Fantastic Living Spaces – #1 Comfortable Chic


Written By: Jeanine Matlow

Steven Zelman knows a thing or two about small spaces. The president of FineDesign Interiors, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is from New York, where less-than-large living quarters are the norm.

So, when the designer was called upon to create a plan for a South Beach condo with limited square footage, he was up for the challenge.

What he did with the high-rise apartment, in a curve structure complete with sweeping ocean views, is what the designer calls “comfortable contemporary.”

Since the condo is a vacation residence for clients who love to entertain, the living room had to perform many functions. It was also essential that nothing compete with the views. The designer turned to neutral tones to visually expand the modest space – a pale, but pleasing palette to make the views, not the furniture, become the focus.

A custom rug covers a portion of the marble floors, helping to define the main seating area. A round column became the perfect spot for a bar. The unique design includes storage area for glassware above the counter. Nearby, the designer carved out an intimate conversation area to sit and enjoy the view.

Since the living room was designed with a number of functions in mind, a pop-up television was part of the plan. Other inconspicuous pieces include a stainless steel cocktail table with a glass top that allows you to see through the space.

Even the draperies get in on the act. The subtle sheers use a simply yet stylish approach to soften the hard edges in the room. A drop ceiling panel features electronically operated shades that black the sun without blocking the view. The shades are programmed to open and close automatically each day.

Wood panels add contract along with architectural detail to the subdued surroundings. The clients, who are from Europe, were drawn to the dark cherry wood. Sconces provide soft lighting at night, while Jamali paintings help to personalize the space.

A shelf holds a handful of accessories along a wall without windows. Those who are seated facing that direction are given interesting pieces to ponder. Grass cloth adds a touch of texture to the wall where there is not wood.

The living room was designed with a number of functions in mind. Defined seating areas and a neutral palette help to visually expand the space.

The clean-lined furniture needed to be comfortable, too. Thanks to the sofas, chairs, and an oversized ottoman, the central conversation area can easily accommodate a dozen guests. Ottomans always come in handy where extra seating, footrests, and surface space are concerned. But in South Florida, they serve another purpose as well. The ottoman helps the eye move across the room to the bar and beyond.

The same can be said for keeping other elements, such as art and window treatments, clean and simple.

Floor-to-ceiling windows bathe the living room with light, as do sliding glass doors that lead to a terrace that acts as an extension of the living room. Outdoor furniture is kept to a minimum because severe weather can become a factor.

Another popular choice in warm weather climates, particularly vacation homes, is the use of silk plants, which add color without demanding special care. One thing you won’t see in the well-thought-out plan is any hardware on the furniture. This helps to emphasize the uninterrupted flow of the space. Other details, such as the baseboards, add a note of distinction to the decor.

Not only was the designer able to deliver the elegant entertainment area his clients were after, but he also enlarged the visual footprint of the living room through the clever use of color, scale, and texture while giving them the clutter-free space they craved.