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A South Beach condo goes from functional to fantastic, thanks to a pair of fresh eyes.

Home By The Sea, Revisioned

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A South Beach condo goes from functional to fantastic, thanks to a pair of fresh eyes.

home by the sea, revisioned BY ann taylor

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T

he three-bedroom oceanside condominium was not unlike many others constructed 20 years ago – perfectly functional but definitely in need of an update. Yet

the breathtaking view of the Atlantic was enough to convince the couple from Maryland to make it their winter residence. Their next step was to find someone who, in a relatively short period of time,

could bring the condo into the 21st century and have it reflect their interests, tastes and personalities. Fortunately, their path took them to Vickie Lautenbach, the owner of


A white coral lamp, custom-designed shell mirror and decorative pillows with sea-inspired images say “you’re in Florida now” without being overdone. The flooring, which looks like wood, is actually ceramic; Vickie and Linda chose a teak color and used it through the condominium.

Elegance by the Sea, and her decorating showroom and design studio in the Village Shops. Six months later, the formerly plain and predictable interior was just what the couple had hoped for – light, bright and pictureperfect. “They called us in May saying they had just purchased a condo on South Beach and that they wanted to meet with us,” says Vickie, smiling at her associate, interior designer Linda Kerley. “We met at our design

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Vickie and Linda selected American-made Stanley furniture for one of their condo renovations. Soft yellow walls provide the perfect backdrop for the shades of blue and green chosen by the designers. “We wanted the beautiful Caribbean colors outside to move inside,” says Vickie.

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What guest wouldn’t feel welcome here? Vickie and Linda selected a sky-blue and snow-white color palette, adding splashes of coral with the vintage-style nightstand, decorative pillows and window seat cover.

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studio at 10 a.m., got to know each other and talked about what kinds of things they wanted to do. We spent about an hour and a half together before they left for their next appointment. By 3:30 p.m. that afternoon the husband called and asked if we could meet again.” “Clearly, they felt comfortable working with us,” Linda adds. “We like to start out talking about the person’s likes and dislikes, and we always ask what their priority is.” “An important part of what we

do is listening,” says Vickie. “When I started this business, I made sure that when I’m meeting with a client or potential client everything on the calendar is cleared so we’re not interrupted. We always offer coffee or water and a piece of dark chocolate, which helps create a friendly, relaxed environment.” During the early stages of the design process, clients often bring magazine photos to show Vickie and Linda the styles and colors they like. “We can look at pictures and a client

can describe things, but we really prefer to be in their home. They need what I call ‘fresh eyes,’ ” says Vickie, her fingers framing the words. “Sometimes the simplest thing like a paint color can totally transform a room or even an entire house. Our Maryland clients were new to Vero Beach and, as designers, we always focus on the view from the condo or house. In this case we wanted the beautiful Caribbean colors outside to move inside.” The mission was duly accomplished,


A cozy curtained window alcove in the second guest room provides the perfect place to curl up with a book or take a short siesta. Shades of soft blue and crisp white brighten a formerly dark room. Striped bed skirting and decorator pillows add artistic touches.

When it came to updating the master bedroom, paint provided a solution to creating a sense of height by repeating the soft blue of the walls on the coffered ceiling, which was framed with white. “The wife wanted colors that were calming and clean, so we tried different formulas and took into account how much natural light was coming in,” says Vickie. “What we do with a color the client chooses from the color chart is to have it mixed at 50 percent to see how it changes, and that’s often what ends up to be the right shade for the space.”

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The dining area by the pass-through to the kitchen features colorful open back chairs with white palm fronds splashed across coral seat covers. A classic wood-topped table and chandelier complete the scene.

with shimmering shades of sea and sky brightening and blending the interior with the exterior.

I

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n another renovation of a twobedroom oceanfront condo, the challenges presented were low ceilings and inadequate lighting. “When you have low ceilings and sliders, they take the eye down,” Vickie says. “So you want to raise the rod and drapery and add a valance in order to create the illusion of height.” “Lighting is important as well,” Linda points out. “Many times there isn’t enough ambient light in a room,

In the kitchen Vickie and Linda created a place for sipping morning coffee while enjoying the ocean view. White wicker chairs nestle up to a round table by the window seat where the same shade of coral seen in the dining room adds continuity and interest.


Vickie and Linda updated the master bathroom by adding new hardware and framing the mirror with the same decorative tile used on the tub surround, new light fixtures, a white orchid and custom towels with an embroidered emerald coral design.

so we’ll remove a ceiling fan and use a chandelier instead, or light up a corner with a torchiere lamp. Also, if you have the right kind of wall, sconces add ambience as well as light.” When it came to selecting material for the floors, Vickie and Linda literally stumbled upon a “find.” While in a tile and marble showroom where they were considering countertop options, they noticed a floor sample that seemed to be made up of a series of wooden planks. What they discovered, to their surprise, was that what appeared to be wood was actually ceramic. “Because of hurricanes and the possibility of flooding, wood is not a good choice for flooring if you’re on the beach, but ceramic is,” Vickie explains. “It turned out to be a new Italian line with several choices of wood color. We chose the teak and used it throughout the condo.”

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or the furnishings, the designers turned to a new Stanley furniture collection featured on the pages of Coastal Living magazine. By presenting several space-planning options, Vickie and Linda gave their clients plenty of choices, and the result is an inviting

living area with dining, conversation and relaxation zones. A white coral ceramic lamp, decorative pillows with sea-inspired images, a silver bowl with glass balls and a nautical painting are a few of the decorative touches that say “You’re in Florida now,” without being overdone. Vickie smiles as she relates a story about misconceptions. Three years ago she purchased and remodeled a 1980s condo in another beachside community, turning it into a veritable showplace. ”A Chicago couple visited our design showroom, which was on Cardinal Drive at the time, and they were looking for someone to update and redecorate their beach villa. The husband seemed interested in the decorating process and stated he didn’t care for what he thought was the typical Florida look – teal, peach and shells. They were both anxious to start the process right away and asked if we were available to come out that afternoon.” Confirming the appointment, Vickie and Linda discovered that the couple’s beach villa was close to the Elegance by the Sea showcase condo, so Vickie invited them to come and take a look. There, they were able to

see what could be done by introducing crown molding, new baseboards, tile and carpeting, and painting the walls a soft pistachio green. Vickie had also gutted and remodeled the two bathrooms with new fixtures and fittings, introducing a dramatic black-and-white marble tile and replacing the countertop with an oriental red piece of furniture, glass vessel sink and round mirror with contemporary chrome sconces. The husband was immediately sold. “He loved the style and said he was so glad I had brought him here. If he hadn’t seen for himself what could be done he never would have gone along with his wife and the ‘designing women,’ ” Vickie says with a smile.

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he and Linda are finding that more men are becoming involved in their projects, as was the case with the Maryland couple who wanted the master bedroom to be “serene.” “They were looking for colors that were calming and clean, so we tried different formulas and took into account how much natural light there was,” Vickie recalls. “What we do

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Compared to the old guest bathroom, the choice of soft blue walls, a white bead-board chair rail, Canadian Blue granite countertop, elevated pale green glass vessel sink, silver sconces and a shell-framed mirror make a dramatic difference.

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with a color that the client chooses from the color chart is dilute it to 50 percent. It then often ends up being the right shade for the space.” The designers repeated the soft blue of the walls on the coffered ceiling and added moldings. The existing brown ceiling fan took on new life, thanks to white paint. “Again, sometimes the smallest touches can make a big impact,” Vickie says. “For instance, in the master bathroom we didn’t change the countertop or sinks, but we did add all new hardware and framed the mirror with decorative tile. The tub is the one that was there but we used the same decorative tile for the surround. We also added new lighting fixtures, a simple orchid plant

and Maestro Raphael custom towels from Italy with an embroidered emerald coral design.” The former plain and predictable guest bathroom has a fresh personality thanks to a white bead-board chair rail, a frameless shower enclosure, a new Canadian Blue granite countertop with striations of green and blue, and an elevated pale green glass vessel sink. The shell-framed mirror is the handiwork of an artist Vickie and Linda frequently call

on for an inspired touch. “We gave her the color of the paint – Waterscape from Sherwin Williams – and a sample of the sea-life tile border we used in the shower, and she designed the mirror specifically for that bathroom. We also had her create a simple but elegant mirror for the dining room, incorporating all of the colors we used in the larger living area.” From start to finish, Vickie and Linda estimate the entire project took less than six months. If clients


denise ritchie

Vickie Lautenbach (right), owner of Elegance by the Sea, and her associate Linda Kerley review their busy schedules in the decorating showroom and design studio they created in The Village Shops.

are anxious to have the renovation done sooner, the designers will work to move the project along to accommodate them. “We have completed several projects in three months, so long as we can begin the design process after the season and work on it during the slower summer months,” Vickie explains. “In the current economy, manufacturers and reps are working hard to make sure our industry has the latest and greatest fabrics and furnishings available to designers; however, we sometimes find that fabrics have been discontinued so we always have to check availability.”

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ickie has faced bigger hurdles than fabric availability. “My husband was with IBM and we moved 17 times, south, north, east, west, and then to Europe. Each time we moved I had to create a home with what we had,

and I always enjoyed the experience. After settling the kids in school, finding doctors and places to shop, I then had time to decorate the house. I knew what I wanted but I didn’t know how to get it done, so I would always work with someone who did and I began to learn from them. They always appreciated the fact that I had good color sense and knew what I wanted. “When we moved to Paris and rented a newly remodeled apartment, we had to do a lot of planning and preparing before we arrived,” Vickie recalls. “In France, the apartment lifestyle is very different. For instance, there was nothing in the kitchen – it was basically a small, empty room. A passion of mine is cooking, so I designed the space with the eyes of a gourmet cook; my husband called it my ‘dollhouse’ American kitchen. “Also, everything had to be measured in centimeters. I had been

working with my decorator in Texas, and when the containers arrived with everything we needed, we had our French-speaking maintenance people all lined up to do the installation. Three weeks later when my husband and I were enjoying dinner in the dining room, he commented that the apartment was beautiful – that it felt like home already. “I had brought along familiar furnishings from our Texas home but no accessories or artwork because I wanted to collect things from where we were living and traveling, especially in Paris where I immersed myself in the French culture. So when we returned to the States, we brought back an extra container of some really beautiful things. I loved living in Paris and left kicking and screaming!”

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hen her husband Dan retired, the desire to own a place where the sun shines and balmy breezes blow brought the Lautenbachs to Vero Beach, where Vickie’s long-held passion for decorating and acquired design expertise led her to establish Elegance by the Sea. “When I started my company I wanted it to be a service business. I love meeting new people and I wanted to do whatever I could to help them enjoy their surroundings and the time they spend here,” she says. “Living in a small town like Vero Beach and finding qualified contractors with excellent experience has been significant, and I think the quality of what we offer is one of the reasons we get a lot of referrals and repeat business. In fact, Linda and I are flying up to Maryland to help the couple we worked with on the South Beach condo finish renovating their 1906 waterfront farm home up there. We can’t wait.” `

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Home By The Sea, Revisioned  

A South Beach condo goes from functional to fantastic, thanks to a pair of fresh eyes. By Ann Taylor

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