An Uplifting Downsizing
Planning to downsize and simplify her life, Elaine Cohen focused her vision on a luxury retirement condominium in La Jolla. “I had several friends who lived there. I loved the convenient location near everything and all the amenities, including the indoor pool, gym, regular lectures and the availability of a meal plan,” explains Elaine, who enjoys an active life. When the penthouse hit the market, she saw the panoramic ocean-to-mountain views from the 21st floor. Experiencing the 2,400-square-foot residence’s open, airy feel, she knew she had found her new home. But the interior, originally done for the prior owner when the building opened in 1991, needed a complete makeover. Elaine and her late husband had sold their 6,800-square-foot home in Rancho Santa Fe and their winter home in Palm Desert furnished, knowing their furniture was too large for any condominium they chose. She retained only a pair of favorite sculptures, family keepsakes and a selection of art and collectibles, many purchased on their overseas travels.
Elaine selected interior designer Keri Goldsmid of 3 Goldfish Studios on the recommendation of a friend in the building whose home Keri had helped downsize. One of Keri’s specialties is assisting clients pare down their belongings for retirement living. “I enjoy helping them figure out what they really want to keep and what they’re OK not keeping,” she says. Foremost is assessing what furniture and accessories fit into smaller spaces, as well as identifying and retaining favorite items needed to create the new home’s sense of “personal sanctuary,” she explains. Keri interviews her clients to determine how they anticipate using their spaces. Then she structures the home’s overall “story,” with individual rooms’ functions forming distinct but interconnected “chapters.” When Elaine and Keri first met, Elaine’s instructions for the remodel centered around two focal points that she did not include when selling her previous home furnished.
“I wanted the living room designed around my two John Kennedy bronze sculptures, which we bought about 10 years ago in Park City, Utah, near our vacation home,” Elaine says. One is a stylized figure of Audrey Hepburn with a child and the second represents two entwined lovers. She also requested a neutral color palette and comfortable living spaces. In developing her plans, Keri begins with the “rhythm of the architecture,” filling in whatever elements are missing, she explains. In the penthouse, she gutted the interior, retaining only a cedar-lined closet in the master suite. Building on the living room’s barrel arch, Keri introduced warmth and interest to the design by installing maple-stained, post-and-lintel wood beams that link the entry hall with the living and dining rooms while also opening up the spaces. Because the condo occupies most of the building’s top floor, Keri was able to pop up the ceilings by about 10 inches in some rooms, while being careful to retain an appropriate scale for the spaces. She added wood-framed soffits to the dining room, kitchen and master suite. In the bedroom, she employed the soffits to create a more intimate proportion.
The choice of Mohave quartzite for stone counters proved pivotal. “Elaine loved the quartzite. We built the home around it,” Keri says. From that came the condo’s color palette of creams, beige, taupe, brown and bronze and the selection of coordinating glass tile for the dining room bar and kitchen. To enhance the living room, Keri added a cream-colored, stacked-stone fireplace flanked by custom wooden cabinets to display family photos, sculptures and keepsakes and another cabinet by the bar for Elaine’s collection of Lalique and Baccarat crystal and colorful Venetian art glass. The pass-through kitchen received all new appliances, dark wood cabinets and a custom banquette with an oval glass table in a breakfast nook adjoining the sunroom and guestroom/computer room. A pair of whimsical, food-themed works from Elaine’s art collection — the three-dimensional Bagels and Locks and Eggs Benedictus — adorn the walls. For flooring, Keri chose a textured, light wood-grain laminate that’s softer to walk on than wood and accented it with a mix of area rugs. She installed wall-to-wall carpeting in the master bedroom and matte porcelain tile in the bathrooms.
In selecting upholstered couches and chairs, Keri emphasized comfort, shopping with Elaine to test for height, depth and tilt of the back, as well as the softness of cushions. The living room’s twin sofas, two arm-chairs and cushioned bench provide seating for eight, matching the number of guests that Elaine can accommodate at her expandable, mahogany dining table. For special entertaining Elaine brings out tables and chairs, normally stored in the expansive storage room exclusive to her penthouse. The generous space Keri designed throughout the unit for easy movement also accommodates easy setup of extra seating. “I’ve hosted 25 for Thanksgiving dinner for 30 years,” Elaine explains. For the master suite, Keri designed a headboard edged in wooden trim that echoes the soffit edging and completed the bedding with a lustrous metallic bronze coverlet. For the reading area, she added a built-in wooden display cabinet, two upholstered armchairs with an ottoman and a desk flooded by sunlight. The master bath features a stone-encased tub, glass-enclosed shower and twin sinks set in quartzite counters. Because Elaine’s family usually stays in hotels on visits, Keri transformed the unit’s second bedroom into a flexible guest room/computer room, using the quartzite as a desktop, and introducing orange accents through the queen sleeper sofa’s upholstery, cushions and a painting. A nearby ottoman provides additional storage. The adjacent sunroom, furnished with a comfortable sofa and upholstered bench, offers a quiet spot for reflection and relaxing amid broad ocean views. Working with her associate, Adriana Nixon, whose special expertise is fiber, Keri introduced sparkle and pizzazz with textured fabrics and metallic accents throughout the condo. Gold, silver and bronze appear in metallic-threaded cushion covers; bedcoverings; lampshades; accessories; sculptures; and paintings, some of which Keri, an accomplished artist, created for specific spaces.
Throughout her work, Keri blends custom and high-end furnishings with well-designed, modestly priced choices that mesh to create the entire look. A home is the sum of its components, she explains. What matters is that they work together to create one’s home as a “sacred space.” Surrounded by old and new favorites from her art collection and Keri’s comforting designs, Elaine reports that she has settled into a vibrant lifestyle amid the luxury environment of her retirement community.