Tuesday, September 7, 2010

about striking a balance.

“Our style is beginning to look like ‘hoarder’ instead of cool, stylish and young. My husband studied architecture, and I was a media and fashion student, but you wouldn't know it by looking at our house. There have been so many times I wanted to throw everything out and start over, but that's certainly not the answer. At this point, we're living in a house that doesn't entirely feel like home.”

A husband and a wife... free-flowing fashion, and straight-lined architecture... a suburban home, urban-souled homeowners... traditional and contemporary.... hard and soft... casual and formal... some things that don’t need to be changed, and some things that do, but (for now) can’t.

So you how do you strike a balance among all these opposites, without starting from scratch?

Clockwise, upper left: Martine Chair, Perry Floor Lamp,
Crate and Barrel; Russet Chenille Drapery Panel, Smith + Noble; Devika Sky Rug, Crate & Barrel; Wooden Finial, Baluster Outline Lamp, Wisteria; Bronze Hurricane Lamp, Pottery Barn; Jackson Pollack "No 10, 1949" Allposters.com; Canvas Artwork, Linden Street, J.C.Penney (discontinued); Natural Woven Shade (swatch), Smith + Noble; Decorative Slate Square, Wisteria (discontinued)

Soften it Up While the leather sofa, love seat, and chair, and big stone fireplace push the pendulum to Fred Flintstone, the room needs a little more Wilma: curves, softness, and a little animated femininity. Window treatments (simple panels of a russet-y chenille from Smith + Noble over natural woven shades), and a pair of stone-blue velvet armchairs from Crate & Barrel, will help soften this room like butter in the sun.

Goliath, Meet David Just because there’s a LOT of brown leather in here, it doesn’t mean you have to bring in an equal amount of something else to outweigh it. There simply isn’t room (in the space or the budget) to do that. But a little bit of something different can go a long way. Here, I’d bring in those two smaller-scaled side chairs to replace the one leather armchair (which can find new life in another room). Being the lone notes of color and curve, these ladies stand up beautifully to those blocky brawny boys in their shiny leather jackets.

Celebrate the Givens If you can’t change the radio station, dance to what’s playing. In this case, that fireplace is commanding (in size, position and color). It’s big, it’s pink-ish, but can’t be changed now. By picking accents that pull more from the terra cottas and less from the paler pinks, the stone’s color starts to become more inspirational. Bouncing earthy accents around the room (a decorative slate square, bleached wood finial, natural woven blinds) makes that elemental stone look less like the only outdoorsman at the dinner party.

By shifting the furniture plan to pull more weight away from the fireplace, its role is downplayed. By bringing in the dining room’s sideboard (perfectly proportioned for the large TV, you also bring in a piece with a heft that holds its own against that stony surround. Its gridded front also relates to the stacked stone of the fireplace (repetition makes just about anything seem intentional), and the introduction of this second focal point also helps steal the hearth’s considerable thunder.

Off the Edges While they’re blessed with a large room, the need for circulation through the space is vexing. Pull the main seating in a little tighter, and you help define what’s seating and what’s circulation. It also makes a better conversation area, since no one’s shouting across the room’s full length or width any more. And anyone sitting on the sofa or loveseat can then reach the coffee table… score!

Urban but Earthy To reflect the couple’s urban hankerings, I love subtle city and architectural references, but run through a “little bit country” filter. Here, that means shapes that reference geometry and architecture, rendered in weathered wood or rusted metals.

Baluster Outline Lamp, Wisteria

It also means artwork by, or inspired by, New York urbanists Pollack and Rothko, but in earthy palettes inspired by nature.

Jackson Pollack "No 10, 1949" Allposters.com

Casually… Formal Both husband and wife have old-world roots and soul, but don’t want to feel like they are living in an antique store. Introducing the more modern silver painted sideboard, natural woven shades, and a slightly more informal rug to their antique-inspired coffee table keeps the stuffy out of the space. It also ends up giving the room a collected look. Just not in that scary hoarding way.

Your turn! What should this lovely young couple do to make this room work, fireplace, leather, and all?

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