. Toys can be hidden in large baskets with a throw over the top to hide the contents.

Media centers are rarely used for storage – Netflix and cable streaming of movies have taken care of that – so toys and other items can be stored there, she says. She allows floor space in a media room so the children can haul out a sleeping bag to watch a movie or play games.

“Rarely does a client these days want me to design a room that is based solely on looks,” she says.


Leta Austin Foster: Leta Austin Foster & Associates, 64 Via Mizner, Palm Beach, 561-655-5489, letaaustinfoster.com.

Michael Franck: Franck & Lohsen Architects, 2233 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 212, Washington, D.C., 202-223-9449, francklohsen.com.

Piper Gonzales: Piper Gonzalez Designs, West Palm Beach, 561-635-6623, pipergonzalezdesigns.com.

Erin Pitts: Erin Paige Pitts Interiors, 1310 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach, 443-392-5036, erinpaigepittsinteriors.com.

William Wietsma: Wietsma Lippolis Construction, 3100 NW Second Ave., Suite 404, Boca Raton, 561-274-4863, wietsmalippolisconstruction.com.













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