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106 Island Makeover

When Amy Gilliland went condo hunting on Sanibel, she had specifics in mind. She was looking for a three-bedroom, beachfront residence. She also wanted it to have a foyer. No problem checking the first two criteria off her list. Finding the right foyer, though, proved a challenge.

"I wanted a distinctive sense of place at the entrance," Gilliland explains, "not a corridor on the way to the kitchen and bedrooms." Out of the many floor plans she reviewed, the one she chose was the only one with even a hint of a foyer. Even so, the entrance to the 2,800-square-foot condo offered a view of an uninspired kitchen.

Seeing the Sanibel residence as an important retreat from a busy life in Madison, Wis., Gilliland knew that changes were in order. Her Northern home accommodates her husband, three active teenagers, their friends and interests, three cats, a dog and her home office.

"It's functional, practical and reality-based," she says. "For the condo, I wanted something completely different; a place to come where we didn't need a great deal of storage or a computer or a filing cabinet. In the 10 years that I've been visiting Sanibel, I've always gained a sense of peace. I see the condo as peaceful and reflective of the outdoors in a way that is kind of fantastical."

But giving the residence a fresh start meant nothing less than a top-to-bottom transformation.

"A lot of people steer clear of remodels because you never know what's behind the walls or in the ceilings until you tear them out," says Brian Bissell, president of Bissell Contracting & Consulting, Sanibel. "There are always surprises."

To settle the foyer issues, Bissell removed a closet,, added a wall to block the view of the kitchen, and raised the ceiling. The contractor shrank the size of a walk-in closet in a guest bedroom to make room for a larger kitchen. He halved the size of another walk-in closetin favor of a more spacious master bathroom. And he raised ceilings throughout the condo.

Curved lines and rounded corners brought a profound change to the condo's interior. Prior to the remodel, the condo was a series of straight edges. The reworked foyer features curved wall niches and rounded ceiling pockets. In the living room, a curved support gracefully conceals the cold edges of sliding glass doors, hiding curtains during the day and framing a gorgeous view of the Gulf of Mexico. Curves are everywhere, from plush dining room chairs, in the fabric of and around a comfortable sofa, and in the living room's custom carpet of ovals. In the master bedroom, the playful pattern of a free-flowing ribbon in a custom carpet is repeated on a wall.

"Life is made up of circles, not sharp angles," says Rita Britt, president of Britt Interiors in Madison, Wis., who played an integral role in the remodel. "The most natural way to move is in soft, gentle curves. When you walk into a place with soft curves, you're going to feel a sense of peace and harmony."

Goguen's Kitchen Company of Bonita Springs tore out the old kitchen cabinets of particleboard covered with dated Formica and installed solid birch cabinets with a whitewash finish containing a slight tint of rose. As accents, some cabinet doors were faced with ribbed, obscured glass. A peninsula eating bar was added.

In keeping with a style described by Britt as "soft contemporary," the flowing lines of solid surfacing materials were chosen for kitchen and bathroom countertops. All countertop surfaces have curved edges, and because they are Corian rather than granite, they are constructed without seams. The kitchen's deep-blue, polished countertops blend with the swirling blue pattern in the ceramic floor tile used throughout the living areas.

Goguen's Kitchen Company also built the vanities in both bathrooms, which are raised off the ground to accommodate under-cabinet lighting and topped with translucent Avonite countertops.

In the master bathroom, the quartz-inspired countertop is actually raised slightly with silver-toned laminate half-moon supports. When lighting in the rest of the room is low, under-cabinet lighting filters up through the countertop and vivid blue, glass vessel sinks, creating an ethereal glow. "Rita came up with the concept and we made them," says Goguen. "The most interesting work that we've ever done has to be those cabinets in that bathroom."

In the master bathroom, an awkward 3-by-7-foot shower was torn out to make way for a bidet behind a pocket door, a soaking tub with a waterfall faucet and an enclosed shower with a multi-jet Kohler bath spray and seating. Recessed lighting, suspended fixtures, wall sconces and under-cabinet lighting, all on dimmers, were added to create any number of scenes.

First the room was painted white. Too stark. Then the walls were painted a dark royal blue and an artist was flown in from Madison to paint a mural. Nobody liked the mural. Then the walls were painted white again. Finally, the walls were painted a creamier blue and a second mural, a magical undersea world, was created by Rita and her son John Kinstler, a graphic artist.

Built in 1986 when the standard lighting package was not much more than centered ceiling fixtures and wall outlets for lamps, the condo was in need of that subtle combination of specific, general and decorative lighting that fosters comfort and character.

Shallow recessed puck lights on dimmers were added in the foyer and throughout the residence. In the kitchen, Bissell removed fluorescent lights housed in a dropped ceiling and set behind aged plastic panels. He added an attractive ceiling fixture, and complemented that with under-cabinet and recessed lighting. "We tried to layer the light from a variety of sources to get the most flexibility," he explains.

Color is a crucial element of the new design. Gilliland wanted a natural palette. In the living room, a wall glaze of yellows with hints of dusky blue and red is soothing. Hand-painted, bejeweled bedroom furniture from Sausalito, Calif. artist Susan Goldstick's collection is alive with metallic flashes of pale green, cobalt blue and amethyst. Colorful glass baubles adorning sheer window treatments catch the light.

"We used the colors that you would see in the last traces of a sunset, the blues of the sea, shades found in coral and shell, greens from along the shore," explains Britt. "This whole thing had to be married to its environment, But we didn't need to mirror it with pictures of palm trees or shells or that sort of thing."

It took almost a year to complete the remodeling of Gilliland's Sanibel condo. Not a room remained untouched,as a larger hot water heater and new washer and dryer were added to the laundry, and guest bedrooms received fresh paint, carpeting and window treatments. "This project worked well because the owner and decorator were not put off by the unexpected," says Bissell. "We bounced ideas off each other, and together were able to come up with good solutions."


Interior design: Rita Britt, Britt Interiors

Madison, WI

Contractor: Bissell Contracting & Consulting


Kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and countertops:

Goguen's Kitchen Company

Bonita Springs 

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