Designing Mind

By Ilene Denton Photography by Lori Sax April 1, 2009

Lisa Helphenstine grew up in Sarasota in the 1950s and ’60s. In high school she moved to Indiana, where she earned a design degree at Purdue University, then she returned here in 1979 to launch her interior design career during the height of the condo remodeling boom. 

Once upon a time: Sarasota was much more a contemporary design town. People wanted their homes beachy, and we used a lot more tropical colors. As people began to live here more year-round, they started to decorate in a homier way. My clients have changed, too: In the 1980s and 1990s, I had clients who’d never used an interior designer or had never done a home for more than a shoestring. My clients are more knowledgeable now, partly because of the Internet, and that’s a good thing. Their questions are different. Rather than say, “I need to pick door hardware,” they say, “I need a lever, but I’m not sure what finish.” Smaller scale is in: Everybody is trying to be very careful with their money, and people want to downsize their homes. With smaller rooms, everything you put in them can be special. I have no objection to nine- and 10-foot ceilings, but [I do object to] the concept of rooms being so oversized that you were just putting furniture in to fill the room. And those big sofas—you had to put 10 pillows on the back so you didn’t look like Edith Ann! It’s nice that we’re going away from that. My own home: I grew up on Lido, but now I live in a wonderful old neighborhood near Southgate with an eclectic variety of houses; mine was built in 1959. I can’t live without: My beautiful, big screened-in porch; I use it all the time. I have some nice Brown Jordan furniture on it and my wonderful Weber grill; that’s primarily where I entertain. On color trends: The Color Institute for 2009 is touting muted tertiary colors—sage green, light cadet blue—very grayed and subdued. I think they look better in Northern light than in our warm, bright sunlight. I suggest people use colors they like. You can buy a blouse in a trendy color; in a year or two, Goodwill will have it. The sofa you buy, you’ll be thinking about trading in eight or 10 years.


What’s Next?

Let's Party Make your next picnic pop with this lively collection of melamine outdoor dinnerware designed by the talented students of the Savannah College of Art & Design in collaboration with the outdoor design company, Home Infatuation. The “Wrought Irony” line, with its intricate scrollwork, was inspired by the historical architecture of Savannah, with an up-to-the-minute color palette that brings it into the 21st century.

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