Making flawed rooms work

January 18, 2004|By Claire Whitcomb | Claire Whitcomb,Universal Press Syndicate

The rooms in Stephen Sills and James Huniford's new decorating book are full of flaws.

Low ceilings, plain-jane windows, odd corners, awkward beams -- you name it, these rooms have it. But Sills and Huniford, being truly great decorators, have made all these flaws magically disappear.

And you can watch them do it in Dwellings: Living With Great Style (Bullfinch Press, $30).

One of their favorite magic wands is a monochromatic scheme. With subtle shades of a single color -- golden beige, silvery blue or even warm pink or coral -- they blur many a flaw and, in the process, create serene and seductive spaces.

Decorating with a narrow range of colors but a broad range of textures and finishes is a wonderful way to make a small room feel larger -- and virtually guarantee sophistication. As Sills and Huniford point out, a limited scheme "precludes the mistakes many people make of using too many colors -- especially too many small bits of color -- so that a room ends up looking like an Easter egg hunt."

Sills and Huniford have no patience for the superfluous, whether it is an odd chair or an odd candlestick. They maintain that not even the darkest corner of a closet should contain things a homeowner doesn't love.

Dwellings also may inspire you to pare down the scale of your furnishings.

Rather than filling a living room with upholstered furniture and down cushions, they rely on small-scale sofas and flexible seating that can be pulled here and there as conversations ebb and flow. To make a room feel larger, they use sofas with low backs and a little bit of leg for airiness.

One of the most brilliant ways they transform small spaces is to forgo crown moldings at the top of the wall and extend the wall color 6 inches onto the ceiling. At the point where the wall color meets the ceiling color, they place a molding. The result: The eye is fooled into thinking the ceiling is actually 6 inches taller.

Dwellings is a high-end book, but its advice is singularly down-to-earth, proof of the designers' belief that great style has nothing to do with income. The key, they say, is "selectivity, judgment, and refining your eye."

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