Artful Ideas

Four spots guaranteed to light a creative spark for your home or garden.



Roberto Gonzalez

Illuminating Effect

If you haven’t given much thought to updating the light fixtures in your home lately, then a visit to Light Bulbs Unlimited, a showroom jam-packed with contemporary-modern designs, will be an inspiring outing. The Winter Park location may look like an old storefront from the street, but inside, the illuminated lighting products play up the possibilities of chrome and crystal. Add in some glass elements and a mix of other metals, and you have some bold light fixtures that can make a room glow all on its own. Pendants are one of the top sellers here, and the shapes and textures used range from teardrop amber glass to cylinders made of what looks like layers of glass spaghetti. Elongated cones blending clear and frosted glass and pointy crystal shapes round out the selection. However, the stunner is without a doubt the Mademoiselle pendant, which drapes a web of Rhodium-plated chain studded with Swarovski crystals—black, gold or clear—over a halogen lamp. 

If you’re tired of that traditional chandelier over the table, take a look at other suspension lighting options. A sleek linear bar, dressed with crystal beads resembling an abacus or decorated with metal pieces similar to architectural bridge-like trusses, hangs by thin, almost invisible cables. Metal tree branches dripping with crystals is another innovative take on a chandelier design, and crystals show up again, this time scattered on a round plate of glass that hangs from the ceiling by delicate cables. Each light fixture has a switch of its own, so as you walk from one display to the next, you can view the designs both off and illuminated to get the full effect. Before you leave, peek into the special theater room where cove lighting has been installed. Built into recesses near the ceiling, the indirect lighting fades and changes colors as it dims before darkening the home theater for movie time. lbuorlando.com

Delicious Designs

Foodies on the prowl for a new place to dine are heading to Santiago’s Bodega on Virginia Drive, just a few blocks east of Ivanhoe Row. The cozy tapas-style restaurant was designed by artist Robert Henry Thompson, whose eye for interior design has given this spot its fascinating character. Before getting to the menu, packed with Mediterranean bites, take a look at the super-cool floor. When Thompson was asked how he created a wood floor that pairs teal, orange and green planks with more natural oak tones, he chuckled. “It’s the cheapest flooring from Lumber Liquidators, 49 cents. We hand-stained each board, let it dry and installed them,” he says about the grainy oak wood floor that’s perked up by interspersing colored planks. 

To create the wall divider that separates the dining room from the entrance, Thompson turned to sculptor Jacob Harmeling, whose Cedar of Lebanon sculpture sits on the southeast edge of Lake Eola. In an architectural salvage yard, Harmeling found a triangular-shaped piece from the top of an old dismantled tower that once stood at Stetson University. You’d be surprised at what you can find at construction sites and salvage yards, Thompson says. Together the two artists used the discarded element as the focal point in the divider, adding wooden boxlike shelving to complete the partial wall. Then to match the floor’s colors, Thompson placed ceramic vases of the same hues on the shelves. 

But one of the easiest décor pieces to re-create for your home sits behind the bar. The two 4-foot doors of the wine cooler are made of stained glass in an abstract floral design. Thompson credits his work to the power of Google and YouTube. After watching an online video, the artist, with help from a neighboring glass shop, made the stunning blue-and-green doors that make lingering at the bar over wine and flaming saganaki all the more pleasant. And before you leave, check out Thompson’s paintings that adorn the restaurant’s walls. santiagosbodega.com

Garden Goods

Most folks head to Lukas Nursery in Oviedo for the large plant selection. And yes, you’ll find plenty to choose from including exotics like the pitanga plant, also known as the Surinam cherry, which produces red dragon fruit, as well as the yellow cacao tree, the source of chocolate. (With advice from the staff, you can successfully grow these exotics in Central Florida’s climate.) 

The sprawling nursery is also a great source for yard and garden accessories, starting with a substantial selection of decorative ceramic planters in a range of heights from 1 to 4 feet tall. Choose from weatherworn terra cotta and natural hues, or go for a burst of color with royal blue or variegated earthy shades from grassy green to clay orange—all finished with a nice glaze. Roam the display area, and you’ll come upon water fountains you can make out of the urns and planters sold here. Continue on and the melodic tones of wind chimes will catch your attention. Lukas also stocks smaller accessories like metal fairy-tale houses with steeples and doors designed to hold a candle and provide mood lighting on your patio. Decorative steppingstones, wind spinners and banners of flora and fauna are irresistible additions to your yard, too. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. lukasnursery.com

Art in Nature

On a day when you’re yearning for peace and quiet and time to reflect, head to the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Garden in Winter Park and plant yourself on a bench alongside one of Polasek’s many statues. The artist’s works, surrounded by the beautifully manicured grounds and the sparkling view of Lake Osceola, make for a relaxing setting—one that just might inspire you to create something similar in
your own backyard. 

The use of sculptures on residential properties has become quite a trend, with bronze and concrete figures ranging from mythological to liturgical. As you meander through the grounds, note how the museum’s gardeners use plants and greenery to frame and enhance the art. Concrete bases of sculptures are overgrown with creeping fig, creating a green carpet look, and liriope is planted in a perfect circle surrounding the artwork. Other times, plants of different heights frame the sculptures in half-moon designs, with shorter plants like white begonia dwarfed by the maroon leaves of taller canna lilies. A sculpture nestled into an English garden setting is another appealing way to position art among colorful flowers and other plantings. polasek.org

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