Personalizing your home: Let light inspire imagination

May 26, 2002|By Claire Whitcomb | Claire Whitcomb,Universal Press Syndicate

Ann Grafton's beautiful book, Interior Transformations, is rich with sense and sensibility. Rooms radiate vitality only when you are truly involved in them, she says, and the right look takes time and patience.

Being a seasoned decorator, Grafton understands how to handle light and color, furniture arrangements and budgets. Though this advice is available elsewhere, her interpretation is valuable because it's delivered with conversational calm in Interior Transformations (Bullfinch Press, $45).

"The first rule of decorating is to be patient," says Grafton, creative director of Colefax Group, a division of the British decorating firm of Colefax and Fowler that produces top fabric lines.

Watch the light

Live in a space, she advises. Assess the quality of light. Note how it falls in different parts of the room and how it changes during the day, and even over the course of seasons.

Then imagine what your rooms would be like with a wall removed, letting one space flow seamlessly into the next. But instead of removing a wall, consider brightening a dark room by adding an interior window that lets you borrow light from the next room. Or gain light by replacing a standard door with one that's fitted with glass panes, whether plain, frosted or etched.

And before you rush into a decorating project, play with what you own. Bring an armchair into the kitchen so you can talk on the phone in comfort, or move a hall settee into the living room.

"One of the simplest ways of transforming an interior is to spend a few hours moving tables and chairs to different positions," Grafton says. Carefully assess the function of your rooms. Needs change as families -- and children -- grow. If you'd like to escape teen-agers, try adding a music-listening nook in your bedroom. If your children are grown, make an unused bedroom into a yoga studio. Determine where you best like to write letters. Find the sunniest, most inviting spot for reading the Sunday paper.

On the topic of the great unused dining room, which few decorators favor these days, Grafton offers a fresh perspective: "Keep a pair of trestle tables in your attic," she advises, "plus some lovely linen cloths, and you can create an impromptu dining area whenever necessary by moving furniture out of the room."

Grafton is keen on allaying visual boredom. She uses slipcovers liberally -- on upholstered headboards, sofas, shapely Queen Anne dining chairs -- and alters her curtains seasonally. She'll cover windows with wool blankets in winter, voile in summer. Or she'll hang reversible curtains -- barn red panels lined with red-trimmed plain linen, for instance.

As for rugs, Grafton avoids wall-to-wall carpeting, preferring area rugs that offer patches of color. She treats them as accessories, things that can be rolled, unrolled and moved from here to there.

Seasonal approach

Like the Victorians, who were great fans of seasonal room changes, Grafton believes that lampshades should be traded, pillows replaced, accessories shifted for summer and winter. The sofa should migrate from the fire to the window, and baskets or plants should be placed in the hearth.

"Remember," she writes, "that decorating your home is only the beginning: Living in it means allowing change on a continual basis."

Tips

Here are some suggestions from interior designer Ann Grafton on how to personalize your home.

* Give yourself something to ponder from your pillow by covering a bedroom ceiling in a patterned paper, perhaps something with stars.

* Make sure pictures and paintings have impact. Group them on one wall, even if that means leaving the other three bare.

* Instead of a tablecloth, try a table runner. Grafton blends two red-and-white check patterns, changing the scale at the table edge.

* Give a set of matching dining chairs individuality by upholstering the seats in a range of similarly hued prints such as red-and-white plaids, checks and stripes.

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