Downsizing to downtown


Moving from a large home in the quiet and private Silver Oak community in Palmer Ranch was something Lois Ross’ clients had been anticipating for a while.


“The wife is a city girl through-and-through, and she was eager to leave a big home and yard and find a condominium in a downtown high-rise with great views and easy walking to amenities,” said interior designer Lois Ross, a downtown dweller herself.

Interior designer Lois Ross in the 10th floor Savoy condominium that her clients bought two years ago when they downsized from a large home in Silver Oak in Palmer Ranch. Ross worked on their big house and did this apartment since she knew the clientsÕ tastes and how to make some of their existing furniture work in this new place.   (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Nick Adams)

Interior designer Lois Ross in the 10th floor Savoy condominium that her clients bought two years ago when they downsized from a large home in Silver Oak in Palmer Ranch. Ross worked on their big house and did this apartment since she knew the clientsÕ tastes and how to make some of their existing furniture work in this new place. (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Nick Adams)

Their move is part of a definite real estate trend as people of means are moving into the city – those new condos under construction are filling up fast -- to be closer to theater, dining and night life.

Ross was chosen to help this 60-ish couple make the transition from the suburbs to the city through a previous joint project.

“I had met them in 2004, when they came into my Sarasota retail gallery to purchase a glass-and-stainless-steel modern coffee table,” said Ross. “I subsequently helped them with the interior of their Palmer Ranch property, so when they were moving to The Savoy on Palm, they contacted me to add some custom touches to their glamorous, 10th-floor condominium and to help them furnish the new place using as much of their existing furniture as possible.”

The apartment is 3,200 square feet and has two large terraces that offer sweeping views of water and city.

The couple also needed places to display their ever-expanding collection of art glass, paintings and tabletop sculpture that they purchase locally at galleries and at juried art shows throughout Florida.

Luckily, the corner apartment they purchased has floor-to-ceiling glass for spectacular views of Sarasota Bay and the city skyline, but also the home has wide, well-lighted hallways that are ideal for hanging works of art.

In the living room, Ross had custom acrylic floating shelves especially designed for various pieces of colorful art glass. She brought in a zebra-wood modern console to visually anchor the arrangement, but also to supply additional closed storage.

The couple brought their cinnamon-colored leather sofa with them from the Palmer Ranch home, but it wasn’t long enough or curvy enough to conform to the shape and size of the Savoy living room.

“I knew exactly where I sourced that sofa when I worked on their big home,” said Ross, “so I was able to go back to the company and order an additional section to make the sofa right for this new home. We got a perfect color match, and now the proportions are ideal for the space.”

Ross also designed a circular area carpet for her clients. She took inspiration from a piece of art glass that sits on top of the glass-and-stainless-steel table from 2004. The designer brought in a few side tables in reflective finishes because the natural light in the apartment is so lovely, and she knows that glass and reflective surfaces optimize the light.

The homeowners were able to keep their dining set; to set it off, Ross found a custom uncut crystal-and-stainless-steel chandelier that is modern but also references classical styling in silhouette.

In the master bath, she brought in a custom mirrored vanity for the wife. She also painted the home in a neutral palette using three shades of the same color. The furniture has very little pattern and is done in shades of caramel, cream, cinnamon and touches of cocoa-bean brown and black for sophistication.

“With all the colorful art in this house, it made sense to provide a calm and neutral background for it,” the designer said. “We could have gone with white walls because this is a contemporary apartment, but the softer, warmer tones appeal to the homeowners and is more comfortable for them.”

The color palette took into consideration the sand-toned polished marble tile floors throughout the apartment, which are original and which the new owners decided to keep.

The master bedroom came with a built-in bed, headboard and side tables, and the homeowners liked the ensemble so much that they put their own master bedroom furniture in a guest room. Embracing this kind of flexibility is one of the things that can make downsizing both easy and cost-saving, Ross said.

“I always advise clients to be open to using their existing furniture in different ways and in different rooms when they move from a bigger dwelling to a smaller one,” she said. “There are so many ways that a designer can help people repurpose and recycle things they already have. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as reupholstering favorite pieces of furniture, switching out lampshades or reframing art and photographs.

“Unless you want a complete change of style and are determined to start fresh in a new place, there are plenty of strategies for keeping your favorite things when you move. The way to start is to measure your new spaces so you know what you know what kind of specific areas you have for existing furniture.”

The husband’s only mandate when moving from a suburban neighborhood home to a high-rise in the city was that he have a private home-office and a terrace where he could sit and smoke a cigar. He got both, including an en-suite bathroom in what his wife calls the man-cave part of the apartment. Previous owners used it as a third bedroom. The wife took another bedroom and made it into her den for reading or watching television. It has a pull-out sofa and can convert to a guest room when needed.

Although this focused remodeling job went relatively smoothly for both clients and the design professional, it did have a mishap. “There’s almost always a glitch or a problem that needs solving in a project big or small,” Ross said. “You just have to know how to deal with it.

“In this one, we had just finished having the acrylic shelving installed for the art glass and the client and I were placing all the gorgeous objects on the shelves, when they collapsed, smashing most of the glass and damaging the console underneath. What a shock, I can tell you.

“But, we swept up, ordered a replacement console and had the shelving re-installed. Fortunately, the homeowners have such good relationships with their favorite artists, that they were able to acquire additional pieces, similar to ones that were gone. Now the dramatic episode of the disaster has become part of the story of their new home.”

Marsha Fottler

Marsha Fottler has been a newspaper and magazine lifestyle, food and design writer since 1968 first in Boston and in Florida since 1970. She contributes to regional and national publications and she is co-publisher and editor of a monthly online magazine that celebrates the pleasures of the table called Flavors & More. (941) 371-8593.
Last modified: June 8, 2015
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