Florida Designers Review

In America, it has long been assumed that bigger was better. What else could explain the fins on Fifties cars? Then came the laptop revolution -- and we discovered, unlike George Costanza, that shrinkage was good. Yes, there were transistor radios, but the sound was tinny and, like the current array of digital toys, largely the province of youth. And by youth, I mean those who do not pay rent. Once a landlord breaks your heart, you've crossed the Rubicon. Today, you can watch TV on a mobile phone or text your 2,000 Facebook pals on a BlackBerry the size of a brownie. By contrast, FDR -- the magazine, not the president -- is big. Nothing says coffee-table reading like an oversized pub.

One caveat: coffee-table mags are rarely read. They exist largely as show pieces that tout the owner's economic status, often suggesting tastes they do not possess. I'm not suggesting that FDR's pages aren't beautiful; the magazine dresses up nice. We begin with the publisher's letter, accompanied by a photograph of a man seemingly walking on water. The arty shot is deliberately skewed, but as far as I know, Jesus never wore denim.

The magazine is a collaborative effort among GR Wyse & Co., Garcia Media and the Architects, Designers and Artisans of the West Coast of Florida. In short, they want to publish a shelter magazine for Florida and tap in-state pros to help. The tone is tony, and the magazine is a mix of features and departments: kitchen, dining room, piano room, master suite and game room. The latter, in the issue I read, is housed in a Sarasota waterfront property. It boasts four chairs facing a window. On the table are eight wine and four champagne bottles. There is a partially shown pool table, which seems more at home in the court of Louis XVI. Still, the sport here is clearly drinking -- and lots of it. Perhaps that explains why no one counted the votes in 2000.

The "Focus" section is very client-driven. Various designers and architects explain how they solved a particular challenge: creating an outdoor living space on a Captiva estate or kids' rooms that capture their personalities. Maybe that's why there are no books, but a rope course in the boy's room. Apparently, training to become a Navy Seal starts young. His older sister gets two small couches for entertaining, as opposed to say, a desk for schoolwork. As fashion-forward Barbie once noted: "Math is hard!"

Then we move into the "Star Trek" dining area and kitchen, which is playfully devoid of food. There is a "functional sculpture" to hide kitchen clutter. Has the designer never heard of jars or closets or garbage cans? I find a kitchen filled with a few wine bottles, cookbooks and the occasional artwork comforting. Kitchens are often the focal point of family life, not the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

Now, I'm all for sleek design and streamlined décor. But if you insist on covering every inch of space, like a Gilded Age character from an Edith Wharton novel, let's skip the obligatory "without the appearance of clutter" directive. If the rooms in one French Renaissance-styled apartment are anything to go by, it's Clutter Central. I counted 13 "prized collectables" on a table behind a settee that would have made Freud swoon. Of course, taste is personal -- and designers have to work within client parameters. Style may be subjective, but per the above digs, a busy Asian-motif duvet (with images of rickshaw drivers) atop a brown gingham bed ruffle just about tears it.

By contrast, interior designer Anne Folsom Smith brings a warm elegance to a Longboat Key Club condo in the feature "Urban Oasis." If I ever win the lottery, she's my dream designer. Failing that, let's get her to revamp the rest of America -- one maple-stained veneer at a time.


Published by: GR Wyse
Publishing Frequency: Bimonthly
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