Leta Austin Foster: Time to give outdated furniture a fresh look
By Christine Davis
Special to the Daily News
Editor’s note: This article inaugurates an occasional series that looks at strategies for solving specific design challenges, with advice from decorating professionals who work frequently in Palm Beach and vicinity. First up, Leta Austin Foster discusses updating outdated furniture in a Palm Beach condominium.
Leta Austin Foster of Leta Austin Foster & Associates in Palm Beach explains how to reposition outdated furniture — and her technique has little to do with seating arrangements. Instead, it’s all about creative re-use and decorative recycling – a hallmark of the interior designer’s work.
Her clients, who have seven children, own three condominium units in a row: one for themselves, one for their unmarried children and the third for their married children.
“My client said she wanted to use her mother’s furniture in the condo that her married children and grandchildren use,” Foster says, “and her children said, ‘We hate it.’
“I told them not to worry. ‘You are not going to know it’s your grandmother’s furniture.' ”
In the living room, the sofa by the bar was the grandmother’s, but Foster had the arms and cushions altered for a more modern look — and covered it in a commercial-grade, blue-and-white cotton tweed. She then copied its look for a second sofa to create a sectional seating arrangement.
The living room of a revamped Palm Beach condominium features blue and white,
one of Leta Austin Foster’s favorite color schemes,
and mixes tweeds with plaids and prints for a fresh Florida feel.
Much of the furniture was recycled and refinished using items the family already owned.
Meanwhile, she “untufted” two of the grandmother’s club chairs to give them a more contemporary feel, recovered the lampshades on grandmother’s ceramic palm-tree lamps and painted her mahogany faux-bamboo tables white. New furnishings rounded out the refreshed look — rattan chairs, bar and stools from Objects in the Loft and a clear-acrylic coffee table from Palm Beach Modern Auctions. She also chose a patterned area rug by Stark.
“This is a wonderful, 60-something-year-old building, so we put in a new floor and added beams to the ceiling,” Foster says. “We didn’t use curtains. Instead we put white wooden Venetian blinds on the windows for a more modern look.”
In the bedroom, the grandmother’s chair and headboards were reupholstered, and her night table got a new white finish and new clear-acrylic hardware.
“We toned down the headboards, covering them in a plain fabric, and we made dust ruffles to match,” says Foster, who was assisted by colleague Della Lee on the project.
The right wallpaper can easily give a room an “expensive” feel, Foster says. The bedroom’s washable paper is a prime example — “Todd” by China Seas. The new linens came from Foster’s boutique in the Via Mizner, and the carpeting from ProSource. At the windows, the wooden Venetian blinds were repeated from the other rooms.
In the kitchen, Foster ordered new fronts to update the cabinets and added pewter hardware. Countertops were fashioned from a material called Cavastone, and the floors were recovered in an engineered product that’s sustainable.
Especially for the condo owners’ grandchildren,
the vinyl-covered breakfast banquette is spill-proof.
Foster had the dining area’s banquette built by Patrick Darczuk and painted it white. The seat covering was vinyl in bright red “so the kids could spill.”
Completing the dining area were a zinc-top table from Faustina Pace, a whimsical poster, two light fixtures from Palm Beach Modern Auctions and a lantern from Alan J. Alan. And the linens and accessories came from Foster’s boutique