Lighten up: Add whimsical touch

July 18, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

In some instances, dressing a room is not all that different from dressing oneself. There are interior designs -- just as there are certain outfits -- that do not require serious investments and where having fun is the whole point of the exercise.

Perhaps you have seen examples of this look at a local designer's show house. The decorative flair that characterizes such settings may, at first glance, seem a bit excessive. After a while, however, it may become apparent that the designer has taken a refreshingly wry and whimsical approach. All of us can benefit, from time to time, by simply lightening up.

To be successful, however, a style of this sort has to make the distinction between what's amusing and what's merely frivolous or, worse still, what's just plain vulgar. Lighthearted looks also tend to work best in small and poorly proportioned spaces in which the cost of a total make-over would be prohibitive.

Even though it might seem to have been casually assembled, this type of design isn't easy to emulate. The model I have chosen, however, may prove to be a source of ideas that can be adapted to the specific circumstances of a real-life "problem room."

This old bathroom has ungainly dimensions, which are likened by designer George Constant to "the proportions of a milk container: small, square, but with a very high ceiling." To camouflage the awkwardness -- and to have some fun in the process -- Mr. Constant installed molding all around the room and well below the actual ceiling height. He then created a tent-like effect by shirring a striped fabric above the molding and gathering it to the ceiling at the center of the room. As a fitting fillip, an English lantern was suspended from the tent's midpoint.

A paper in a small dotted geometric pattern has been applied to the bathroom walls to create a contrast with the boldly striped fabric above. The woodwork and flooring were painted in white enamel to blend with the spruced-up original fixtures. Note the ivy design that was stenciled onto the floor. What a perfect accompaniment for the cherub perched on the toilet bowl!

The antique Nelson commemorative mirror over the sink adds a touch of class. But unless something equally wonderful is already at hand, don't go looking for it in antique shops -- it will probably cost more than the entire make-over for a room of this size.

So, whatever ails a space -- whether it's cracked plaster, poor proportions or tired finishes -- consider dressing it up in a manner that won't cost a fortune but will solve the problems and provide plenty of enjoyment.

The aim, remember, is to have fun both in putting together the ensemble and in exhibiting it to admirers.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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