Q: To accommodate a daughter who is returning home from college, we are planning to break through a wall that separates two connecting bedrooms. The idea is to use one part of the newly enlarged space as a bedroom/sitting room, the other as a dressing and closet area. Can you suggest how we might make this an inviting retreat?
A: My basic advice is that inviting retreats are seldom created by giving primary attention to style and decorations. The success of such a space depends on function as well as atmosphere. You would be wise, therefore, to consult closely with your daughter ,, to learn her preferences for the design of what will, after all, be her personal part of the home.
Some people conceive of a retreat as a place filled with reading materials and music equipment, done up in quiet colors and subdued lighting. If that's your daughter's vision, make sure there is plenty of shelving, a comfortable chair and ottoman, a no-fuss bed and adjustable reading lamps. A more tailored look and a monochromatic color scheme would probably work best in this kind of setting.
Others think of a retreat as a hideaway that expresses an individual personality, which may be quite different from that of other family members. Should this be what your daughter prefers, the design of the new space will need to be clearly distinct from the rest of the house. A retreat of this type often houses a collection, so be sure that the main color works well as a background for whatever items are to be displayed.
As for the furnishings, you should be aware that there are many available options beyond the standard bedroom combination of headboard, chest of drawers and two night tables. The placement of whatever pieces you select is also most important.
The photo shows a room combination designed with lots of pattern, which might be a style that will appeal to your daughter. The fabrics and wall coverings, all from Greeff's "Pick-A-Flower IV" collection, are in the cool and translucent palette of the postimpressionist artist Marie Laurencin.
Skirted tables are used in both the bedroom and dressing area, along with painted wicker chairs. The pine sleigh bed is attractively covered with the primary decorative fabric, which is also used on the wall. Because of its height and design, this type of bed can be placed against a wall and be used for either sleeping or lounging.
Some young women will surely regard such a bright and cheery space as an ideal retreat. Others, however, may well find a darker, more sophisticated design to be more in keeping with their personalities. So let me again emphasize the importance of ascertaining your daughter's tastes before you proceed with the planned makeover. Since you're clearly eager to please your daughter, don't presume to know what will make her happiest, especially now that she's developed an independent outlook.