Before & After

By staff May 1, 2006

Creating look-alike rooms bores interior designer Virginia Pritt Clark to tears, and she winces when décor is easily identified with a particular decorator. In decorating the same house twice for two different owners, she set about proving that rooms can-and should-reflect their occupants. And that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

"One owner wanted precision and order," says Clark, "and the other prefers artistic presentation and asymmetry. The first client loved cool tones, pale colorations and washed woods. The second is all about contrasting warm dark wood with gold and tan wickers and canes. We went from a very formal neoclassical interior to rooms offering rich textures, strong colors and a lively mix of animal prints. The first job involved creating a sophisticated space. The second owners are into their grandchildren and wanted rooms that are beautiful but also kid-friendly."

The ranch-styled residence in Silver Oak has spacious open rooms and a flowing floor plan. Living areas wrap around the patio and pool with large windows and glass doors to enhance outdoor views. Current owners Marilyn and Jerry Schneider divide their time between Sarasota and Cleveland and have traveled the world, setting foot on all seven continents. Their favorite destinations are Antarctica, India and China, and they have explored Africa three times. The Schneiders' collection of artwork and objets d'art covers the globe, so Clark immediately seized on their passion for travel as a motivating force behind her design.

"Good rooms are built around one or two strong elements," she says. "Modern décor is disturbing when people try to adorn every square inch of space with wonderful pieces, because the eye does not know where to rest." The Schneiders and Clark chose to build their living room around a vivid painting of African leopards. The piece was an exact fit in a recessed space above a gleaming, burled cherry credenza with carved animal feet. Overhead lighting was added to accentuate the artwork. Twin club chairs with wood frames and black and gold animal-print fabric, a leather chair and matched ottoman flank the oversized couch, which is covered in butter-soft tweed and enhanced with animal-print throw pillows in sumptuous fabrics. A handsome drum table in dark wood and cane offers a resting spot for a newspaper or cold drink, and a bronze reading lamp throws a circle of light on sofas and chairs. Three lacquered nesting tables in zebra stripes and jaguar spots are conveniently stacked when not in use. The wicker and glass coffee table forms a square, tying the seating group together.

The living room is tied to entry and dining room through compatible furnishings and shared color palette. A wood and metal foyer table sits beneath an iron and glass mirror imported from the United Kingdom. Both pieces have weight and mass, with the same strong lines and proportions of furnishings nearby. An area rug with elephant borders delineates foyer space. The dining table extends to seat 12, and the cane chairs with striped upholstery seats were designed to mix and mingle with chairs from the breakfast room and game table. Coffered ceilings with faux paint treatments in both living and dining rooms unite the spaces, along with complementary antique bronze foyer light and dining chandelier. The former owner's very formal window treatments, consisting of heavy curtains with swags, were replaced by carved wooden poles trimmed with pineapple finials and sheer draperies in warm bisque.

"We were able to roll over the paint colors on the walls because the beige and sand shades were neutral," says Clark, "and for the time being we left the flooring alone. The previous owners had upgraded to a superior ceramic tile that looks like natural stone and high-grade carpeting in a buff shade, so the floors were actually in excellent shape. We did away with the neoclassical wall niches by drywalling right over them and replaced all the pale woods with darker shades."

The Schneiders' house now showcases their travel acquisitions, offers a visual feast of color and textures and provides a warm, welcoming place for their seven grandchildren. By using the couple's favorite possessions in and among new purchases, Clark avoided interiors that are impersonal and standard.

"The waving marker of bad design is a result that is too slick," she says. "Rooms were never meant to be perfect. Formal or casual, pale or vibrant, the ultimate goal is to create rooms that look and feel wonderful to the persons living in them."

Design Team

Interior Design by Virginia Pritt Clark, Joyce Pritt Interiors; furnishings by Hickory White and Whitecraft; lighting fixtures by Franklin Lighting; accessories, floral arrangements and artwork from Sarasota boutiques and around the world.

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