Designer Tonya Orlando marries casual and elegant for a chic-farmhouse feel

With accolades that include an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, one might think that interior designer Tonya Orlando would seem like she’s aways in a hurry. If she is, its completely undetectable. In person she is as inviting as the spaces she designs.

“I truly believe it all starts home,” Orlando says of achieving that sense of peace where we hang our hat. Which is why, when one couple heard about Orlando’s incredible knack for creating a deeply personalized ambiance for each client, they hired her to do the same for their Highlands Ranch home.

Since the house, which serves as summer home for the Arizona-based clients, was already in terrific condition, the real focus was to carve out a personalized space which would reflect a more casual tone.

“Lighter and brighter!” chimes Orlando of her client’s overall goal.

Typically, Orlando enjoys taking time to work closely beside her clients throughout their design project, ensuring everything is done to spec. However, the clients preferred to be away during the most of the remodeling and gave Orlando free reign to let her creative juices flow. Armed with a clear picture of her client’s end-game, she wasted no time tearing out what didn’t work into their vision of a breezier feeling.  

“The first thing that needed to be done was to create visual fluidity from the moment you walk into the home,” Orlando says. Since the main level had three types of flooring, she determined that her approach would literally be working from the bottom up. Orlando ripped out all three types of flooring from the entry to the great room and into the porcelain-tiled kitchen. 

To draw the entire home together she went with uniform flooring. In choosing St. Laurent European Oak, she hit a home run. “The wood just has this beautiful natural character,” she says, delighted with the results. And because the subdued lighter finish she selected allows the eye to see the various character marks, “it really makes it an interesting choice…the clients were really happy with how much using the same wood from the moment having you walk into the house run all the way through the entire kitchen,” she says, describing the newly created paradigm which offers a casual serenity.

The next task at hand was wall color. As it was a critical component, Orlando knew the client must be along for the decision.

“Because they really loved the color on the walls of their Sedalia home, he brought me the can of paint to show me exactly the feel they loved,” Orlando explains. However, since she didn’t want their Highlands Ranch residence to reflect a lodge-y feeling, she found something very close but a bit airier.

“It’s called Foster Tan by Sherwin Williams.” Because the clients absolutely fell in love with it, she used it generously throughout the home. “They were blown away by it…it became the foundation color in the master bath and bedroom,” she describes, “I’m a firm believer in connecting the spaces when you find something that really works, keep using it—it creates a really fluid feel.”

Another look Orlando felt was essential was to orchestrate a casual yet elegant ambiance with the lighting.

“People tend to underestimate the power that lighting has to change the entire feel of a room,” Orlando says persuasively. “You absolutely get your money back,” she says of spending extra money for lights that create an inviting mood. Orlando’s experience is time-tested: she and her husband bought a home in Castle Pines and recently sold it after only a few years of ownership—seeing a handsome profit. Orlando feels that by using ambiance lighting, they were offered a much higher selling price.

To continue with creating a lighter space, Orlando knew the use of Edison bulbs were ideal. “They give off such an amazing soft glow,” she tells. She used them in light fixtures made of mercury glass for a uniquely casual yet sophisticated look. “The thing I love about these lights is that they are as beautiful when they are off as when they are turned on.”


Keeping in mind that her clients wanted to host often, Orlando knew that the home must succeed in being a perch for casual entertaining. “The clients wanted a space that was completely inviting and casual…she wanted a place where people could come over and kick off their shoes, have a glass of ice tea and relax,” Orlando says. Looking at the sophisticated and airy kitchen, this mission is—undoubtedly—accomplished.


Tonya Orlando Designs


Breakout Box


Custom kitchen cabinets by J & K Cabinetry, Pearl Maple-glazed finish

Mercury glass lights: Seagull Lighting, Sfera Collection

Walls: Softer Tan by sherwin Williams (SW6141)

Leathered granite countertops- Daltile

7 1/4 in planked wood floors: St. Laurent  European Oak