Go ahead, have a party-Joanne Sebby wants you to. She equipped Bridge Lane, her Gulf Coast rental condominium, with festive table linens and piles of dinnerware in beachy blues. Two tables seat 16. Glassware, from margarita to martini, fits any mood. If your celebration calls for toasting, you'll find wineglasses and Champagne flutes (even an acrylic version for transporting bubbly to the beach). "I love to entertain at home," says Joanne, a real estate agent in Illinois. "I wanted to supply everything guests would need to have a nice dinner party at the beach."
While decorating and outfitting her three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath unit at WaterSound Beach, Florida, Joanne insisted on shattering every preconceived notion vacationers might have about renting a condo. Instead of the usual plain-Jane decor and indestructible furnishings, "we upgraded wherever we could," Joanne says, to create "a dreamy little place that people would love."
She's positive renters will love the location, too. She and her husband, Ron, bought at WaterSound for its unpretentious attitude and pristine 6,000-foot-long beach, where guests can stroll for half an hour and pass hardly a soul. A network of boardwalks takes renters from beach to dunes to lake to lily ponds. There's an 18-hole puttering park for adults and a yacht pond with rentable, remote-control boats. Everything is designed for fun and relaxation. "You don't have to worry about what you're wearing or if you don't have makeup on," Joanne says.
Inside Bridge Lane, she placed the same emphasis on comfort. "I don't like ostentatious things," says Joanne, who chose casual wide-plank pine for the floors and hand-rubbed finishes for the furniture. The walls are taupe with white trim, and the furniture follows suit. An off-white upholstered sofa and chairs mingle with white-painted wood pieces. "It's still luxurious," she says, "but it's an understated luxury."
She indulged everywhere. No skimping-not even on the room with twin beds. Same high-quality mattress, same 600-thread-count cotton sheets. And the twin beds are extra long. That way, if three couples split the place, no one's left grousing about getting shortchanged.
Joanne opted for good stuff in the kitchen, too. Though compact, the space boasts a Viking range, granite surfaces, and stainless steel appliances.
There are clever design details, as well. A trio of diamond-shape mirrors hangs above the living room sofa, reflecting natural light (a plus, because the unit has no side windows). In the dining room, a beaded chandelier contrasts with the dining table's old plank top, adding a bit of glamour.
If you entertain, Joanne says, the chandelier "casts beautiful shadows when dimmed." And if throwing a party is, well, too stressful for a stay at the beach-even at Bridge Lane-she has another suggestion: Head to nearby Grayton Beach's The Red Bar, a funky restaurant and saloon with a sax-blowing house band that cranks out jazz and R&B classics. "People dance on the chairs while they're eating," says Joanne. Best of all? When the party's over, somebody else cleans up.
(published March 2006)