Lois Ross, ASID
Media References

Herald Tribune   December 2008


A change of scene

By Marsha Fottler

Published Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Longboat Key home of Lois Ross and her husband, Shelly, has a contemporary flair without being starkly modernist.
When it comes to furnishing their personal spaces, interior designers generally fall into two categories. One group sees home as a refuge from the dizzying color, pattern and styles of furniture that takes up their working hours consulting with clients. This group wants a calming color palette and furniture that doesn't aggressively claim the spotlight. They seek emotional sanctuary.


The other category of designers is made up of those who never turn it off. They see home as a backdrop for an ever-changing panoply of colorful art and accessories, innovative furniture and exciting trends. Their home is a gallery; there's always something new.

Designer Lois Ross is definitely in the latter category. She has redecorated her Longboat Key home three times since she and her husband, Shelly, had it built in 2001. "It's just things," she said. "And I really love things and I enjoy being creative with furniture and accessories.

"But things come and go, and I don't get attached to any of it except for the paintings done by Shelly, my daughter and daughter-in-law. But, I'm always moving the paintings around. I love pieces that are interchangeable."

The Ross' bought their 2,300-square-foot (under air), two-story contemporary home pre-construction so they were able to reconfigure much of the space at blueprint stage.

"We always intended to use this house for entertaining and as a gathering place for our two married children and five grandchildren," explained Ross. "We took out walls because we wanted everything very open, with an easy traffic flow. When you stand in our family room, you can see straight through the kitchen into the dining area to the living room and out to the screened patio. We can have parties in here for quite a lot of people and no one ever feels crowded or isolated."

The house has a deceptive front entrance in that the front door opens into a spacious, four-sided atrium with a screen ceiling. A separate guest suite is off the atrium (another is upstairs), and a sliding-glass wall leads from the atrium into the family room or directly into the living room through etched-glass doors. This atrium, which the homeowners use for al fresco dining and entertaining, is furnished in a style consistent with the interior spaces and is filled with artwork. It functions as part of the everyday living space.

There's no crown molding in the home, and most of the corners are slightly rounded. The homeowners added recessed lighting and built-ins in both the master bedroom and in the living room for closed storage and to display art and collections. Shelly's passion is model cars.

The Ross' personal style is soft contemporary, and it has remained so through three major redesigns. The designer said changing the look of a room or a whole house can be easy if homeowners follow a few guidelines.

"For a contemporary treatment, I'd say paint the walls taupe with a soft white trim. For us that never changes; also the neutral tile floor. Then I advise using solid colors for the major pieces of furniture. We settled on a white leather sofa in the family room and a fawn-colored suede sectional in the living room. Our chairs are gray, taupe, black, and only a few have a pattern, but never floral or anything too bold."

Ross said when it's time for a change, "Then you bring in some new side tables, an upholstered piece in a bright color, a new area carpet, some new throw pillows in whatever strong accent color you want. You let big and smaller accessories establish the new color scheme.

"And, of course, rotate the paintings, sculpture, art glass, whatever. Just moving them around give you a whole new perspective on the various rooms." The designer likes to have a little metallic in the mix and chose silver for her home. In addition to being a designer of interior spaces, Ross is a furniture and rug designer.

Ross stressed that in a soft contemporary look, texture and surface finishes are just as important as color in setting a style or a mood. Leather, suede, chenille, linen and the new microfibers are part of her textural scheme. She likes glass, mirror and acrylic tables. The black lacquer kitchen cabinets are paired with gray-black granite counters and stainless-steel appliances.

"Because the kitchen is so open, it had to look glamorous, as well as function well," said Ross. "I like to cook when I entertain, but in the last few years I've been really happy baking. Mandel bread has become my specialty, and whenever we get invited to a potluck event, I always get assigned the mandel bread."

The designer and her husband first came to Sarasota in 1987 and bought a Longboat Key vacation condominium the second day they were in town. In 1991, Ross moved her successful interiors business (established in 1968) from Bloomfield, Mich., to Sarasota, and the couple sold their Michigan home. Shelly transitioned from a career in managing department stores to managing the Sarasota gallery.

"In Michigan, our showroom was called Room at the Bottom because we occupied the ground floor of a tall building," said the designer. "When we opened our retail store and design office on Palm Avenue in Sarasota, we called it A Step Above Gallery to reference the other northern business.

"Many of our Florida clients are ones we knew in Michigan and in Chicago, where we lived for a while. We do their second homes and retirement homes here, and their vacation places in Aspen and other areas of the north and west. I'd say 90 percent of our clients are repeat business, and most are our dear friends because we've known them for so long."

Many of these people are on the Ross guest list when Lois and Shelly entertain. "It's true that when people see my house, they get ideas about their own renovation projects and about how certain pieces of furniture would look in their homes," she said. "This Italian Gamma white leather sofa in our family room I've sold to two clients who saw it here at a party.

"Sometimes clients need to see how a piece looks and functions in a residential setting before they commit to it. That's one of the reasons things come and go in our home. I like to let clients see possibilities for their own spaces. But also, I just love the excitement of new things and the challenge of moving things around to keep everything lively and fresh."







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