Q: I want to do over a large bedroom that now contains an Early American maple furniture set. My aim is to transform the current boy's-room look into something softer and more romantic. Unfortunately, I can afford to replace only some of the smaller pieces. What do you advise?
A: One sure way to soften any room, especially a bedroom, is to use pale colors and lots of fabric. This can be achieved even when the setting contains heavy and not-so-graceful furniture.
May I suggest, though, that instead of replacing some smaller pieces, you take roughly the same amount of money and go out and buy a new bed? The less conspicuous items can easily be camouflaged. It's the bed, by definition, that serves as the focal point in a bedroom, so by concentrating your resources on that
one feature you'll be able to affect the entire setting.
The possibilities include a softly upholstered headboard in a floral fabric or an old brass bed in good condition. Another option would be a canopied model like the one in the photo from the HTC Ethan Allen Studios. Any of these will be the beginning of a radically different look.
I suggest you stick with combinations of florals and small stripes, though you might also consider white linen and cotton along with a combination of lace, eyelets and an abundance of ruffles.
Maple, cherry and less dark woods all seem to do better when they're juxtaposed with lighter colors. I caution you, therefore, about being too dramatic in your selection of paints and carpeting. For the look you're seeking, it's probably best to rely on warm pastel tones such as corals, lilacs and violets. Celadon green and old-fashioned cream white will also enhance an atmosphere of romance and nostalgia.
And please don't overlook the importance of accessories as you go about devising a new style for your bedroom. Go shopping for some brass and silver picture frames and perhaps a crystal lamp base, which can then be outfitted with pleated or shirred silk shades. Another nice touch would be to add lots of cachepots filled with flowers, preferably fresh, although dried varieties combined with silk imitations will do.
If your bedroom is fairly large and if your budget is not yet depleted, get a small patterned carpet, which will introduce a bit more interest in the space. Alternately, a pastel-colored, wall-to-wall carpet would also help soften the room.
My main recommendation for your makeover is that you choose the quiet over the loud. Be sure to avoid bold colors, large prints, plaids and wide stripes.