Home Design: Putting Your Home’s Best Face Forward
Interior designer Audrey Morrone makes a difference in people’s lives one renovation at a time.
To think it all began with a leak from her refrigerator.
It was 2019. Winter Park resident Lauren Rooney didn’t realize a pandemic was coming, one that would force her to seek refuge in her Spanish Mediterranean home for months to come. But for Rooney, the timing of her home renovation proved serendipitous.
Gone were the yellows, reds, burnt oranges and browns that made her house feel oppressively dark. In their place were endorphin-inducing warm whites, navies and greens accented with dramatic lighting—features that enhance the home’s character while updating the design.
“It was right before COVID that we finished. Then we were home a lot more. I was so happy to be in a bright, happy house,” Rooney says.
It hadn’t begun as a whole-house renovation. It began as a leak that would require replacing the hardwood floors. But then what?
Rooney’s mind went back to an open house at an updated Mediterranean home belonging to interior designer Audrey Morrone, principal and creative director of Morrone Interiors of Winter Park. She found Morrone’s business card and made a call that would begin the transformation of her 6,041-square-foot home and would birth a lasting friendship.
It’s about relationships
Morrone’s goal is to improve the quality of her clients’ lives by designing luxurious spaces around their lifestyles. But first she has to get inside their heads.
“It’s more about giving the client what they want, even if they don’t know what they want yet, and really creating a relationship with them,” says Morrone, who founded her company in 2010 after a real estate career that included flipping homes.
At first Rooney was dubious about the samples Morrone brought in. “Because everything was so yellow, whenever we’d bring something in the house, I’d be like, ‘Uh, I don’t know,’” she recalls. But she learned to trust Morrone’s instincts. “She kind of pushed me out of my comfort zone sometimes, but it was perfect for me because she knew what I wanted, and she knew how to get there.”
Morrone creates mood boards—a collection of elements proposed for a space—so the client can see everything together. She also provides 3D renderings and encourages clients to share inspiration photos.
Let there be light
The first phase of the renovation included the living room, dining room, family room and kitchen. White walls and furniture complement wide-planked dark hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling custom draperies in the living room. In the dining room, light from the arched windows and a translucent backlit marble counter reflect off the white walls and reupholstered white chairs in stark contrast to the navy ceiling. Chandeliers provide dramatic centers to each room.
“The floors play well with the doors and the wood trim,” Morrone observes.
Throughout the house, Morrone enlisted faux painter Cory Scragg to repaint medallions, niches and cabinets, repurposing and refreshing elements inherent to the home’s aesthetic.
White coppered ceilings in the kitchen and office also usher in a play of light where darkness once reigned. “The ceiling really made a difference,” Rooney says. “The kitchen was black and brown. The light just got sucked up.” A navy niche in the breakfast nook echoes back to the dining room ceiling. A green island adds interest and a touch of whimsy.
The original dark-beamed ceiling remains in the adjacent family room, where the wood tones provide a warm backdrop to the white furniture, walls and drapes.
Since completing the first phase, Rooney has enlisted Morrone to complete two more phases that encompass the rest of the home, providing customized quarters for guests and a brighter, more functional main suite.
“A lot of times I’ll say, ‘I trust you. Just pick something out. It’s fine.’ Because she knows me better, and I know her, so she knows where to take something,” says Rooney, who has come to consider Morrone a good friend over their three years of collaboration.
“Every time I walk through the house, I love everything about it,” Rooney says.
A room fit for a princess
Like Rooney, Baldwin Park resident Francisco Contreras has seen his home transformed one area at a time under Morrone’s hand. It began with some wainscoting and has included a 1920s-style speakeasy lounge and an outdoor entertainment area with a pergola.
“The list keeps growing,” Contreras says. “Every time my wife has an idea, she’ll just text Audrey, and they run with it.”
But perhaps the renovation closest to his heart was the princess room Morrone designed for his daughter, Rose, who wasn’t ready for a change. But Morrone won her over.
“Audrey would bring over samples and let her pick little things. Rose picked the wallpaper that we ended up using. It’s beautiful,” he says. Rose even helped choose her loft castle bed. “She absolutely loves it.”
The only drawback for Contreras: “The shortage of materials and labor,” real considerations about which Morrone warns her clients. Expect long waits and high prices for materials, especially appliances. “Everything is so expensive right now,” Morrone sighs. “It’s not a normal world anymore.”
Morrone established trust with both Rooney and Contreras, an experience Rooney lacked with previous interior designers. “I’ve worked with other people, and I’ve actually cried because they’ve made me feel like I didn’t have a say in it,” Rooney recalls.
Relationships between Morrone and her clients minimized the pain of the process, as did the availability of Morrone’s store, Bespoke Furniture by Morrone Interiors in Winter Park. Bespoke became the source of all Rooney’s furniture, lighting, rugs, art and backlit stone. Contreras found the perfect couch for his revamped theater room there, along with swivel chairs and a wine rack for his bar area, and outdoor furniture for his new entertainment area.
“We have easily over 150 manufacturers between lighting, flooring, furniture and accessories, and we also offer custom solutions,” explains Bespoke sales associate Courtney Hazouri.
Morrone says the 4,500-square-foot store gives her an edge because “people can see lighting, and they can sit on the different pieces.” If clients don’t find what they need, Morrone can design a custom piece built by a local upholsterer.
Bespoke offers shoppers designer looks even when they’re not hiring an interior designer. “They don’t necessarily have to have us designing their house to own something that’s really pretty or elegant or something they’re not going to see someplace else,” she says.
But for those who do want a designer’s services, Morrone recommends reading reviews and interviewing candidates first. “When we meet a client, we want to be sure it’s going to be a good fit because it is a collaboration. Sometimes you’re working together for years,” she says.