Walk into the home of Katia and Tom Bates on Fort Lauderdale’s Isle of Capri and suddenly you’re in Venice, Italy.
Walls finished in Venetian plaster that resemble polished marble. Antique chandeliers and sconces crafted of Murano glass. A wood ceiling treatment painted with a gold design inspired by the lobby of the Danieli Hotel, a Venetian Gothic landmark.
No wonder designer Katia Bates, a Venetian who redecorated the Versace mansion twice, won the $10,000 grand prize on TLC’s Four Houses last month and an opportunity to be featured in a future issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine. The show, which aired July 30, featured four homeowners who competed for the best décor.
The show “was an opportunity to show off my own house,” she said. “Often designers get to show what they have done for their clients but not for themselves.”
She and her husband Tom, a builder, own Innovative Creations, a firm that combines his construction expertise and her design talent. Their waterfront home, Contessa Veneziana, showcases both talents. They have lived there for 20 years and it has grown with their family — son Nicolo, who is starting his first year at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and 14-year-old Sophia, who attends Pinecrest in Fort Lauderdale. They tore down the home on the property, saving only the living room’s 1948 vintage marble fireplace and the wall behind it so it wouldn’t be damaged when they started construction on their new home. Two years ago, they built an addition and a guest house, upping the total space to 12,500 square feet.
Bates’ love of family is evident throughout the house, which features professional photography in black and white and sepia tones of the children shot at various locations.
“Maybe someday I will replace [the children’s photos] with paintings, but right now I love seeing my kids everywhere,” she said.
It wasn’t her children’s photos or even the Venetian plaster that impressed her competition on Four House. They were Fabian Basabe, a television personality who opened Da Vittorio in Coral Gables; Zurami Pascual, owner of the Boca Tanning Club/Brickell; and Patricia San Pedro, who bills herself as an author, healer and public speaker.
It was a trio of club room features — a fireplace, a coffee table and a pool table — that caught the eye of the South Florida contestants, who rated each other for originality, style and livability.
The statuary marble fireplace mantel, featuring a naked woman whose body is entwined with vines, was inspired by a photo Bates came across more than 12 years ago. She sent the photo to one of her craftsman along with one of herself and asked him to carve her image in the marble. The heavy mantel took 10 men to deliver.
“I gave it to my husband as a gift,” she said. “It is not my original design, but I thought it would be fun to have a fireplace with my hair and face.”
The coffee table caught the competition’s eye because it is built around a Maserati engine that the couple had left over from a car they owned. After failing to find an unusual coffee table, they hired an industrial engineer to construct the supports and built a beveled glass tabletop around it.
The pool table, with red felt top, decorative marquetry and four bronze gilded lions, was once in the Versace mansion, which she redecorated twice for telecommunications entrepreneur Peter Loftin. The mansion, once known as Casa Casuarina and now called the Villa by Barton G, was put on the market in June for $125 million.