Design — 02 July 2015
Second home dream designs turn into reality

By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

What is your fantasy for a second home, maybe a summer place? Would it be luxurious yet minimal like the Delano hotel in South Beach or the W in Fort Lauderdale? Would it be a haven for entertaining large groups? Or would it be a destination for trying decorating risks you would never consider in a primary home? Check out what we learned from four South Florida designers.



Designing second homes is routine for Reginald Dunlap. He estimates 80 percent of his work is for clients with as many as five residences.

A Canadian man and wife echoed a common request when they hired him to design their 2,900-square-foot second home in Fort Lauderdale’s La Rive condominium.

“They wanted it to feel like a hotel and very South Florida,” Dunlap says. “They wanted to come here and feel like they are on vacation in a space that is contemporary, clean and not cluttered. La Rive is like a hotel, not like the hustle and bustle of life.”

One of the best examples of this philosophy is his design of the master bedroom, which was inspired by South Beach’s Delano. The bed, with a high white leather tufted headboard and mirrored frame, is reminiscent of the Delano’s registration desk. To keep the look clean, Dunlap designed a 10-foot-long white floating cabinet for storage.

He says luxurious bed linens, mostly crisp white, are a must.

“When someone goes into a better hotel they often wish their home was like it,” he says. “One of the first things they do is go over to the bed and touch the linens. They say: ‘I can’t wait to get into this bed.’ That is the feeling I want to create.”



Earlier in Joseph Fava’s career, clients asked for a tropical look with plenty of rattan and coral colors. No more.

“It is hard to find that look now as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago,” Fava says. “We might still mix in a vintage bamboo cabinet, but we would lacquer it in interesting colors. People are looking for a much more unencumbered look.”

About 75 percent of his clients have multiple homes and are from the north or the west, and they are seeking a change from their primary residences. Often the main upholstered pieces are white, cream or sand with bold colored pillows, accent walls and art. Window treatments are simple and light. Cocktail tables are more streamlined, and there are fewer accessories.

A family with three boys wanted something stylish but durable in this Place des Arts penthouse in Fort Lauderdale. This time the husband wanted a low-to-the-ground Italian look; the wife still loved traditional design. They met in the middle with larger-scale furniture with cleaner lines.

Fava stepped outside their typical comfort zone painting their elevator lobby plum and the den brown.

“People are more open to taking risks if they know they don’t have to live with the colors every day,” he says. “That bold color or interesting fabric ends up being their favorite part of the project.”




Not all second homes have unlimited budgets or large floor plans.

Frances Herrera estimates 25 percent of her projects are on second homes, such as the 2,000-square-foot townhouse she designed in Boca Raton for a New York couple.

“They wanted a residence that felt young, contemporary and sophisticated,” Herrera says. “They wanted it neutral with a pop of color in the accessories and something serene and calming, but not beachy. They wanted it to be comfortable with clean tailored lines.”

Herrera designed the master bedroom with a 60-inch-high oatmeal linen headboard against grass-cloth wallpaper, pillows in water colors and a fuchsia cashmere throw across the bottom. Instead of table lamps she used wall sconces. A standing mirror expands the size of the room and reflects the light from the opposite wall.

To maximize the space in the combined living and dining room she selected a practical and low-maintenance Ultrasuede sectional sofa and angled a leather chair to make the area appear cozy. She designed a custom TV unit to fit the space with side cabinets for storage.

“The second-home clients often have smaller budgets and are more price conscious,” Herrera says. “My lead time in getting the projects finished is much faster. They want practicality because many of them have a live-in housekeeper in their primary homes but not in their secondary homes. Many times they are looking for something more fashion forward such as accessories in brighter, bolder patterns.”



Linda Geffen, owner of the Regency Collection in Boca Raton, wasn’t trained as an interior designer, but she has the right instincts to create beautiful rooms. She studied art and fashion illustration and has been creating vignettes in her store and in clients’ homes for 20 years.

“I have the ability to walk into a home and make changes based on the client’s budget,” Geffen says. “I can tell them what to replace and what to get rid of without changing everything.”

She used those talents to design her 6,400-square-foot second home in Steamboat Springs, Colo. She carpeted the downstairs for a cozier feel. Every room has large closets so to avoid clutter from too much furniture. The bones of the home, such as the wood beams in the kitchen, were kept to maintain the home’s character and western feel. But the western look was kept to a minimum.

“Two little cowhide ottomans were inexpensive and a cute addition to keep some of the cowboy feeling,” Geffen says of the living room. “It brings in a bit of western with the contemporary. I added glitzy pillows that I call the Boca touch. I like to add a little spice to a room. I didn’t want a house with saddles, although I do love saddles. In the garage I have wagon-wheel chandeliers on rope. At this point, my husband was willing to cart me away.”


Reginald Dunlap: Luxe Interior Design & Finishing, 2800 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 530, Miami, 305-456 9048,

Joseph Fava: Fava Design Group, 7636 NE Fourth Court, Suite 103, Miami, 786-536-5380,

Linda Geffen: Regency Collection, Regency Court, 3011 Yamato Road, Boca Raton, 561-212-8422,

Frances Herrera: Frances Herrera Interior Design, 401 E. Las Olas Blvd. #130, Fort Lauderdale, 866-605-8111,



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