On the House: HGTV guru dolls up retirees’ apartment

Publish Date:

Sunday, May 18, 2014 9:07 am EDT

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News Organization:

The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, Ohio

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Hundreds of central Ohioans live in retirement communities.

But only two, Helen and Dominic Raimondo, live in an apartment decorated by an HGTV designer.

The Raimondos, who moved from New Jersey into the Sunrise of Gahanna community a year ago, won a national contest sponsored by Sunrise Senior Living. The winner received a makeover from Emily Henderson, host of HGTV’s Secrets From a Stylist.

The Raimondos, married for 63 years, didn’t enter the contest themselves. Their son, Michael, who lives nearby, put their names in as a way of giving thanks.

“They’ve given their whole life,” Michael said. “It’s time they got a little reward.”

“My father was a German prisoner of war for 19 months in World War II. He was down to 92 pounds when he was released. But I’ve never heard him complain about anything in his life. My mother had a stroke but still cooked for all of us. This is my way of thanking them.”

The Raimondos’ apartment is a small studio, but in some ways that makes decorating more of a challenge, said Henderson, whose crew spent three days overhauling the apartment while the Raimondos stayed in another room.

In such a small space, each piece must serve a function — sometimes several — and one wrong item can overwhelm the space.

Henderson worried in particular about two oversize loungers that dominated the room. The Raimondos didn’t want to lose them, so Henderson had to figure out how to hide two big mouse-colored lounge chairs in a 20-by-12-foot room.

“Making sure the recliners didn’t get all the attention in the room — that was a challenge,” Henderson said.

She started by placing a light green floral wallpaper on one wall, creating a pattern behind the chairs so they don’t stand out as much as they did against the former off-white wall.

She then placed a round end table between them, topped with a large lamp, to provide furnishings of similar size around the chairs, helping them blend in. After replacing nightstand lamps with wall sconces, Henderson added a taupe fabric headboard to also complement the lounge chairs.

For such small spaces, unity is key. So is multifunctionality. At the foot of the bed, for example, Henderson placed a bench that doubles as a storage unit.

Henderson further unified the room by repeating light gray, green and blue shades throughout.

“The more contrast you have in a space, the smaller it feels,” Henderson said. “But the least amount of contrast can be boring — beige on beige on beige is boring — so find that in-between spot and don’t go for a high-contrast pattern.”

For personal touches, she hung family photos, added two terrariums and, at Dominic’s request, built a minibar.

Henderson has a rule of thumb: Furnishings ideally should be functional, beautiful and sentimental, but at the least they should be two of the three.

Henderson’s makeover manages to be both homey and contemporary.

“I’m flabbergasted,” Dominic said when he and Helen entered the room, being filmed by a Sunrise crew.

“It’s beautiful,” Helen added. “The chairs look so much better now.”

Dominic, who is a bit of a social butterfly and is called the “mayor” of the Sunrise community, celebrated his new room by taking a Sunrise worker, Ashley Harris, for a dance spin around the room while Frank Sinatra sang away.

“All right,” he said, “the party can now get started.”

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