Therapy for Charm-Challenged Rooms: Color and Architectural Add-Ons
By: Rose Bennett Gilbert
Q: The “living” room in our house is on the small — and bland — side, which is OK because we really live in the family room/kitchen area. I’m thinking about making it into a little quiet space for me, what my grandmother would call a “sitting room.” Tell me how to add some character to the space.
A: Your answer in three little words: color, color, color. Banish bland; work up a color scheme that is — depending on your personal taste — deep, rich and comforting or light, bright and energizing.
And pigments aren’t the only way to inject personality into a charm-challenged room. Add architectural detailing, such a chair rails and wide crown mouldings. Designer Kate Singer also put muntins on the plain casement windows in her own 1950s house, adding the traditional touch she wanted as background for her collection of European (mostly French) furnishings.
Singer offers a number of other ways to create character in a featureless room. In the photo (from “Money-Wise Makeovers,” Filipacchi Publishing), Singer designed and built a custom banquette into an underutilized corner of her living room. It’s an idea borrowed from French salons, according to author Jean Nayar.
Other ideas worth borrowing: To make low ceilings look higher, hang long window curtains just below the crown moulding. Use a large, tall piece of furniture as a focal point in a bland room. Or create a focal point with a grouping of interesting, framed works of art, like the collection of vintage French portraits, antique cameos and landscapes that wrap the corner of the Singer living room. Sconces interspersed with the artwork light the banquette area and make it a popular destination for reading or game playing.
Q: Planning a garage sale?
A: Garage sales — aka tag, yard and porch sales — are not only American’s favorite answer to rampant consumerism, but they’re also a terrific way to conquer clutter and promote recycling. At the same time, they boost the household budget.
But there are caveats, warn the experts at First Alert — makers of home alarms, safes and such. They’ve come up with a checklist for successful sales, offering common-sense reminders to be cautious about letting strangers into your home and securing both sale objects and your cash box (no surprise that First Alert offers a security box with a 4-foot-long cable to anchor it). If there’s a sale on your horizon, learn more at www.firstalert.com.
Q: What to do with a really tiny powder room? I can almost touch two walls with my elbows. My sister-in-law says to paint it dark, but I thought small spaces should be light.
A: Both of you are, interestingly enough. You are echoing conventional design wisdom that says light colors (and small patterns) will make spaces look larger. But your sister-in-law is also onto something: Dark colors can enhance small rooms by dint of their drama and surprise.
Ditto for overscaled patterns. The larger and the more exciting, the more personality they impart to puny spaces. Put, say, a giant allover jungle print in your mini-bath — ceiling, too — and enjoy the surprised look on your guests’ faces when they open the door!
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