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Using style, sturdy materials creates a setting for real life

TAMPA — Back in 2005, when architect Rob Glisson bought a modest mid-century ranch house in a quiet South Tampa neighborhood, he envisioned something both stylish and family friendly.

The self-professed arts-and-crafts bungalow aficionado and owner of the Tampa firm Rojo Architecture loves everything American: Frank Lloyd Wright, Mark Twain and Disney World.

"I call myself an American's American: 'I have two kids, two dogs and two cars,' " joked Glisson, who bought the 1951 house despite its cramped rooms, weary interior and outdated plumbing and electrical systems.

"I really liked the house because it had curb appeal and I really felt like I could get it to the point I needed it to be," said Glisson, 45. "Basically, everything was removed down to the studs."

He spent a year and a half renovating the house — three bedrooms and two baths in 3,200 square feet — before the family could finally move in. But the real challenge came with decorating.

He eventually teamed up with interior designer Guy Cavalluzzi, now the interior design director of Red-Decor, a subsidiary of Rojo (www.rojoarchitecture.com). Cavalluzzi met with Glisson's wife, Lori, to get a feel for the kind of design that appealed to her.

"She cared about graciousness and 'usability' — especially with kids," recalled Cavalluzzi, who migrated to Tampa from New York, where he worked in private practice and as a senior designer for Macy's and as fashion director for home furnishings for Lord and Taylor.

"A lot of clients ask me to make their space livable. They want formal if they need it, but not on a day-to-day basis," Cavalluzzi said.

The Glisson home renovation included molding throughout with a strong, four-square motif; stained-glass windows that Rob designed; and built-in bookcases and columned arches. It also included all the up-to-the-minute technological touches he's fond of, including a 61-inch TV in the living room that's incorporated into the built-in, arts-and-crafts-style shelving.

Differing visions merge

Cavalluzzi's goal was to seamlessly meld the tastes of the couple, who will celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary next month, while making the design friendly for their children, Ashley, 8, and Bradley, 15.

Architect and designer say they had no problems working together because each listened to the other's ideas and suggestions.

Rob is a big fan of the classic, American mission-style furniture that is compatible with arts-and-crafts style interiors. "Lori wanted a traditional home that was comfortable for the family," Cavalluzzi said.

"I wanted to be respectful of the architecture and the work he had done," said Cavalluzzi, who jokes that his role is sometimes comparable to that of the designers on the HGTV show Designing for the Sexes, who may be called upon to play arbiter, referee and marriage counselor for couples with differing tastes.

"Sometimes an interior designer has to be part psychologist, part visionary, and at the same time understand what the couple wants," he said.

Cavalluzzi decorated the house with classic wood mission-style furniture and good-looking, durable upholstery that can handle the heavy wear and tear of the kids and two dogs, Buddy, a Lab mix, and Stan, a cockapoo. He created continuity in the living spaces by using a soft gold, burgundy and camel palette throughout. For the storage ottoman that doubles as a cocktail table and footrest (a must for Rob), he chose virtually indestructible chenille upholstery.

In the dining room, traditional high-backed skirted chairs — a nod to Lori's taste — are upholstered in a stain-resistant fabric. He selected commercial-grade area rugs throughout to top the cherry wood floors, even in the den, which also serves as daughter Ashley's mega-Barbie play area, with accessories galore and fabulous Barbie townhouse.

Cavalluzzi decorated the master bedroom in a style that's different from the rest of the house, incorporating more of Lori's vision in a space that functions as a soothing, grown-up retreat.

"It's basically a glamorous, contemporary bedroom," he says. The soft, pale-green palette is easy on the eye but not overly feminine. It adjoins a master bathroom suite that's designed to be spacious while offering a lot of personal storage for clothes and toiletries, something the Glissons asked for.

Getting personal

Cavalluzzi approaches a job by first asking a lot of personal questions: "How sloppy are you in the bathroom? What's on your nightstand? Do you use coasters?"

Such probing works, he said. It definitely did for Rob, who became so convinced of the benefits of coordinated architectural and interior design projects that he brought Cavalluzzi onboard at Rojo, because, he says, "some projects call for the total package."

The house works, Rob said, because it incorporates everyone's taste while incorporating materials that make it okay to prop up your feet or spill a glass of juice. Even Rob's love for Disney makes a surprise appearance in his study, where his serious-looking art-glass reading lamps reveal a surprise on closer examination: a whimsical mouse-ear motif.

The best part, he added, is that when he comes home at the end of a long day, he feels as if he can just kick back and enjoy.

Said Cavalluzzi: "No room is off limits to the children or the dogs, while each space projects a warm and yet polished look."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.

Using style, sturdy materials creates a setting for real life 06/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2008 10:00am]

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