Written by Juno DeMelo
Photography by Amy Lamb
Lisa Gilmore was very nervous when she met her clients Peter and Dotsie for the first time in early 2020. “I’m such an in-person person, and it was over Zoom because everything was starting to shut down then,” says the founder, principal designer, and CEO of Lisa Gilmore Design in St. Petersburg, Florida.
After living in Singapore for over a decade, former Chicagoans Peter and Dotsie were moving to a 1,522-square-foot condo in downtown St. Petersburg, a “very urban, tropical city,” says Gilmore. “Miami can be really cold and modern or over-the-top Versace, while St. Pete, to me, is very approachable. It’s so rich in history: You have old Florida craftsman bungalows next to a Spanish Mediterranean from 1923 and then a modern house. It’s also a big artsy community. I love working with artists, and the clients really appreciate art.”
It was, in other words, a good place to move away from the minimalist, all-white interiors Peter and Dotsie were used to and toward vibrant colors and patterns. They had never worked with a designer before, and they were excited to be pushed out of their comfort zone.
For inspiration, they sent Gilmore three paintings from their collection. Their only requests? That the den become a cozy media room, that the condo be conducive to entertaining—and that Gilmore make bold choices no matter what. “The husband said, ‘If Dotsie gets nervous and reels back and wants whites, report to me and I’ll get her back on track.’”
Once Gilmore had the artwork in hand—including a cityscape and a cubist Tuscan landscape Gilmore says was her “indicator that they’re funky people”—an explosion of patterns and textiles started to pour out of her brain. “I was pulling fabrics and colors and wallpapers and dumping them on my table,” she says. “It was almost like a Rubik’s Cube, where I kept switching them around until they fit.”
After presenting her vision (again, over Zoom) to her clients, they sat there quietly. “I was worried I went too far,” says Gilmore. But when Peter and Dotsie finally spoke up, it was to say that they didn’t want to change a single thing. “Well, except for one wallpaper that was ridiculously priced, but literally everything else went into production after that.”
Originally, the project was supposed to be a cosmetic refresh: lighting, furniture, wallpaper, etc. “But the builder-grade ceramic tile on the floors was killing me,” says Gilmore. “When I showed the clients the black and white Ann Sacks Terrazzo Renata tiles, they said they couldn’t think about anything else.” With the exception of the two full bathrooms, Gilmore installed the Terrazzo Renata throughout the condo.
She also used Ann Sacks in the kitchen, where she tiled the backsplash with Maven by Kelly Wearstler field tile in Ojai. “I knew I wanted to do some sort of backsplash, but I was also trying to be really aware that the eye needs resting points,” she says. “And because the floor was so loud in such a wonderful way, I didn’t want to do something overly patterned that would compete with it. The dots on the tile look hand-drawn, and I really liked that aspect. It brought a little bit of geometry and pattern, but it wasn’t in your face.”
For what was the dining space, Gilmore custom-designed a rug that she had made in India, mounted dozens of wine bottles on one wall, and painted another wall—where the cityscape now hangs—orange. That same painting inspired the blue walls and ceiling in the living room and the orange wallpaper in the entryway that leads to it.
In the den-turned-media room, Gilmore painted the walls and ceiling black and hung panels of painterly black-and-white wallpaper framed with molding to look like giant pieces of artwork. “I was really inspired to honestly shove art into any category I could find,” she says.
She laced purples throughout the condo to tie the rooms together: The sofa in the media room is a dark purple velvet, the sectional in the living room has a purple hue to it, and the walls in the office/guest room are violet. “That was the last room we did, and that was the one that my team thought was really crazy,” says Gilmore. “My senior designer admitted to me that her face lit up during install. She didn’t see it until then.”
The riot of colors, textures, and patterns in the office/guestroom made Gilmore question whether her choices might have been too bold. But she came back to a favorite quote of hers from Diana Vreeland, the former editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. “It’s something like, you have to give people what they never knew could exist,” she says. “And in my opinion, it’s a designer’s job to open up a whole new world.”
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