Chest, painting could be hall focal point


January 23, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I'm looking for an affordable, tall piece of furniture that can be placed at the end of a long, narrow hallway. I have been told that such an addition will make the hall appear shorter, which would definitely be desirable in this situation. Do you have some thoughts on what sort of piece might be interesting? The ceiling height, by the way, is just about average: 8 feet, 6 inches.

A: The height of the piece is not the key factor in the effect you're trying to achieve. Decorative interest, on the other hand, is absolutely essential if the hallway is to seem shorter.

A focal point is what you are really trying to create, and that can be accomplished in a variety of ways. A colorfully painted chest would be one possibility. Something inlaid with various kinds of wood or other materials is another option worth considering. And don't limit your list of candidates solely to the realm of furniture. Give some thought to a grandfather clock or to an attention-grabbing painting or sculpture.

As you mull the choices, keep in mind that whatever is placed at the far end of the hallway must cover a large portion of the wall and be well lighted. Those are prerequisites to the foreshortening of a long, narrow space.

The photo I have chosen is intended to illustrate how this technique can work. While this over-scaled chest isn't especially tall, it certainly has a commanding presence.

Inspired by a Dutch original, the 43-inch-high and 39-inch-wide reproduction is part of the Baker Furniture 17th-century collection. Elaborate oval insets and marquetry scrolls and tendrils in an arabesque pattern combine to define this distinguished piece as undeniably decorative.

But don't look only at the chest itself. Consider, too, how it has been topped and surrounded with various accessories. You should also think about adding appropriate accessories to whatever item you eventually select, because they serve to strengthen its role as a focal point.

Here, a contemporary print acts as the backdrop for an unusual fruit bowl, an antique box and a terra-cotta pot filled with trailing ivy. The walking stick and boots alongside the chest not only fill up some bare wall space with a carefully formulated image, they also give the entire tableau a vertical design direction.

Let me reiterate that I'm not recommending this particular assemblage over other furniture possibilities, such as a backless shelving unit that displays an intriguing collection of items. Something like that may work just as well as the solution shown here. A carved wooden relief could do an equally effective job.

Function is not really a consideration in your case. It doesn't matter whether the focal point is "practical" or not. What you're seeking is a distraction from the ungainly proportions of the hallway, so whatever you choose, be sure that it will immediately catch the eye.

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