Colors, light alter long corridor

Design Line

October 21, 2007|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Tribune Media Services

We've just finished building a connection from our house to my husband's painting studio. The passageway is wide enough to permit display of some artworks. It's got a high ceiling with a skylight, but it's also quite long. Lighting will have to be added, I know, but first we've got to choose colors and wall coverings. Our aim is to create something a lot more attractive than a mere corridor.

Your choices can indeed make the passageway an exciting, three-dimensional work of art. But it's too bad you waited until so late in the process to decide on color and lighting. Because no design elements are more important than these, they should be part of a project plan from the start.

The accompanying photo from Casa Mexicana Style shows what's possible in a space such as the one you describe. A tall ceiling made this passageway to a bedroom appear much longer and narrower than is the case.

Mexican architect Manolo Mestre added the wooden beams, which lowered the ceiling, thereby visually foreshortening the space and creating an illusion of greater width. He also enlivened the bland architecture by painting the end wall in a bright accent color and by placing a painting and a small sculpture there as well. The result is a further foreshortening of what was originally a tunnel-like space.

The various shades of orange, red, watermelon and brown comprise a distinctively Mexican color scheme with considerable visual appeal. Everything is nicely accentuated by the directional lighting installed above the beams.

I'm not suggesting that you should look to Mexico for inspiration, though that's certainly an appropriate direction to go -- especially, perhaps, for homes in the American Southwest. My main point is to encourage you -- and everyone else -- to consider alternatives to European-style design.

We're considering building a patio adjacent to our contemporary-style living room. The outdoor space would be reached through sliding glass doors. Should the patio furniture therefore be in the same style as the pieces in the living room?

It's hard to know what you mean by "contemporary." To some, it denotes a mix of styles in a relaxed setting. Others think of it as the latest version of what used to be called "modern."

But whatever your definition, here are a few thoughts in response to your question.

Outdoor furnishings should generally be compatible with a home's architecture as well as with the design of a room from which they're seen. In your case, many styles would qualify as appropriate choices, regardless of what type of contemporary furniture you have.

Some possibilities are more striking than others. Barlow Tyrie, a company once known primarily for its teak furniture, has commissioned a 30-piece collection of outdoor furniture from Vladimir Kagan, an experienced avant-garde designer. That's further proof of how chic this design genre has become. For more information, visit

Should you prefer something more classical -- a style that often goes well with contemporary -- then you might want to consult the Ladies Association of Mount Vernon. These overseers of the museum that was once the home of George and Martha Washington have introduced a licensed collection of outdoor furniture. It can be viewed at by following the shopping links to "garden furniture."

These pieces were inspired by an eclectic set of sources, including England's Twickenham Rugby Stadium, the Adirondack National Park and British-Chinese Chippendale furniture.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at

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