Ask a designer

Ask a designer

April 28, 2012 

  • Ask a designer Do you have a room that defies your every attempt to decorate it? Send us a photo or two of the space, along with a letter describing your design dilemma and the look you want to achieve. Members of the volunteer N&O Design Team will offer solutions to selected problems in Home & Garden. Send email to Subject line: “Ask a Designer.” Be sure to include your name, town and contact information. Due to the volume of email, we cannot provide individual replies. Note: If you send us a question, you’re giving us permission to publish your information.

We downsized 4 1/2 years ago to a three-bedroom, two-bath house with a sunroom, kitchen, breakfast room, living room/dining room combination. The living/dining room combination has very little wall space. I put the sofa in the middle of the room, facing the fireplace, as there didn’t seem to be any other place for it, but I would love to be able to change the furniture around. I am even willing to buy new furniture if it fits better. My color is scheme is earth tones, with beige carpeting and pale yellow walls. We also painted the kitchen and sunroom a rust color. The colors seem to blend, but we were thinking of changing the wall colors, and can’t seem to agree on a particular color. We love the house, but would really like to see the room situated correctly. We’re very comfortable watching TV in the sunroom, and use the living room for reading and company.

JoAnn Vardis


We asked Melissa Rohrer of Sittin’ Pretty Interiors in Raleigh to tackle this design dilemma. She writes:

I “get” having a lack of space for the stuff you’ve lovingly hauled around your whole life! Why do we desperately try to incorporate our old stuff into new spaces? Probably because we’ve grown accustomed to them, paid a lot for them and even have pet names for them. In your case, from a design standpoint as well as for comfort and functionality’s sake, you need to lose that sofa. It’s just too big.

Here are my solutions:

Get rid of oversized pieces: Remove the sofa and add a pair of new higher-back chairs in its place. Not too big now. This will offer you more space and more versatility. You do not necessarily have to buy brand new. See what you can find to buy slightly used, or even vintage pieces that have good bones and classic lines (such as a pretty wing-back), and then have them reupholstered in a new, timeless fabric. Be sure they are comfortable for you and your loved ones before you buy. Keep your coffee table – it’s a great piece. Or add a new cocktail ottoman – very multi-functional.

Always add a “landing spot:” You can now add a nicely sized (24- to 30-inch diameter round) pedestal table between the chairs or use the existing end table that now sits under the window. This will be a great place for a lamp, arrangement of fresh flowers or a potted plant. A green plant can always brighten up a space on the cheap.

Create a strong focal point: Use the height of your armoire. I would like to see it moved to the right side of the room to add height and balance. Moving the armoire next to the hallway entrance would allow you to accentuate the plant shelf that is above it and would also be a great focal point from the kitchen.

Create balance and find the light: Where the armoire was, pair a mirror and console table to give symmetry. The mirror will mimic the window on the other side of your fireplace. This not only will create balance but will reflect the light from your entry and brighten up the niche. The table will give substance to balance the heft of the chair. – preferably something open that allows you to pop a couple of small ottomans underneath for extra seating and /or storage. A bright table lamp and one of your pottery pieces would look great here.

Next you could keep or replace your recliner with a leather one. Place a floor lamp behind it for reading and a small side table alongside it to set a drink. This can be as small as 12 to 18 inches wide. Anything from a ceramic garden stool to a more natural woven stand can do the job. Switching up the texture of pieces gives your family a more personalized space.

Always add a rug: Someone once recited to me, “A room without a rug is like a kiss without a hug.” Corny, but so true! An area rug anchors the space and gives you an opportunity to add color, pattern, texture or all three. Make sure the rug is large enough to meet each seat. In your case, I would add a 9-by-12-foot rug, so it’s under the pair of chairs and meets the recliner. Natural woven rugs or “dhurrie” rugs are inexpensive options.

Create easy mood with neutrals: Use a warm combo of neutrals to create a cohesive space in such an open floor plan. I suggest Benjamin Moore’s Sherwood Tan for the main color and Powell Buff for accents and the kitchen. Go cool in a hot room: Try calming Pale Smoke in your sunroom. It gives you a great palette to accessorize with.

Last but not least, enjoy the process. Have fun!

Sittin’ Pretty Interiors, Raleigh., 919-931-1849

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