Becoming a transplant doesn’t mean everything has to change. When designer Bennett Leifer’s client moved her young family of five from an Upper West Side duplex to a house one block off the beach in Sarasota, Florida, she was determined to bring the elegant decor she had cultivated with Leifer too.
Black-and-white striped fabric from Perennials dresses furniture from Amalfi Living.
“She wanted to incorporate that style again, but with an opportunity to make it more relevant and appropriate to where they are living now,” says Leifer, who has worked with the family since 2006 when he was a designer at Darren Henault Interiors.
Designer Bennett Leifer chose a gold, black, silver, and cream palette as a neutral base that carries through the rest of the home.
“When they decided on the move last year, my client said, ‘Please help me again.’ After 8 years of friendship, I’ve learned what’s really important to them.”
A brick floor was painted black and topped with a graphic sisal rug.
The Dmitriy & Co. sofa and club chairs are covered in a forgiving neutral linen. Blues, grays, and taupes were incorporated to add color. Gustavian demilune tables and a Paul Ferrante lantern are elegant finishing touches.
Leifer’s detailed bespoke approach belies his youth and speaks to more than a decade of on-the-job training at prominent firms, including his last role at Robert A.M. Stern Architects. To this day, the New Yorker is constantly gathering inspiration from NYC’s panoply of landmarks and museums, which he explored on the weekends while growing up on Long Island.
A banquette fitted with wide drawers offers extra storage. An Ochre chandelier, the reproduction Saarinen table, and Clarence House fabric on the pillows add a touch of glamour.
“So many styles converge here, and yet it is so New York to choose one that is inherently you—how I work is an extension of that, whether my projects are here, in Florida, or in Los Angeles,” Leifer says.
The client has always loved de Gournay wallpaper, so she chose this magnolia motif with a custom silver background to echo the magnolia tree in the front yard. The table and chairs from RH work well for daily dining, but can go formal when dressed in linens.
Quartzite-and-gold handles from Matthew Studios adorn a custom hutch.
For this transitional two-level 1930s house, Leifer envisioned giving it an air of elegance while also making it accessible to the kids so they could be in every room without restriction. “I love a neutral palette broken up with jewel tones and sculptural accents—getting a solid base, then dressing it up with exciting and glamorous accents,” the designer says. So he balanced de Gournay wallpaper and elegant chandeliers with traffic-friendly sisal rugs and durable upholstery, then added the final touches—gleaming metallics and rich blue accents.
This is typically a parents-only zone, so Leifer brought in some fine pieces to create a glamorous retreat, including a silk rug from ABC Carpet & Home, gold satin-trimmed bedding from Ann Gish, and a Jensen chair covered in his favorite antelope-patterned velvet.
Leifer believes that getting a design just right has much to do with getting to know your clients—how they eat, shop, entertain—information he gains over time. With this particular client, he became so close to the couple that they asked him to be the godfather of their children. “I know how they live and how I live when I’m visiting, so there’s a level of trust,” says the designer, who finished the project last summer. “Let’s just say I’ve been to enough dinner parties and Sunday brunches to know what works for them.”
Multiple outdoor spaces are a benefit of the move to a sunnier climate.
Leifer used B&B Italia seating with classic black, white, and sand cushions.
Inject some glamour into any space with these design ideas from Bennett Leifer:
- Invest in beautiful art. Artwork is always a good investment—something we’re inherently drawn to that won’t wear over the years but feels personal.
- Install a metaled silver or gold paper on the ceiling to add some glamour to the room.
- Use exciting fabrics. Pick out a luxurious textile and if you don’t have the budget to upholster an entire piece of furniture, go with accent pillows.
- Cluster luxe accessories. Gem-cut votives, vases, and bowls are Leifer’s latest go-to. Set them out in groupings on consoles and tables.
- Go with a great repro. Leifer prefers a fine new reproduction of an antique—like the Saarinen table in this kitchen—for stability that strikes a classic form.
Photography: Tara Striano