A living room that has fun with coastal decor.

Comfort and convenience--not to mention good looks--rank high on most everyone's wish list when planning a dream house. But Linda and John Russin also wanted to include elements of local history and folklore, as well as a sense of place, in the design of their Key West, Florida, retreat.

Shaping the Style
Throughout the island, palm trees and exotic flora surround cottages that are often built of wood. In the tropical climate, deep porches are essential for creating outdoor living areas while shading tall windows. Architect William C. Taylor and his wife, interior designer Phyllis I. Taylor, of Miami Beach, drew on those influences in creating the Russins' home.

Island Elegance
Because a few local residences built in the late 19th century contain interesting octagonal rooms, the Taylors designed the living room as an eight-sided space and made it two stories high. A compass rose and a ropelike border--both links to the area's seafaring past--adorn the painted sisal rug. The artwork also has regional ties. On a trip to the Florida Keys in 1832, John James Audubon made studies for his "Birds of America" series. The Russins display prints of several birds that he depicted on that visit.

Outdoor Connections
Double tiers of tall windows brighten the living room, and French doors open to the rear porch. On the exterior, slender square columns support expanses of louvered shutters, a means of screening and shading upper-level windows. The sunshade was inspired by a similar architectural treatment at the Harry S Truman Little White House, a neighboring landmark.

Subtle Sophistication at a Glance

  • Stay cool. Use white for painting millwork and upholstering comfy furniture.
  • Add neutrals. Repeat the color of a sisal rug in chair fabric and in pillow details. Accent wood floors with a warm, lustrous finish.
  • Keep it spare. Emphasize art and accessories by paring down to a few special pieces.

"Bright Style" is from the July 2007 issue of Southern Living.