Perfect picture

By Carol Tisch Photography by Gene Pollux January 1, 2010

When independent curator and art adviser Rebecca Donelson and husband Robert Blattberg decided to give up their Chicago home to split their time between their Aspen ranch and a beach resort area, the choice was clear. “Sarasota is to Florida what Aspen is to Colorado,” says Donelson. “It’s the perfect life; the arts are good in both cities.”

That’s important to Donelson, who works with museums, organizations and collectors and now serves on the board of the Hermitage Artist Retreat. With a pedigreed resume that includes the National Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Art Institute of Chicago, she applied her art skills to decorating their Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota condo by updating existing furniture with new fabrics and colors.

The sophisticated master bedroom epitomizes her goal of transforming what she says was a boring white box into an architecturally interesting retreat. “I did not want to come down and make it too tropical, and I wanted to bring some of Chicago with me as a transition,” Donelson explains. The room’s sunny gold and white palette subtly references the beach, as do natural fiber window shades and the sisal rug. “I wanted to give it an air of Florida, but the impression that we could be living anywhere.”

Form meets function on the stunning balcony, where French-made Philippe Starck white plastic furniture and garden pots cohabit with a ZGalerie resin coffee table 1, everything cleanable with a garden hose.

Sunsets over Sarasota Bay became even more romantic when Donelson added hand-woven Conrad sandalwood twig sunshades 2 from Jerry Pair in Dania, which filled the room with an earthy scent for months.

After seeing the original Christian Liaigre wing bed 3 in her friend Holly Hunt’s Paris apartment, Donelson asked permission to reproduce it, selecting linen upholstery fabric from Hunt’s Great Plains collection.

Visual height is created with padded panels 4 behind the bed upholstered in Banana Leaves, an original Rose Cumming fabric design reprinted by Dessin Fournir as it was in the 1930s with gold leaf hand-stamping.

French contemporary chaise lounge 5 and three-drawer chest 6 by Ligne Roset and bedside tables 7 by Christian Liaigre in blond maple with dark wenge legs make a seamless transition from the couple’s Chicago home to Sarasota.

Donelson created a richly layered bed 8 with Coraggio and Castel fabrics from Holly Hunt and Donghia, all in hand-blocked or painted gold patterns unified with a creamy white background. Kelly Gaeger Interiors in Sarasota helped with fabricating coverlet and back pillows. Art becomes architecture with dimensional goldleaf wall reliefs 9 by New York artist John Torreano. Bedroom walls are lined with prints 10 by Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Donald Sultan and Joe Zucker and a photo by Aaron Siskind. Soft romantic lighting includes Christian Liaigre chrome table lamps on the console, a standing lamp with glass beaded shade for reading, and brass bedside lamps with gold glass shades.

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