Q: Please give me advice about creating an informal atmosphere in a small family room. I need help with colors, fabric and the floor covering. The furniture looks like the contents of my fridge: a combination of leftovers.
A: The proper use of pattern, texture, color -- and don't forget the lighting -- will enable you to produce the desired mood, even with nondescript furniture. Do with the old furnishings what you'd do with most of the leftovers in your refrigerator: Warm them up.
My first bit of advice is to add some deep and contrasting colors. Besides creating a relaxed atmosphere this color scheme will make the room easier to maintain.
Be sure to call attention to the new warmth by installing recessed or track fixtures to wash the walls with light and to illuminate specific decorative objects. Don't forget to add task lighting such as directional reading lamps.
In small rooms like yours, it's best to confine pattern to the seating pieces. Do the walls, window coverings and floors in a solid color or at least in a subdued design. Pattern does add interest to a setting, but too much of it can produce a cluttered, chaotic look.
Family rooms like the one shown in the photo usually include shelves filled with books, memorabilia and lots of odds and ends. Plaids, stripes and mini-patterns like paisley will thus look best when they're used only on upholstered furniture, as the photo also suggests.
Textures should vary from the smooth and shiny patina of brass accents to the rougher and duller surfaces of materials like linen. Natural wood will also provide some needed balance, especially if it's stained in medium or dark shades. Avoid glitzy and easily marred surfaces. They don't belong in a family room.
As for the wall colors, either blue, forest green or burgundy would probably work well in your situation. A combination involving all of them, perhaps even with some stripes, might go very nicely with carpeting of medium beige. I think the result would be a relaxed and intimate atmosphere, which wouldn't create a feeling of claustrophobia, despite the room's small size.
Notice how the mellow aura of the setting in the photo is enhanced by the warm color scheme. The rose-toned WorryFree nylon carpet by Galaxy provides a bright contrast to the deep-blue walls, the multicolored plaid on the sofa and the woven pin-dot covering of the chair on the right. The upholstery on both pieces is in a medium-blue background with accents of gold and red. Altogether, these combinations give the room a look that's both informal and tailored.
Don't overlook the aesthetic value of personal collections and family photographs. Besides lending a personal touch, they will add some needed variety to a room that's not supposed to look as though it was just photographed for an interior design magazine.