Blah, Dated Condo – Is There Any Hope?

Hello Everyone,



Happy Valentine’s Day!


Recently, I received a lovely note from a long-time reader, Kat, who recently inherited a small, horribly dated condo from her parents.

Instead of waiting until the end of her email for my response. I will make remarks during the email.




Dear Laurel

Your genius never ceases to amaze me.


Ha! You should see me right now in my bathrobe, which I’m wearing until I go out this evening. I’m here to give you guys every shortcut I know. My “genius” is the result of making 100s of mistakes.


Love what you came up with for your recent furniture layouts. Are you up for some fun?


Yes, always!


I inherited a small two-bedroom ocean-view, exceedingly dated condo in Florida from my parents last year. And, I am attempting to purchase new furniture.


Forgive me, you mean you’re thinking about purchasing new furniture. Right?


I am completely stumped.


Yes, I understand. Decorating is difficult.



I have a door that goes to the bedrooms in the middle of my living room; not very conducive to conversation. The easy solution is to have a sectional, but I don’t want to kill my ocean view.


ocean view out of dated condo in Florida


Of course not. That’s a given.


Kat says:


I may open up the kitchen at some point, as other condo owners have done, but then comes the question of where does the tv go?


open kitchen in Florida conco

(as an aside) Do you see the problem with this place?

It’s devoid of any heft. It needs some touches of black and gold. And, also some pattern and other colors to balance out the vivid wall color. It’s on its way, but it’s not there yet. I’d bring some of that luscious GREEN inside the condo.



I very much like the way you think, Kat! Or, perhaps I should say that you *are* thinking. The majority of folks don’t.


I wrote Kat back and told her she could send me some photos. So, she did.

You’ve seen a few; now we’ll see the rest of this dated condo in Florida.


dated condo in Florida with inherited furniture - dining area

dated condo in Florida with inherited furniture


There’s the door to the bedrooms, Kat was talking about.

  dated condo in Florida with inherited furniture
dated kitchen in a frumpy condo in Florida

The compact but also dated condo kitchen.

I have said this a million times, but sometimes it takes a while to sink in, or you might have missed it.


Before you set foot in a furniture store, whether in person or online, you MUST have a plan and a clear vision of what you want and need.


Otherwise, yes, you ARE going to be stumped.

And you know what else. You ARE going to make mistakes. Expensive mistakes. It’s okay. Please keep sending me these letters, and I will keep repeating myself. lol

You MUST HAVE A PLAN. And, I have written out all of the steps in this post about how you create your decorating plan and implement it.


It begins with your floor plan, and SPACE PLANNING.


How will you know what sizes to get if you don’t do a room layout? You can’t. Even Bunny Williams can’t do that. She has a very good idea, but I can assure you, she’s not going to take a chance with her clients because it’s her butt on the line if it doesn’t work out. So, just like an architect has a house plan before building, you need a floor plan before furnishing.

Guys, you can do this on a computer, or you can do it with a pencil and 1/4″ graph paper. I love those little yellow-orange mechanical pencils with the erasers on the end. It’s all in the 12-step decorating plan.


empty Floridian dated condo


Because I’m a little lazy, I straightened out the image and superimposed it over 1/4″ graph paper on Pic Monkey. As long as you know some of the measurements, you can create your drawing to scale. Otherwise, you’ll need to know all the measurements so you can also draw your room to scale, as Mary did beautifully, here.


One square = one square foot.

Think about what you need for your room, home, and lifestyle.


Kat has told me some of her needs, which are as follows.


  • A comfortable place to watch TV, and converse, without blocking the beautiful ocean view.
  • This is a vacation home, so not a formal space, but one she’ll look forward to visiting.


Okay, let’s talk about what Kat might do to fix this dated condo, leaving the furniture out of it for the time being.


Let’s begin with the architecture of the room.

The popcorn ceiling has to go. Kat agrees. The easiest and cheapest way to get rid of it is to apply 1/4″ sheetrock to the ceiling. Otherwise, it’s a giant mess, costly, and lots of skim coating, sanding, coating, and more sanding. Just sheetrock it.


stalactite ceiling AKA 7-minute frosting ceiling

via Reddit

Upside-down coconut cake with seven-minute frosting via Just Cook Well Blog


If you have seven-minute frosting or stalactites coming down from your ceiling, I have given you permission to shoot whoever did this to you.


Oh, is that still illegal? Well, then, someone will have to do some heavy-duty leveling before adding the sheetrock.


Helpful Hint for the easiest AND cheapest method for removing a seven-minute frosting ceiling:


Make sure you are up-to-date with your home insurance policy. Do a lead test on all the paint in your home, especially if it was built before 1978. Assuming all’s good, I would also purchase a bunch of masks that construction workers use.


Then, gather about four to six boys* in your neighborhood between 13-17 (with their parent’s permission, of course.)


Have Two to three large, piping hot plain cheese pizzas and some soda waiting for them. Pay them each 20 bucks to get rid of that crap hanging from your ceiling. I guarantee in a couple of hours, your ceiling is going to be almost as smooth as a baby’s bum. ;]

*In a pinch, grown men who act like boys will work, too. However, you might have to give them a little more money. ;]


What about that kitchen wall? Should Kat open it up?


Hell no! I wouldn’t recommend that. I do believe one day (hopefully today), these open plans will go out of fashion. Guys, in my Boston home, finished in 1880, the kitchen was BELOW the dining room. True, they had help doing the cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing. sigh… I was born in the wrong century.

In addition, if the wall goes, the TV situation will be problematic.

And finally. I’m kind of over the de rigueur peninsula with the three or four stools. I was over it about ten years ago. Fine, if you have the space and an SUV filled with little ones. However, these condos are small. They don’t have the space. They need that space for other things, like STORAGE, for example.


Still, I would consider raising the door height into the kitchen.


Kat says they will redo the kitchen and do away with the dated condo ceiling lights.


Essentially, the architecture is contemporary. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be embellished. I would love it to have a slight art deco, with a touch of Hollywood Regency. However, we are barely going to touch the furnishings today.

I will do one more follow-up post for the furniture.


Okay, I got to work on the floor plan.


And, I put just enough detail in to confuse the pants off of you.

However, that’s okay. The point is we are only looking at the plan view today.

Kat sent me a few images.

Guys, I know she loves classic furnishings and blue and white.

So, what was my jumping-off point?

dated condo in Florida with inherited furniture

See that blue spot toward the middle of the image?

That was where I began.

I have long admired the Lampert sofa from Jonathan Adler. And, I’ve sat in it too. While exceedingly sleek, it’s also very roomy yet cozy and comfortable! There’s a reason it’s been in their line for at least 15 years. It’s the perfect contemporary sofa.

It also comes as a sectional. But Kat could do one sofa and one 60″ loveseat perpendicular to the sliding glass doors. It is only 32″ high and will not block the ocean view.


First, I lay down two seagrass rugs.

One large one covers most of the living area and entry. And then butted up against it, another seagrass rug in the dining room. They will be bound with a two-inch fabric binding. I recommend that the installer sews the two rugs together on-site. Trust me on that one. In fact, they can bind the entire thing on-site. It can be an L-shaped rug if you don’t want to do two separate rugs.


As for the floor plan, Mom and Dad had it almost right in terms of layout.


I will share my floor plan now.

Kat's non-frumpy updated Florida Condo

The furniture and wallpaper at the top are not sitting out on the balcony. haha

I love this wallpaper because it hints at tropical without it screaming in your face.


Laurel, wait. Are you suggesting velvet for the upholstery in Florida?


Yes, I am. Why not? Guys, it’s COTTON velvet. And this condo is air-conditioned. It will be supremely comfortable.

Of course, Kat doesn’t have to do the beautiful blue velvet. I’d be just as thrilled if she slipcovered everything in white cotton duck and kept the colors for the pillows and maybe the chairs.

Speaking of chairs.


Let’s look at Kat’s parents’ chairs.


dated condo in Florida with inherited furniture

You know, these chairs are quite pretty. And, here’s what Kat could do.

One is to upholster OVER the wood. Yes, you can do that. Everything but the legs.

Or, before upholstering, she could have them paint the wood trim in a vibrant coordinating color.



Via Architectural Digest

A Susie Atkinson chair upholstered with a citrus-patterned Schumacher fabric designed by Josef Frank.

Photo: Courtesy of Susie Atkinson


I hope you enjoyed exploring some architectural changes and furniture layout for this dated condo in Florida.


On Sunday, we will discuss the fabrics, rugs, and furniture. I want to talk a bit more about the architecture, as well. Of course, we can also go over any suggestions or questions you might have, which I imagine is a lot. ;]



PS: Please check out the newly updated and very hot, HOT SALES. There are numerous new pre- president’s day weekend spectacular sales!

PPS: Coincidentally, if you love Palm Beach-style decorating and Hollywood Regency, please check out this new post about Palm Beach Living, by my friend, Andrea, author of the Glampad, a beautiful decorating blog.

31 Responses

  1. Just popping in to say I have seven-minute frosting or stalactites (LOL) in the ceilings in my century home, and we got them professionally tested and sure enough, they contain asbestos. I know popcorn ceilings also often have asbestos. So please have them tested before touching them at all!

  2. Hi Laurel
    How would you decorate a open plan dining space with contemporary teak wood kitchen and black countertops. This is challenging because most designer have traditional decor advice. Thanks Mimi

  3. Oh so much fun! Layering and color punches can make such a difference. Wallpaper will make a rich addition to the space. Very nice layout suggestions, Laurel. I agree that a tuxedo sofa is a great idea for preserving the view. This makes the living room feel less crunched. Kat, I hope you have tons of fun with the changes.

  4. The post says “Ocean Views” which is why I made the assumption that it was not on the gulf side, but excellent point. I wonder now if she meant o ran or gulf 🧐

  5. I love the question about different heights of sofas and am looking forward to Laurel’s thoughts. I also love the blue sofa and how it brings the view in. And so pretty with the fabric on the sample club chairs.

  6. Those are great ideas. I am in a condo almost exactly. Everyone has opened the kitchen up. It is nice bit I like it either way. The sea grass rugs are fabulous. Sofas looks really comfy. The table with four chairs is great for company. Just make sure they have a back. Unless you want your company to not stay long. .

  7. What a great solution, Laurel. This has to be one of the prettiest mood boards you’ve done! Especially love the idea of joining the carpets together on-site. Can’t wait for part two!

  8. So sorry to hear your pup had a party on your sofa. Mine has the same reaction to fireworks.
    We have had a velvet sofa for many years and love it. So glad to hear it will work in Florida.
    I am really looking forward to covering up the popcorn ceiling with sheetrock and am so grateful for the suggestion. It makes all the sense in the world.
    We are heading to the condo tomorrow and I can’t wait to stand in the space with Laurel’s vision.
    Now off to peruse Laurel’s Rolodex – I am just too excited!

    p.s. Please excuse my typos; it has been a very long week.

  9. I had 2 matching seafoam velvet club chairs. They were beautiful until the dog, left alone on the 4th of July, climbed into the fireplace seeking shelter from the fireworks. Then, she paraded through the house and climbed up on one of those precious chairs. Soot isn’t a good look on green velvet. It is very hard to remove but professional cleaners did a great job. These were my parents first furniture purchase in 1943. They reupholstered them once, and I did also. Great chairs. I love cotton velvet. PS. Never leave a dog alone on 4th of July.

  10. Well, now I know what my 4 11 – 15 year old boys could do for a summer job! They would have so much fun demo-ing! But I like the 1/4″ sheet rock idea better 😉

    Thanks to Kat for sharing her condo…I really like the tiny house aspect of a condo, and am looking forward to the next post…thanks again, Laurel, for such practical advice!

  11. Thanks for another interesting and thoughtful post! I would have to agree with Tsippi. I’m all about the view and less so the TV area. Maybe a divan sofa (is that the right word?) with no back or minimal back where you could face either the entertainment area or the sliding doors. Then maybe another coffee table on the other side and side chairs if there is room, creating another seating area with a view. If it were me, I would even sacrifice some space in the entertainment to get that seating area if it is possible. But I’m terrible with floor plans, so would love to see what Laurel could do with that idea.

  12. (Sorry first time commenting 🤦‍♀️) There are lots of great vintage and thrift shops in florida where you can source unique and interesting pieces of furniture. Perhaps some of these items could make it into the plan. So looking forward to part 2. Thanks Laurel for all your inspiration and expertise.

  13. I love these real life redo posts. I too have a florida condo and your colour scheme lines up with our approach … my mantra was blue and green and sand and cream. There are

  14. I just realized someone asked about sun in the afternoon. I have not spent much time in the apartment but imagine you are correct about natural light being an issue. The sliders are obviously to the East and we have a window in the dining area with southern exposure. We do need to keep the curtains closed for much of year in the evening due to turtle nesting, so pretty window treatments would be lovely.

  15. Wow. People have eliminated a lot of popcorn ceilings. The building is from the 1960’s so extra care definitely needs to be taken. I know they do come down very easily with just water and a scraper because I did so unintentionally. I had a mold issue due to a ventilation issue and sprayed the ceiling with bleach…down came the popcorn ceiling.

  16. So appreciate your comment on covering popcorn ceilings w/1/4″ sheet rock. That has been my sense, but contractor wants to scrape them. What a mess, and the buckets-full-of moisture during the process is undesirable.
    Belatedly Happy Birthday. Many thanks for your continued investment of time, talent, experience and skill that you share. You’re helping us make the world more beautiful via every post!

  17. We recently removed a popcorn ceiling and based on the age of the room figured it might have asbestos in it. We took every precaution. Luckily there is a vaulted ceiling with gorgeous wooden support beams underneath, so it was well worth the effort!

  18. Wow! I am speechless. As always, your work is stunning, Laurel! Love the idea of pulling in the color of the ocean. I am feeling very hopeful.

    I am so appreciative of all your comments. Boy, you are smart and creative people!

    I would love to change the patio doors but think they need to match others due to Association regs. They are also hurricane doors so I may be stuck with them.

    I am wondering if it is ok to have different heights on sofas. My poor 6’3” husband would never forgive me if I made him watch March Madness on a low back sofa, as beautiful as they are.

    I actually have a family of five plus two daughters with significant others so the seating is wonderful for when they visit. We are definitely “The more the merrier” kind of people.

    And yes, I was actually “attempting” to buy furniture without a plan. My favorite salesperson is a saint. Have a plan…what a concept! Maybe she won’t hide when I enter the store!

    Thank you again!

  19. We have been thinking about downsizing but really dislike the whole open concept kitchen in your living room look. Hard to find anything that doesn’t have the required counter with barstools either. Your ideas for this little condo are spot on. Always enjoy your posts and the thought you put into the designs.

  20. One commenter mentioned the condo facing the Atlantic and the lack of afternoon sun…did the condo owner say that and I missed it? I ask because many beaches in FL are gulf coast beaches – different sunlight completely than the Atlantic side.

  21. I believe that popcorn ceilings often contain asbestos, so I would be careful removing them if that’s the plan. I’m thinking a professional might be called for in this instance.

  22. Laurel,
    I love these “real life” decorating questions. The thought of inheriting. A condo in Florida sounds pretty delicious! Looking forward to seeing your final thoughts! Thank you Kat for sharing!!

  23. At the beach, I would do a classic blue and white or cream and white scheme, perhaps with pops of light yellow and red. Keep it light. Since the unit might become a seasonal rental, consider Sunbrella fabrics. Paint the kitchen cabinets white and add new hardware. Replace the kitchen ceiling panels, countertops and sink. A seagrass rug will work. The door to the bedroom is required so access to a bathroom is provided. Just put a high quality heavy MDF six panel door there to minimize noise and use acoustic batting in the walls and ceiling around the bathroom. Consider vertical blinds to maximize the water view. On the balcony, anything steel will rust. Stick with powder coated aluminum. Use some nice seat cushions for color. If you replace the floor tile, use high quality waterproof LVP. Enjoy!

  24. Again, my favorite kind of post!
    Personally I would first swap out those old sliders for nano doors all the way across. I have a waterfront home and the whole back of our home is nothing but openness and views on both levels. Thankfully the builder splurged on four sets of them because they’re something all guests immediately comment on… In this situation, facing the Atlantic heat from the afternoon sun shouldn’t be a concern. I’m also in complete agreement with low contemporary sofas. I would opt for white and bring in color with beautiful throw pillows and decorative touches. It feels like a warm pallet of colors is just not right in the photos. Crisp, clean white, chartreuse and a splash of orange would be just refreshing. The living room area feels a little like a den to me
    (claustrophobic and dark) since no western sunlight would come in. IMO, white sofas would feel more open, but that’s just me and my love of contemporary coming through I’m sure. I would have so much fun redoing this condo! I would also take a beautiful light blue marble in huge tiles across the whole north wall to add reflectivity. We did that and it brought the color of the sky inside and actually reflects the view in it effectively enlarging the perception of the room size. I would attach photos if I could. Can’t wait to see what else you come up with! Thanks for another fun thought inspiring post to wake up to.

  25. the heat, humidity and salt air always a challenge. Don’t make it too coastal-thematic. Look forward to the outcome!!

  26. Thanks for creating the layouts and the design board, Laurel. It looks like a lot of work! If it were me, I’d put a swivel chair (or two, if I could make them fit somehow) where the loveseat is in the diagram. That way, I could turn around and enjoy the million dollar view. I might also play with losing the loveseat and creating a second seating area of two comfy chairs facing out the slider. It seems like a TV seating area of a sofa and two small chairs would be enough for the entertaining they may be doing. They can always move a couple dining chairs into the sitting area. (I’m always all about the views in my apartments. I realize others don’t care as much.)

  27. Can’t wait to see what you do next! I always tell my husband I want a beach condo just to decorate 😂😂

    Also, Floridian here and I love my velvet sofa! It’s 10 years old, still looks like a million bucks, and has been indestructible with kids and dogs…my neighbors are in awe.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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