Fresh color or a focal point could spice up dull room

September 05, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Q: Even though my taste is conservative, I know that my small and traditionally furnished living room is a bit on the dull side and could use some livening up. How can I make it look more interesting while avoiding clutter? Can a small room benefit from what you often refer to as a focal point?

A number of remedies are available, with the choice depending in part on the size of your remodeling budget. None of them is simple, however, since it's no easy feat to add zest to a small, traditional room without making it appear eccentric.

Let's start with the color possibilities. Pick out the predominant one in your current color scheme, and then paint the walls with it. But don't choose a pale or neutral shade. I'm referring here only to bright or deep colors.

For example, if your walls are now a faded cream -- and that often does seem to be the case in dull living rooms -- they can be painted in an eye-catching color derived from the upholstery. Let's suppose your furniture is covered in combinations of burgundy and gold with touches of celadon green. How about painting the walls in a deep burgundy or deep gold? The woodwork can then be given a neutral treatment.

A couple of colorful rugs could also help a lot. What I have in mind is not necessarily those new so-called Oriental designs with their fussy detailing, but rather something like a Portuguese needlepoint in a large-scaled geometric or floral pattern. That would certainly serve as a great-looking focal point.

And, by the way, a focal point might be exactly what your living room most needs. Just make sure that it is consistent with the overall styling of the space. While an attention-grabbing element does need to stand alone, it also must not contradict the room's basic design statement.

A different approach, using some of the same principles, would involve a single, highly attractive piece of furniture, surrounded by simple wall-to-wall carpeting and a subtly but distinctively patterned wall covering. That was the course taken by designer Sheryl McCready in a den that was part of the Philadelphia Vassar Showcase House.

As the photo shows, Ms. McCready solved a problem similar to yours by first installing a wall-to-wall Pebbletex carpet by Masland. This neutral but textured carpet gave the room a more relaxed look while also making it appear larger.

Next, the designer selected an old-fashioned secretary with mirrored-front doors on its bookcase section. A piece like this can definitely play the role of focal point in a small and traditional setting, since its design is very much in keeping with a late 19th-century look. And the mirrors do their usual job of making a space look bigger.

The walls have been done up in an amusing way, which gives them a three-dimensional appearance. That expansive effect is achieved with putty-colored wall covering that features trompe l'oeil images of framed engravings of landscapes and classical architecture. A chair rail has been added as well to give the room needed depth.

/ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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