Jane's World

By staff January 1, 2007

“My mother loved decorating. I grew up with it,” Jane Kummel says as we step from the white elevator vestibule of downtown’s Tessera into a private world exploding with bay views, English antiques and nonstop color. So many downtown apartments share the same predictable sectional sofas, neutral walls and brown/black wood, but Kummel’s 3,300-square-foot condominium pops with personality. Her mother taught her well.

An unbelievably raspberry-red entry hall shocked with white trim is rich and seductive. From this central axis, halls radiate into wings for guest rooms, a master suite and a great room painted a strong but soothing yellow. Bert Kummel, a retired orthopedic surgeon, works in a raspberry home office that is completely open to the foyer. Surprisingly, it’s just as masculine as an 18th-century mahogany-lined study.

“I don’t like soft colors,” Jane Kummel declares. “I love them in other people’s homes, but when I try to use them, they never work.” She says her goal was a Florida feel without the flowery pastels. Rare birds appear on cotton chintz, silk plaid decorates a headboard and chairs and exotic climbing hydrangeas (we’ve never seen them in nature) cover a wall, all unified with the single color scheme in various permutations throughout the home.

 “I fell in love with the raspberry and yellow combination on a trip to Provence. It helped transition their dark antiques into the bright Riviera light and waterfront setting,” she explains. Indeed, the formal antiques look young and fresh in their Sarasota Bay context—anything but stuffy. Kummel says she kept most of her prized pieces, but some had to be left behind.

Although the Tessera condo is nearly as large as the couple’s previous home in Harding Township, N.J., Kummel explains it provided half the wall space—the result of contemporary sliders on two full living room walls. “All that glass meant less space for furniture; it was either keep the furniture or disrupt the magnificent views,” she says.

And the views are magnificent. The fourth floor condo appears to be floating on treetops that line the water’s edge, a completely different and more tropical perspective than views from higher floors.

A terrace wraps around the great room to the kitchen’s breakfast nook, where an old operating room surgical lamp found in a New Jersey antique shop nods to Bert’s career; he has published 15 articles on orthopedic surgery and now volunteers at Senior Friendship Center for Healthy Aging and the Community Clinic at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

A rustic country piece stored in the couple’s basement for years and rediscovered while packing now adorns their kitchen window. The metal mermaid was part of the collection of American Country antiques that Kummel had amassed before meeting her husband. “When Bert and I got married 27 years ago, I didn’t like his decorating, but he didn’t even want to live with mine,” she recalls.

So Kummel sold the country antiques and even made a profit on some. Bert purged the home of his offending pieces, and together the pair redecorated from scratch.

“Sharing the process brought us even closer together,” Kummel says. “We had a terrific time going to estate sales every weekend and finding things on vacations. It was a common interest we both enjoyed.”

Bert spotted the dining room’s finely woven tapestry (“I had always wanted one,” she says) in a dark corner at an estate sale. An oil painting of Bert’s father, Max Kummel, dressed in U.S. military attire, hangs over a sideboard bearing vintage silver from both families. “Bert’s father was an immigrant, and especially proud of serving this country,” Kummel says.

The living room’s most important piece is the spectacular and unusual antique Persian vegetable-dyed rug. Another fine antique is the satinwood breakfront (circa 1860), bought while they were on vacation in Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds and shipped home.

Still, Kummel says provenance is not particularly important to her. “I like what I like. I don’t really care about the pedigree,” she explains. She’s mixed a few reproductions in with her old pieces, and she doesn’t measure good design by the price tag. Case in point: a Dutch console table that sits in the hall outside the master bedroom. The tiled top section is probably an add-on. “No one wanted it because it had been altered,” Kummel says. “All that beauty would have gone to waste.”

A mirror that straddles the living and dining rooms is French and very old, Kummel says. She likes the contrast of aged-streaked glass with the worn rubbed-painted frame. “It might have been nicer if I had refinished the frame, but I like it the way it is,” she explains. The Kummels picked up the unusual pastel-colored majolica planter in Pennsylvania and have collected old silver that is displayed throughout the home.

An English lady’s desk stores a few of Kummel’s rare daguerreotypes. The delicate cased images are the earliest examples of a method of photography invented by Louis Daguerre in Paris and introduced to the U.S. in 1839. Each photographic portrait is preserved in a gilt metal mount with leather or embossed paper cases. These intriguing keepsakes speak of events and lifestyle from the 1840s and ’50s, when this new photography method became vogue.

Among Kummel’s new purchases for the condo were designer fabrics, sofa and club chairs found at DCOTA design center in Dania, Fla. One of her favorite DCOTA finds is an exquisite Boussac print (the climbing hydrangeas) that extends the yellow and raspberry color scheme to the master suite. The exclusive French brand is outrageously expensive, but she says the wall covering and draperies made a one-of-a-kind bedroom worth the splurge.

But the new silk plaid headboard and coverlet are from Sarasota’s Calico Corner. Like most professional designers, Kummel never finishes decorating. Items like the lady desk’s new flower-painted chair from downtown’s Bacon & Wing are irresistible during sales, she admits. Also irresistible is Treasures on Fruitville Road. Kummel says it’s her first stop when she needs a piece to fill in. “Their lighting selection is the best I’ve ever seen. Why would anyone buy a new chandelier with half the style and double the price?”


Jane Kummel’s Tips

Personalize: Let your personal travels and interests shine through with accessories and collections that express life experiences.

Brave is better: Be bold with color (you can always repaint) and don’t worry about pedigree or provenance on antiques. If you love it, that’s what counts.

Pick strategic showpieces: Invest strategically; a few exquisite pieces make a statement of quality that resonates through the home.

Keep it young: Acquire Kummel’s knack for mixing antiques with fresh accessories. A whimsical mermaid, a graphic Kilim rug and updated colors keep antiques from looking stuffy.

Choose framework fabrics: Fabrics can make or break a room. Imported prints project true style. They’re worth the splurge.

Look and learn: Never stop the decorating process; you’ll learn about society, art and history through interior design products and styles.

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