Q: My apartment includes an L-shaped living and dining area that I want to refurnish. How can I give it a look that's both informal yet traditional? Please note that the dining portion of the space has no windows. Also, I'm partial to earth tones.
A: It sounds as though you might enjoy a country-inspired style. Depending on just how informal you wish the space to be, the choices for furnishings can range from funky rustic to American scrubbed pine to walnut in a French country motif.
In addition, it's always possible to mix a variety of informal pieces. Keep in mind though, that this "eclectic" look, as it's called, can be difficult to assemble successfully unless you have a good eye for scale. You need an awareness of which styles best complement one another.
Harvest color combinations are particularly appropriate in informal settings. Differing shades of rust and gold, tobacco, off-white and faded green might produce a pleasing combination in your living/dining area. The lightest and most neutral color should be used for the carpeting.
As the photo shows, an alcove-like dining area without windows could be greatly enhanced by adding a small-scale decorative ++ treatment above chair-rail height. To soften the overall appearance, you might also consider installing a simple crown molding around the entire L-shaped area. Then paint it in an accent color.
If your dining table is either round or square, it might benefit from the kind of draping effect seen in the photo. This particular ensemble consists of Dutch Queen Anne chairs and a nondescript circular table. The boldly geometric country quilt covering the surface serves both as camouflage for the table and as a decorative focal point for the entire dining area. This type of treatment needs to be accompanied by a top cloth when serving meals.
Look carefully at the photo and you'll notice that every element contributes to the creation of an attractive style. No one facet stands out -- not the furniture, not the fabrics and not the lighting or accessories. Instead, everything comes together seamlessly to produce a unified setting. In fact, it sometimes seems to me in such a room that the selection of furniture was of decidedly secondary importance.