As the owner of Living Alfresco, Betsy Fantis has spent the past nine years steering retail clients from around South Florida toward pieces that would enhance and update their outdoor living spaces. From her South Miami showroom, Fantis kept clients in the know about the latest and greatest brands, furniture and accessories… all while continuing to run her 12-year-old consulting and design business. Now, Fantis is ready to place her full-time attention on those same clients.
“The retail business takes you in all different directions,” says Fantis, who will close the store this fall to concentrate on her design business. “The store grew so much that it started to take me out of doing what I love best: helping clients get their outdoor space looking they way they want it to.” Now, Fantis can continue to work with the same manufacturers that have stood behind her vision for years, while spending more time on site and in a more creative headspace. “I’ve had an unbelievable experience with the retail side of Living Alfresco but now it’s time to concentrate on my clients.”
One thing those clients have come to know is Fantis’ dedication to creating living spaces that capitalize on the South Florida weather and the area’s unique ability to host events outside most of the year round. And while she does work with clients to design spaces from the ground up, Fantis says there are simple things homeowners can do to get ready for the holiday season. Here are a few of her holiday tips:
- Plan for the party you’re having. Fantis advises clients not to be afraid to move furniture around to create a more appropriate space for the party they intend to throw. “Think about if you’re having a family BBQ or a formal dinner,” she says. ““Set it up for success. I sometimes move my dining table out into the yard to have dinner under the stars, Alfresco-style!”
- Work with what you have. Centerpieces and décor don’t have to cost hundreds of dollars. Fantis suggests cutting fresh greenery from the yard and grabbing a few seasonal items to create atmosphere. “You can dress up an area by just cutting palm fronds or buying a great seasonal plant like a poinsettia or seasonal flowers,” she says.
- Get Cleaning. Fantis, who throws a large Thanksgiving party every year, says she starts early, working with her yard service and enlisting help to get rid of cobwebs and clean all her outdoor cushions. “Sunbrella is a wonderful fabric that you can easily clean yourself, I recommend it to all of my clients,” she says. “Get everything clean and you really will feel like you’re in a new room.”
- Update your style. Budget-minded hosts can spruce up a space with “a couple of new pillows or a great new outdoor rug,” says Fantis. For those looking for a complete overhaul, Fantis is especially excited about some of the new natural-looking synthetic weaves. She also loves mixing textures like raffia with teak furniture and organic accents. “Europe has been doing it for a long time and I’m really excited to see it finally come to the US market.”