Q: We recently inherited a beautiful chest of drawers that will look great against a wall in our living room. But we're having trouble deciding what else to put on that wall. Can you suggest something that would enhance the beauty of the chest? It's made of oak with a dark finish.
A: You're right to be considering possible accompaniments for your chest of drawers. No matter how beautiful or important a piece of furniture may be, it shouldn't be made to stand alone in a room. At the same time, it's essential not to mar the piece's appearance by surrounding it with inappropriate objects or furnishings.
That means that you must give careful attention to the style, color and scale of any item that might serve as part of a frame for the chest. To help you make the proper choices, I offer this example which features a wonderful bombe chest reproduction from the Baker Furniture Company.
Everything around it enhances the shape and design of the centerpiece. A painted screen in various shades of a single color emphasizes the richness of the wood from which the chest is made. A bronze candlestick lamp with a metal shade casts light down to the top of the chest and to the wall above. A larger lamp with a translucent shade would not have produced so subtle a lighting effect.
Smaller accessories, such as the porcelain jar and the painting on an easel, were also chosen to complement the main attraction. Each of the surrounding items is important in itself, but none of them has the same commanding presence as the chest.
This is only a model. Lots of other options might work equally well in your situation.
Two occasional armchairs flanking the chest would certainly be appropriate, for example. Make sure, though, that their color and finish contrast somewhat with the central object so that the composition doesn't become blurred.
Take care, too, in using elements like mirrors and light sconces. Unless they are perfectly chosen, there's danger of ending up with a visually confusing combination.
In general, your aim should be to produce a frame for a work of art, not to create an assemblage of furnishings and accessories. The chest should be allowed to serve as the focal point for the wall, if not for the entire living room, so don't force it to compete for attention.