Create coziness with decoration, pattern

April 24, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

"How do I give a traditional look to a simple, box-like room with no architectural detail?"

Quite possibly, that's the question I'm asked more than any other. Its frequency has to do with, of course, the number of people who now live in exactly those types of spaces.

With a little probing, however, I usually find that a "traditional" design -- in the sense of re-creating the look of a historical period -- is really not what's being sought. Most of my clients and readers actually want to make these rooms comfortable, visually as well as physically, and aren't asking advice on any specific style. What they're looking for is a feeling of home rather than a design statement.

They often do have a definite image in mind, however. It might represent a setting reminiscent of childhood, or maybe something derived from all those old English and American movies containing scenes of genteel homes. The room needn't be large, but it has to be cozy. Some clutter is OK, too. And a fireplace is essential.

Fortunately, this is not a difficult look to create -- with the exception of the fireplace. It's based on lots of decoration, a collection or two, and a mixing of patterns and styles. The ingredients would probably consist of a pair of stuffed, skirted chairs beside the fireplace; a plump ottoman for weary feet; a table crowded with a lamp, a pile of books, a decanter of wine and several family photos, all in silver frames of various sizes and styles. You know the look I'm describing.

The furniture in such a setting, while it doesn't have to be of the highest quality, must be properly covered and colored. The room also needs to be embellished with some detail. Let's say you start with an interesting but not ponderous crown molding. Next, if the room is indeed graced with a fireplace, outline its mantel with some simple moldings. A small firebox can be made to look larger by adding a dark marble or painted brick surround. All this was done in the room shown.

One other cue might be taken from this model. Rather than giving every one of the walls a monochromatic paint treatment, how about installing a wide-striped wallpaper on the fireplace wall? Any kind of dark patterned paper will achieve the effect of making the 8-foot ceiling seem a bit higher. A decorative border might then be run all around the room just below the crown molding.

The table in these imagined rooms is almost always seen as skirted. So for the fabric, choose a complementary floral pattern with a dark background and bright accents.

Such rooms usually contain the proverbial Persian carpet. In truth, however, even an ordinary wall-to-wall carpet will work well, particularly in a rich color and with an all-over pattern.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.