Jeffrey Fisher might be as much a magician as he is a designer. It’s a thought his clients, Debbie and Jim Israel, had more than once during the designer’s transformation of an overwrought Tuscan-style house the couple purchased in the Grey Oaks community of Naples, Florida, into a vibrant and timeless family home filled with personal details.
Almost five years ago, the Israels, who also live part-time in Iowa, spent two months on Sanibel Island. “My husband loved it and was ready to start house hunting immediately,” Debbie says. They bought a home in Naples, but it left something to be desired. “Jim wanted to be on the golf course and before long, we began looking again.” Eventually, they found the Tuscan-style house with a spacious floor plan and expansive vistas of the Grey Oaks golf course. “He fell for the views,” Debbie recalls, “but all I saw was a dark and dated Tuscan.”
The floor plan and views won out, and the house became theirs. Soon after, Debbie called Fisher, who had worked on a friend’s home in Naples, and asked him to reinvigorate the residence. During their initial meeting, she informed him she loved color–blue, specifically–and that she wanted the home to be light, bright and inviting. “I wanted it to feel like Florida and not the Midwest,” she says.
Not long after the initial meeting, winter came to an end and the Israels headed back to Iowa. Fisher began selecting the finishes, fabrics, furniture and accessories that he would show to Debbie. “A few months later I came back down, and Jeffrey and I spent about a week looking at the things he’d chosen,” she says. “There wasn’t much I didn’t like.”
With most of the selections in place, Debbie flew back home and Fisher rolled up his sleeves and got to work. His first order of business was to revamp the exterior, which was clad in what he describes as “dried-apricot-colored” stucco trimmed with white molding. “I painted the entire house alabaster white,” says the designer, who also stained the front door a dark walnut and maintained the red tile roof. “Doing all white muted the busy details and made it more appealing,” he says. “It took on more of the Spanish style you see in California that everybody loves.”
Fisher began the interior remodel in the casual living room, where he removed a set of low-lying ceiling beams that brought down the scale of the room. “This made the space feel larger and more open and airy,” he says. Sofas upholstered in cream linen, a taupe wool rug and a pair of recliners covered in cream leather were then brought in. The space is a counterpoint to all the other rooms, which display brilliant color and patterns, including the formal living room where Fisher installed a sofa wrapped in orange linen and hung navy-and-tangerine draperies in a medallion print that matches the fabric of the sofa pillows. “This is the first room you see when you step into the foyer,” Fisher points out, “so I wanted to set the stage for what’s to come in the rest of the house.” He took color and pattern a step further in the formal dining room, hanging drapery with a turquoise, tangerine and cobalt-blue Asian-inspired print. “It’s the same print and colors you see on the wallpaper in the powder bath,” he notes. Debbie had previously mentioned to him that she was born on a U.S. Air Force base in Japan, so the designer wanted to include a few nods to Asian culture.
In two of the guest rooms, Fisher employed additional thoughtful elements that speak to who the couple are. “Debbie is a quilter and so was my grandmother, so I understand the charm and craftsmanship of quilts,” Fisher says. The designer asked Debbie to make two quilts for the twin beds to coordinate with the colors they had selected. “When the grandkids come, they sleep under Grandma’s quilts and there’s just something really nice about that,” he says. “It’s one more layer that makes things authentic.”
When the entire home had been remodeled and outfitted with new furnishings, the couple returned to Naples to find it met all of their needs–and exceeded their expectations. “The house looked fabulous,” Debbie says. During load-in, however, the design team noticed some tile damage in the living room. So Fisher and his clients made the decision to remove everything from the house and install Legno Bastone wood flooring throughout. And since they would again be working with a blank canvas, they decided to redo the master bath. “We left,” Debbie says, “and Jeffrey came in and worked his magic and then put everything back again.”
The Israels returned the following season, and this time their home was nothing short of perfect. “Jeffrey is just awesome,” Debbie says. “In the beginning, there were a few things that I was unsure about, like that orange sofa. But he has such a good ear and a good eye. He said, ‘Trust me on this,’ so I did. And he was right. At first, I was not happy with this house. Now, I love this place.”