Interior Designer Dawn Elise Draws From Iconic Brands Like Roche Bobois and Ligne Roset

When you’re an interior designer, maintaining long-term clients is about twists and turns as their lives, tastes and needs change. Fort Lauderdale-based Dawn Elise, who was born in Manhattan, graduated from Columbia University with a degree in art history and launched her firm here in 2006, knows this well: She says that at least half of her business comes from regular clients. (Over time, children of clients become clients themselves; Elise was even asked to design a college dorm room.)

Kirk Dotson and his wife became such loyal clients. Dotson, a former aerospace engineer, is the founder and president of the upcoming Reef Discovery Center, a nonprofit formed to help conserve Florida’s indigenous coral reef ecosystems and reefs worldwide. A decade ago, the couple moved from California to Las Olas Beach Club, “but within six months of living there, they decided it was too small for them,” Elise recalls. “He sold it and made a $30,000 profit.” A very South Florida story for this California transplant, to be sure.

So, it was onto the Paramount Residences for a preconstruction purchase on a 2,200-square-foot designer-ready unit where only the kitchen and bathrooms were complete. Elise did an upgrade here and there—for example, she installed a marble mosaic backsplash from Catalfamo Gallery in Fort Lauderdale. In the entry, Elise applied zebrawood veneers in a diamond book pattern to the existing doors, then she enlisted local artist Jennifer Haley to match the wood grains to the doorjambs—creating a faux zebrawood—to achieve the seamless look. You would never guess that it’s paint. (Two other Haley pieces adorn the home—one in the foyer and the other in the living room.)

Then it was onto bigger things. The clients specified a clean, modern, organized aesthetic; the boldness of the entryway gives way to a more limited, serene palette of neutrals, with the occasional color pop. The dining room shoots the moon in terms of top-shelf brands: Artefacto chairs surround a Roche Bobois table. Of this standout space, Elise says, “I love the organic modernism of the chairs, I love natural flowing shapes that feel like a piece of molded driftwood, and I really like the contrast of the soft shape with the marble table. That’s a pretty iconic table, called the Aqua. They spin the base out of one piece of marble.”

A Eurofase multi-pendant chandelier illuminates the room. Reflecting the idea that a home is a continual work in progress, Elise has added a zebrawood soffit to the ceiling that mirrors the shape of the table. “It’s spectacular,” Elise says. “It really finishes that space.” The window sheers are Romo fabric.

Like the dining room, the living area is anchored by iconic pieces: a pair of Ligne Roset Ploum sofas chosen by the Dotsons. There are more than 1,000 ways to customize this popular oversized settee; Elise and her client selected woven cotton in two shades of taupe. Elise originally outfitted the room with a durable Champagne shag rug from Wayfair since the couple has a pair of Pomeranians.

Noting that many of her clients have children and dogs, she says, “The majority of my clients, regardless of how much they could spend, don’t spend a lot of money on rugs,” Elise says. “I’m working a $10 million house and the client already told me, ‘Don’t spent more than $7,500 on any one rug.’ ” Still, in this case, she eventually replaced the shag rug with a Roche Bobois. The wood veneer wall coverings are graced with a Chestnut light sculpture by Viso Lighting.

The plush bedroom, a vision in Champagne and white, features a Roche Bobois bed backed by a woven hyacinth wall covering by Omexco. A shimmering multipiece Luceplan chandelier adds drama. If the apartment is festooned with some of the most prestigious furniture brands in the country—Roche Bobois, in particular—there’s a reason, Elise explains: “My clients are pretty design-savvy people.”

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