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St. Petersburg designer discusses her award-winning bathroom design


in an unassuming shop lined with catalogs and books on Central Avenue, interior decorator Ada Pagano gives birth to award-winning designs.

Pagano, who lives in Tierra Verde, is a ball of energy who looks much younger than her 57 years. She occasionally excuses herself to answer the phone or make a call about the delivery of items for her decorating works in progress.

She says she can't remember a day when she ever wanted to do anything else but design the inside of houses. Even as a child, she said, she was always rearranging the furniture in the house.

That love of her occupation has translated to many design honors, including her three most recent awards from the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

Pagano, who has been in the interior decorating business for 30 years, 14 years at the Central Avenue location of A. Pagano Design, beat out more than 500 designs to win the overall "Best bathroom 2010" award. She also took first place in "Master bathroom 2010" and an honorable mention in "Open plan kitchen." The bathroom that won both of the awards was done for a client in South Tampa.

So, what does she do that sets her rooms apart? We recently talked to Pagano about her award-winning work.

What does everybody want when it comes to bathrooms?

Clients love storage. They are extremely happy when you find a way to give them the ability to store things so that everything is accessible and handy.

How do you get started?

I divide the floor space into zones and appropriate the correct amount of space to function. You can keep countertops clear if the space is planned correctly. I will put electrical outlets in drawers or cabinets to keep things like blow-dryers and electric toothbrushes off the countertops. I pay a lot of attention to how storage is laid out.

Why are "kitchens and baths" always lumped together?

Because the rooms are task-driven spaces. They have to serve many functions in a relatively small space.

Is that what makes a bathroom feel luxurious?

Richness of materials makes a bathroom feel luxurious. I like to balance natural, organic materials with materials that have a reflective quality. But what sets it all off, the most important feature, is how everything is lit. Lighting brings different materials to light. There should be all kinds of light in there: task, ambient, accent. You should be able to softly light the room if you are taking a bath or light more fully for task lighting.

What is the No. 1 mistake people make when designing or remodeling a bathroom?

Not hiring a professional designer. I spend a lot of time researching the market for available products that I can introduce to my clients. I can save people from making costly mistakes. A designer is a space planner first and foremost. Everything germinates from the available space.

What's the difference in a master bath and any other bathroom in the house?

People denote higher value to the master bath. They will put more money into a master bath. A master bath will have more upgraded options.

What are the trends in bathroom design?

To have a water "area" with the shower and the tub behind a glass wall. There are more free-standing tubs; that is good because it frees up floor space without having to have that large platform tub. If space allows, people like to have a bidet.

What set your design apart?

It had mass appeal and was very modern looking. A lot of different personality types could see themselves in that bathroom. It was modern, yet not cold. From the beginning, I thought that bathroom was special. What made it special was the clients. They had the ability to envision the way it should be. Their trust in me to be able to give them what they wanted was inspiring. It was my third project for them.

Patti Ewald is a freelance writer based in Gulfport. She can be reached at

St. Petersburg designer discusses her award-winning bathroom design

06/18/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 18, 2010 4:30am]
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