Big rooms present decorating challenge


November 01, 1992|By Rita St. Clair

When looking for a new home, prospective buyers are often seduced by large, empty spaces. That's quite understandable, given the general shrinkage in the size of living accommodations over the past several years. The temptation to snap up a spacious contemporary home is especially acute when someone wishes to move from a tiny apartment or from a renovated residence that has been broken up into numerous small rooms and corridors.

But open and airy spaces may prove to be less wonderful than initially imagined. Once they're actually inhabited, large rooms can present problems with their proportions and their suitability for real-life situations.

I have often been in living rooms that are so big it's difficult for more than a few people to talk with one another. In such spaces, the typical design solution is to create a number of conversation groupings. But that can result in a look more closely resembling a hotel lobby than a comfortable residential living room.

Large bedrooms also seem attractive in the abstract. Disappointment may result, however, when the television set installed in a beautiful armoire turns out to be so far away from the bed that it can't be clearly seen.

It's not uncommon in sizable contemporary homes for the rooms to be much longer and wider than they are tall. Such awkward proportions often result in a boring or odd-looking landscape of furnishings.

This outcome can be avoided by varying the height of the pieces, with the tallest ones placed farthest from the room's entrance. A high cabinet, for example, as well as bookshelves and wall decorations, should go at the far end of a long room with a relatively low ceiling. Such an arrangement will foster an illusion of greater height throughout the space. An even more effective option would be to build a one- or two-step platform at the rear of this type of room. The foreshortening effect will further enhance the impression of being in a high-ceilinged space. The photo shows a room in which this bi-level solution was cleverly applied. Designer Richard Schlesinger was careful to maintain a distance of more than seven feet between the ceiling and the floor of the platform. Any less than that, and the raised area will feel much too cramped.

He also chose carpeting and borders that work well with the room's structure. Both the desk and seating area were given a cozy as well as an emphatic treatment through the use of multicolored borders. The lower segment also features a custom insert in a carved diamond pattern.

The carpeting is Du Pont Stainmaster Luxura with Lees border design. Neutral colors for the field are combined with rust, black and green for the border accents. This mixture blends nicely with the coloring of the walls and ceiling, thus making the room look taller still.

Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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