Design HOME — 14 May 2013
Turnkey design: Just bring a toothbrush

By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

Imagine this: The house or condo you bought comes ready with all the furniture, accessories, towels, linens, pots and pans in the styles you prefer. All you need to move in is your toothbrush and wardrobe.

Welcome to “turnkey” design — the perfect solution for those with the money but not the time. Typically in South Florida it’s done for those moving in from out of state, but it can also be the best solution for busy executives. How many details the designer provides varies with the client.

These three examples run the gamut from snowbirds trading up to a larger home in Florida to clients moving from homes to condos.

DESIGNER: Gil Walsh, Gil Walsh Interiors, West Palm Beach

PHOTOGRAPHER: Daniel Newcomb

Mike Conville, president of Beacon Construction Group in North Palm Beach, is no stranger to turnkey design. He’s used to working with a team of designers and architects to create the concept for snowbird clients.

Conville used his experiences in the design of his new 3,500-square-foot condo at the Esplanade Grande in West Palm Beach with the help of interior designer Gil Walsh.

“I was too busy with so many projects,” Conville says. “We had a relationship because she has done jobs for me. She knew my aesthetic. She would send me [product information sheets] and she would go shopping for the furniture and all the accessories. I went shopping with her a couple of times. We didn’t return much – maybe three items.”

Conville describes himself as “a New England guy who likes homey with a little edge.” He wanted Walsh to add a little more edginess to his conservative style. For example, she suggested building a stand for his coral art.

The condo design was a mix of high and low – from Ralph Lauren pendants in the kitchen to a mirror in the dining room from Z Gallerie. He found some of the pieces himself, such as the large oil painting of Venice in the dining room. He also found glassware, which Walsh placed on the bar shelves so they were ready when he moved in.

Walsh says the project was a team effort. When Conville purchased the condo, it was sterile with no architectural detail. He built cabinetry in his library/office, separated the hallway between the great room and master bedroom with a built-out casing an out casing and created a bar in the great room with a large TV built into the two-way mirror.

“We put the style together and our thoughts together,” Walsh says. “He showed me photos of what he liked and we talked about scale and the location of the furnishings. That is why it turned out so well and why he is so happy. He can live here and eventually may sell it. It is a great look and will sell.”

In the master bedroom, Conville wanted to use his own bed and night tables, which Walsh thought he should replace. They went shopping together and found new end tables and they visited an Asian gallery where he fell in love with a three-panel painting, She told him the art wouldn’t work with his bed because it was too big. He replied, “You are going to love them. I know it is going to work.”

“Sure enough, part of them are hidden, but it looks great,” she says.


DESIGNER: Patty Gilbert of Brown’s Interior Design, Boca Raton


Patty Gilbert’s clients, former snowbirds from Connecticut, bought a home in Delaire Country Club in Delray Beach a decade ago. After the husband retired, they traded their smaller home for a larger one they built in the same development.

“The only thing that makes a turnkey difficult is the client is not here all the time,” Gilbert says, noting Brown’s does a lot of designs for clients who are out of town. “We really have to get a lot of information up front – how they live, how they want to use the home. In this case, it made my job easy because I had done a home for them already and knew what they wanted.”

The construction took more than a year and the wife flew into town a few times to pick out construction details, but she left Gilbert on her own to decide the furnishings. Everything was new except for the two sofas and Christopher Guy mirror in the den that were in their smaller Delaire home.

Gilbert, inspired by a ceiling she saw in a California hotel, designed a creative focal point in the foyer. The circles were built in drywall and painted a deep tan in the center to contrast with the off-white ceiling. The same circular motif was created in a mosaic on the floor.

The great room, which has a 25-foot-high ceiling, was brought down more to scale with a deep cornice in brown fabric that matched the wing chairs. Gilbert purchased a metal sculpture that needed more height so she asked her cabinetmaker to create a pedestal.

The clients are very social and entertain a lot at home so the loggia was created with plenty of space for eating and dining, including a square table that seats eight and a conversation area. The outdoor kitchen, which is part of the space, has a gas grill and room for storage.

“We have a lot of clients coming down here from the north,” she says. “They can’t stay so we do everything from beginning to end, Very often we will have a client shop up north for sheets and towels and we send everything to our warehouse or we will do it and they don’t have to worry. Then they can just move in.”


DESIGNERS: Brett Sugerman
and Giselle Loor, b+g design,
Fort Lauderdale

PHOTOGRAPHER: Barry Grossman

Brett Sugerman and Giselle Loor are turnkey pros because many of their clients demand this design solution.

“We, as a matter of course, buy the linens, bedding, bath accessories and sometimes plates and dishes, toasters and coffeemakers,” Sugerman says. “Every project is a little bit different. Some stop at bath linens and some make us go all the way through.”

The 2,500-square-foot condo at The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale was designed for a client who was moving from a large home in western Broward County. Sugerman and Loor selected everything from the clean-lined furnishings to the art.

The dining area of the great room features a David Weeks light fixture that is an interpretation of a mid-century modern classic. The sculptural form of the large fixture was selected because it does not block the view. Structural columns are always a headache in newer high-rise condos so the designers built a box around the column, which is large enough for storage. The bar has a waterfall edge and allows drinks to be made on the far end.

The former guest room was transformed into a home office because the clients prefer to put up guests in a hotel room at The Ritz-Carlton. The custom designed shelving and storage unit are wenge wood with a high-gloss custom lacquer in cerulean accented with polished stainless steel bands. The glass desk has a cantilevered leg on one side and is supported by a wood piece on the other.

Another guest bedroom was converted to a media room because the client decided he wanted a cozier space for a home theater. The designers added a large 3D projector and a fixed projection screen. Seating includes a 10 ½-foot long sofa and a swivel chair. The artwork, printed on aluminum panels, is a tongue-in-check voyeuristic series of photographs that look into people’s offices.

The dining and living areas are set apart by a millwork canopy and wall paneling. One wall features a four-piece artwork by Loor. Another wall morphs into the TV unit, which has sculptural floating lacquer panels. The designers purchased all the books, including a $500 book that comes in a box that can be opened for display on the coffee table.

“It is designed to be a space within a space,” Sugerman says.

The turnkey designs are nothing like doing a model for a builder, he adds.

“We take a lot of care to make a client’s home their home,” he says. “We want to make sure what we are doing is right for the client. It is not like putting together a model for imaginary clients or trying to appeal to a broader segment. As you get more turnkey, you are getting more personal. You are buying what sheets they sleep on and what towels they dry their bodies with. We will show clients samples and try to anticipate their more intimate needs.”



Patty Gilbert: Brown’s Interior Design, 4501 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 561-368-2703,

Brett Sugerman and Giselle Loor: b+g design, 410 NW First Ave, #310, Fort Lauderdale, 954-929-6949,

Gil Walsh: Gil Walsh Interiors, 523 Northwood Road, West Palm Beach, 561-932-0631,


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