Getting Over the '80s

By staff January 1, 2002

Andy and Al Frank love Longboat Key and have called Beachplace home for 20 years. But two decades of 1980s decor was starting to feel like a life sentence. The gold appliances, brown shag carpeting and almond formica felt all wrong for the 21st century. Their condominium cried for a fresh face, and the Franks called for help.

"The colors were flat, the lighting was harsh, the floor coverings were dated and the furnishings were not comfortable for the owners," says ASID designer Lois Ross, owner of A Step Above Gallery and Interior Design Studio. "The Franks wanted the look and feel of a stylish and sophisticated New York City penthouse, with significant artwork and one-of-a-kind custom pieces. We had to start from scratch."

The retro carpeting was ripped out and replaced with 18-inch stone tiles in a neutral vanilla tone. White walls were warmed by paint in different hues of taupe, gray and beige and a combination color Ross calls "greige." A concrete ceiling prohibited hanging fixtures in the living room, so Ross installed a new ceiling of drywall that could conceal electrical wiring and fixtures, just four inches below the original. Now gracefully suspended halogen lamps imported from Italy and installed with lasers give the room a soft glow. Ross also replaced the hanging fixture in the dining room with tiny halogen spots that illuminate the table and emphasize artwork.

Formica countertops in the kitchen gave way to rich granite in shades of sand and pebbles; Ross carried the granite into the dining room atop a beautiful buffet cabinet that doubles as a pass-through. Plastic verticals on the glass doors did nothing for the room, so Ross replaced them with gliding shades in a semi-sheer ivory shade with textured finish. She custom-designed wool rugs in rich combinations of taupe, cream and black with a dash of purple and placed one in the living room and an artistic 10-foot runner in the foyer. Now the rooms were ready for furniture.

"The challenge was to accommodate his very tall height and her tiny frame," says Ross. "I ordered a sofa that was both deeper and higher to suit him. She loves to play Mah-Jongg, and once we found the right chairs to go around her card table, I redesigned the backs and changed the angle of the pitch on the seats to feel right for her." Ross designed the card table with a lacquered paper overlay top on wood. She also sketched designs for end tables and a fabulous faux stone wall unit and then found local craftsmen to build pieces to her exact specifications.

In the dining room, a round Swaim table features a glass top balanced on a basket-weave drum in bronze metal. An Italian buffet with a faux-finished wooden base and travertine marble top provides a handsome serving space with concealed storage space. While on a buying trip in New York, Ross came across a floating buffet shelf in faux leather, glass and black lacquered wood. She saw the piece as perfect for the Franks' foyer and had it installed, with dramatic half-circles that seem to penetrate the wall in graduated crescents like some fantastic hive. The painting above the shelf is by Valerie Ross.

Finishing touches were easy, says the designer. She chose a Hollman oil painting above the sofa, a mushroom swivel hassock covered in purple suede and handmade pillows in snakeskin and leather and silk tassels. The cocktail table is authentic goatskin from Colombia, and accent tables are crafted of black oak. An imported lamp here, a glass vase from the gallery over there, and the Franks were finished. "They wanted an interior that was completely customized, all their own," explains Ross. "We accomplished exactly that. There is no place like this home."


Granite counters by Architectural Marble

Foyer rug (runner) by Carpet Creations

Dining table by Swaim

Dining chairs by Preview

Custom wall unit built by Wind Dancer

Game chairs by Weiman

Sofa by Classic Gallery

Lighting by Islander Electric

Area rug in living room by Masland

Window treatment by Hunter-Douglas

Floors by Alpha Tile

Buffet in dining room by Ello Furniture

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