Villagers choose decorating ideas to fit their lifestyle.
Villagers always bring a little—or a lot—of themselves to the community when they relocate, and their personalities are typically reflected in every aspect of their lives, from their golf carts to their lawn ornaments to their social clubs.
Home decorating is no exception. Home interiors in The Villages are becoming more personalized to reflect the owner’s lifestyle, decorators say.
“With decorating, you’re personalizing the house to suit your likes and dislikes, and to bring in things like pictures to make it more homey,” says Fran Mendelsohn, owner of Drab to Fab in The Villages.
Decorating trends are dictated by location and the type of home, Fran says. The Villages’ homes have contemporary designs, and Villagers are following suit with modern approaches as they shed outdated belongings from their northern homes.
Photo: Fred Lopez
Tom and Susan Hayes // Photos: Fred Lopez
After Susan and Tom Hayes moved from a traditional New England home in Connecticut, they had a blank slate to decorate at their Village of LaBelle house.
“It’s challenging. It’s all like one big, open concept,” Susan says of decorating a Villages home. “Where does one room end and another one start?”
Working with Lois Fuzzell, owner of Decorating Den Interiors in Fruitland Park, the couple had two goals: they didn’t want the interior to look like an old person’s home, and they didn’t want it to look like they just dropped in their old furniture whether it fit or not.
So they ditched most of their furnishings, except furniture from their Connecticut bedroom, which had been successfully remodeled to look like an upscale hotel room.
At the new place, the couple had the interior and ceilings repainted, bought new rugs to replace old oriental rugs, got window treatments to frame the view of the nearby golf course, and added uncommon touches like a “statement piece” chandelier in the dining room, Susan says.
They’re happy with the results. Susan calls the finished look “contemporary casual,” while Tom describes it as casual yet elegant. “We wanted it to be comfortable and we wanted it to be modern,” he says.
Lois refers to the typical Villages interior as “tailored casual,” reflective of the laid-back vibe of a retirement village. In its 49th year, Decorating Den does many projects in The Villages and offers full-line decorating from concept to completion, specializing in custom window treatments and bedding.
Lois hears a lot of talk among decorators and clients about the retro appeal of mid-century modern, which refers to mid-20th-century developments in architecture and interior design. It’s a style with sleek angular lines combined with curved forms, slubby tweeds, textured weaves, and mid-tone wood finishes, and it’s perfect for the smaller spaces of downsizers like Villagers.
“A lot of clients are going with this style, and it works well with Florida,” Lois says. “It’s very natural, open, and airy.”
Villagers also love the outdoor life. Lanais and patios are common and, accordingly, outdoor living designs are popular, not just for matching interiors but some outdoor fabrics also are being used inside, Lois says. New technology in fabrics and frames is leading to more stylish, functional, and durable outdoor furniture.
“They want their outdoors to feel like it’s a continuation of their interior,” Lois says.
As some Villagers transition from full-time work, they may choose to work part time, engage in computer-related hobbies, or become more active in social media. As a result, Decorating Den is designing more in-home offices.
“A lot of residents use at least one of their rooms as a home office, and they’re becoming more functional and versatile—it could also be used as a guest bedroom or a TV room,” Lois says.
The offices don’t necessarily look like offices, she says, but they are warm and inviting workspaces with leaner looks as opposed to traditional chunky desks and cabinetry.
Most Villagers are getting away from large, heavy furniture in all rooms, says Fran, who has been decorating for 25 years overall and four years in The Villages.
“There were trends of really heavy, gaudy type interiors, and now it just seems to be a lot simpler with cleaner lines, not a heavy look,” she says.
As most Villagers are transplants from outside Florida, many don’t want to bring all their furniture with them because they’re typically moving into smaller houses.
Fran helps them with downsizing decisions such as which pieces to keep, how to place them in the home, and how to choose artwork and accessories to go with the furniture. She also helps clients select a palette of colors and ties the whole look together.
“They moved from up north and their colors are kind of dark and they want to come and pep things up a little bit, make it a little more cheery and summery,” Fran says. “There are quite a few people who like the Florida influence; I wouldn’t say beachy as such, but a little more colorful.”
Photo: Fred Lopez
Greg and Linda Zimmerman // Photos: Fred Lopez
Four years after moving to The Villages from the Pittsburgh area, Linda and Greg Zimmerman still are making the transition from northern to southern décor in their Village of Pinellas home. But they’re enjoying the process, Linda says.
Their courtyard villa is smaller than their former house but roomy. They replaced much of their furniture after the move, and Lois helped with window treatments, furniture arrangement, and accessories.
Linda says she particularly loves how the dining room and kitchen turned out.
“We like clean lines,” she says. “It’s not very formal, it’s more of a cottage look. It’s eclectic. It’s not cluttered. What we have here is what we use. Comfort is our No. 1 goal.”
The couple also added a “lovely” lanai with a hot tub and plenty of seating for the times when they entertain, Linda says.
Entertaining is a given for most Villagers, and Fran likes to find out those kinds of details about her clients. Knowing her clients helps her design a room, because every home interior is as distinctive as each homeowner’s personality.
“Here in The Villages, it’s almost like one big family,” Fran says. “People entertain, neighbors come over, people gather, so you have to have a friendly home that’s not too formal. You don’t want people walking in and feeling like they can’t sit on your furniture.”