Q: We have an old barn on our property that my husband (who has his own construction company) wants to move up and attach to our house as a family room. The beams are sound and have weathered to a lovely gray color. I'm just wondering what kind of furniture I should get. The rest of our house is fairly formal.
A: Against such a rustic background, you can relax into a more casual mood. That could be contemporary in ambience or, more predictably, done in country style.
Contemporary furniture -- soft modular seating pieces, glass tables and modern art -- can look very exciting in the kind of weathered-wood setting you describe, especially if you throw in one or two "personality" antiques: a large armoire, for example, or a wall-hung quilt.
If you lean to the country look, instead, keep things on the less formal side. The photo here shows what I mean. This living room owes much of its charm to all the exposed wood, overhead and in the supporting beams -- no surprise, since this is what is called a "timberframe" house, where the large timbers and joinery are deliberately left exposed. (Such construction is an old idea, newly revived by such companies as Hearthstone Homes in Tennessee, which built this one.)
The furniture is an easy-living mix of antiques, antique reproductions and serendipities from yard sales. Fabrics are casual, a collection of plaids, textured plains and flower prints, and accessories emphasize the down-home attitude -- right down to the trio of frying pans that decorates the mantel timber.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the author of five books on interior design and a contributing writer to other publications in the field. Send questions to Inside Advice, Maryland Living, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.