Interior designer Leah Chorniak’s clients have included many members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She currently is working on the oceanfront home of a Tampa Bay Lightning player. One question almost every client asks is: How did Chorniak decorate her house?
“I tell them that I pick what is timeless for me because trends come and go and at the end of the day you need to come home to something that feels comfortable to you,” Chorniak said. In 2018, she bought a 3,600-square-foot, five-bedroom, three-bath Tampa Palms house because she “really loved the bones,” then completely remodeled it to suit her own tastes and needs. “You don’t want to be a prisoner to the choices of the previous owner,” she said.
Chorniak led Bay through several rooms, explaining her design choices and offering tips on decorating the large rooms and high ceilings found in newer upscale homes.
The principal bedroom
Chorniak wanted her bedroom to “feel like a high-end hotel where you can put your feet up and relax at the end of the day.” She added a chaise lounge, creating a “great quiet spot” to get away from the kids or houseguests. Instead of using a small nightstand, she chose taller chests on either side of the bed so there would be more storage. “Gone is the day when somebody buys the entire bedroom suite. People choose individual pieces to make it more customized.” Instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, she used an area rug that she can roll up and take to the cleaners. Large mirrors lend a touch of grandeur, while the wall color, Kendall Charcoal by Benjamin Moore, gives the room a feeling of coziness.
The great room
The challenge in rooms with ceilings as high as this, 22 feet, is what to do with the massive amount of wall space. “If you put a lot of complicated artwork up to the ceiling, it’s exhausting. It doesn’t give the eye a place to rest,” Chorniak said. “It’s best to look at abstracts instead of trying to focus on tiny details.” Instead of hanging landscapes or family pictures, Chorniak made nine simple black-and-white pieces out of drywall compounding and framed them in vintage-style frames from Hobby Lobby. The long sofa on the left is actually a sectional from which the corner pieces were removed and the longer pieces attached side by side. It is covered in an easily cleanable polyester velvet in white because “the darker the furniture, the more visual space it takes up,” Chorniak said. “You don’t want to feel like there’s a truck parked in the room.” Two of the chairs are green: “I think green is absolutely important in a room. It adds earthiness and brings the outdoors in.” She kept the lighting simple and modern, and hung round mirrors up high to reflect the light.
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The TV/den room
Chorniak wanted the great room to be a place for conversation, not watching TV. So the television resides in this room, which can be closed off with sliding barn doors to keep the sound in. It was one of the rooms “that felt a little dated to me, so I painted the entire side of the room matte black and used reclaimed shelving,” she said. On each shelf she added one of the small brass library number pegs she found at an antique mall. Other personal touches include artifacts collected while she lived in South America and a framed piece of “really beautiful wallpaper” made by Schumacher, renowned for its wallpapers and fabrics. “I actually wallpapered a room in that print for a client and (Schumacher) put it in one of their published books, so that print has a great memory for me,” Chorniak said. As in other rooms, this one has overhead lighting on dimmers to adjust the mood.
The dining area
Chorniak has a large family, so she needed a dining table that could seat at least 10. She chose a wood harvest table “because the more wear and tear a wood surface gets, the more inviting it feels.” Instead of wood chairs, she went with ones covered with a stain-resistant fabric. They are on castors so they are easy to move if someone wants to get up from the table. The rug is made of wool — “one of the more stain-resistant fibers,” Chorniak noted — and is large enough so the chairs won’t be half on and half off it. She couldn’t find a lighting fixture long enough for such a big table so she had an electrician install two fixtures back to back.
The kitchen and breakfast nook
Chorniak’s goal with the kitchen was to give it a more timeless feel, not too trendy. She wanted an island but, lacking space, opted for a butcher block cart that can be moved around. The dramatic, oversize light fixtures “add to the mood, especially when you have 12-foot ceilings,” she said. In the breakfast nook, she made a bistro table out of plumbing parts for the base and a stone slab for the top. She covered the benches in a white cowhide and used a velvet Schumacher print on the chairs. As in other areas, there are touches of green and black. “Black is very grounding,” Chorniak said. “I always like to have some element of black or navy or chocolate brown.”