Lois Ross, ASID
Media References

Herald Tribune   May 2008


Basic color scheme revitalizes dated condo

By Marsha Fottler

Published Sunday, May 4, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.


Londoners Clive and Angela Russell have been vacationing in Sarasota for about 25 years, first at The Meadows, then Sunset Beach, and more recently in a Gulf-front condominium in The Sanctuary high-rise on Longboat Key.

The 3,100-square-foot (under air) apartment offers breathtaking views of the water from nearly every room, but the interior spaces weren't up to the natural setting or the deep terraces that extend the living area.

"We bought from the original owner, an elderly lady who was moving back to Switzerland after 15 years in this unit," said Angela Russell. "There was dated carpeting everywhere, and the kitchen was closed in. We didn't like the interior doors or the general layout, but we knew that could all be fixed, so we dedicated about eight months to improving it. The only feature left from the time we bought this place is one mirrored wall in the living room, which stayed because it reflects the Gulf view."

The Russells wanted a crisp, modern look that would read both sophisticated and uncluttered. They chose a classic color combination -- black and white -- and called upon Sarasota interior designer Lois Ross to make it happen.

Ross did one of the Russells' other apartments at The Sanctuary four years ago, so she is familiar with their standards, and she was able to achieve the renovation while the Russells were at their London flat or in one of their other American vacation homes. Clive Russell owns, among other global properties, hotels, so he understands the amenities travelers want.

He wanted them in his own place, too, and one of his favorite conveniences turned out to be a built-into-the-wall espresso maker, which he uses daily. He's especially fond of the black lacquer custom entertainment center in the living room, and also admires his glass desktop in the home office, a room with expansive Gulf views.

"The glass appears to be splashed with drops of water from the waves below," said Russell. "It's a wonderful feature and everyone comments on it. When you see it, you want to get a towel and mop up the water until you realize it's in the design of the glass itself. It's amazingly realistic." An electronic feature that Russell included is the ability to tune into two UK radio stations and listen in any room of the apartment.

"The Russells wanted comfort; a low-maintenance, open floor plan; a new kitchen; and a powder room and built-ins for a sleek modern, almost minimal, design scheme," said the designer. "The first thing we did was to reconfigure the rooms, take down walls and sculpt the rooms to maximize the water views and streamline the whole inside."

A huge change was the interior doors: French door-style in some rooms, and a pocketed system in Clive's office so the space can double as a private bedroom for one of four grandchildren when they visit. The color scheme and the modern furniture unite all the rooms.

To the black-and-white mix of Italian leather furniture, Ross added strong pops of red with two large red leather swivel chairs and matching ottomans in the living room. Then she brought in more red with art glass, chenille pillows, paintings and a throw or two. To further advance the modern theme, she painted the walls a flat white and replaced the carpet with a creamy-white, porcelain-tile floor that is polished to a mirror finish.

In the bedrooms, black softens to soothing gray and the white deepens to a gentle cream, but the red accent remains constant.

Working with contractor Dan Graue, Ross cleverly converted two unnecessary closets into a compact bedroom for one of the grandchildren. It looks like a boutique hotel room with its smart desk and built-in electronics. A cozy spot, this interior room has a round porthole window to the hallway to draw in additional light and give the room heightened personality.

To give Clive Russell an office, the designer added a wall to the living room and then installed decorative pocketed doors of etched glass, trimmed in black wood, to close off the room. The built-in, lacquered, custom-crafted bookcase is black, as is most of the leather and metal furniture. The Russells said the interior doors were one of the most costly upgrades in the unit, but the doors make a grand impression and are one of the most important elements in expressing the modern aesthetic.

Ross updated every appliance and fixture in the Russell home, using brushed stainless steel and polished chrome as her modern metals of choice. The black granite counters in the kitchen are flecked with copper to pick up the warmth of the maple cabinets. At night, the counters reflect the red pendant lights over the bar and yield a soft golden glow.

The reconfigured, curved-wall powder room (the other side is a hall closet) is the signature expression of Clive and Angela Russell's tastes and highlights the designer's artistry. Ross never duplicates a powder room for clients, and she says it's the place to indulge over-the-top glamour.

"Because the room is small, you can use custom items because you need less of everything," said Ross. "But, because the room is small and everything is concentrated, that means every single element you choose is of the utmost importance because it stands out while contributing to the overall design."

The combination of bold statement and meticulous attention of fine detail is evident in the custom-crafted cabinet that supports an imported glass-vessel basin. Behind the basin is a mosaic wall composed of tiny glass tiles in black, white, gray and silvery metallic.

Above the vanity, the designer installed a trio of round mirrors instead of one large one for an unexpected ingredient. Overhead, tiny lights embedded in the white ceiling replicate twinkling stars. The entire space glitters and gleams.

"A powder room can be the show-off room of a home, and it certainly is here," said Ross. "It's glamorous, elegant, modern and maximizes our black-and-white scheme. This room doesn't have a view to the outside, but the little jewel box of a space is a spectacular view all of its own."



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