Design Master Class Tips and Tricks From N&O Design Team ProsDesign Master Class Amy Brothers

Massive great room gets warm, inviting makeover

April 11, 2014 

A pair of club chairs and a tufted-top ottoman creates a tranquil reading area by the bank of windows.


  • About the designer

    Amy Brothers grew up in Cary and received her bachelor’s degree in interior design at East Carolina University. She launched Amy Brothers Interior Designs in 1995. Her work has been featured in national magazines and in Historic Oakview and the Mordecai House, both in Raleigh.

  • Design Master Class

    N&O Design Team members who share their expertise twice a month in Home & Garden are all members of the Alliance of Interior Designers, a group of Triangle-area professionals. Learn more at

The Challenge

This 20-by-36-foot great room is truly a grand space in this traditional home built in 2000 in a country setting in Apex. The challenge was to use furniture placement and color to create continuity in this large room, which has many architectural details, and to make it an inviting spot for entertaining.

Super Space

Traditional style reigns in this space with 20-foot ceilings, inlaid cherry floors, a wall of cherry-stained built-ins and loads of natural light. We decorated it in stages over two years, spinning off the built-ins as a focal point. We chose rugs and paint colors first to establish a color scheme and ground the furnishings, then picked upholstery, window treatments and tables as budget and time allowed.

A key consideration was making sure furniture was appropriately scaled to the space. Small pieces of furniture in a large room with soaring ceilings can appear dinky and unimportant. In choosing furniture and fabrics, we aimed for simplicity, subtlety and elegance.

A pair of club chairs and a tufted-top ottoman creates a tranquil reading area by the bank of windows. A mix of furniture – club chairs, an ottoman and transitional-style sofa – encourages gathering and conversation in the main seating area, which is anchored by the fireplace and television in the built-in unit. A consistent color palette of yellows, creams, greens and wines joins the two areas. For the walls, we chose Sherwin Williams’ Napery SW 6386, a soft, creamy yellow that changes nicely as the light shifts from day to night. It provides an appealing background without overwhelming other details in the room.

A 9-by-12-foot Oriental rug in cream, red and green anchors the conversation area, and a complementary 4-by-6-foot rug in red and gold defines the reading area.

Layers are key to this room’s relaxed twist on traditional style. The dark finish on the end tables and chair legs adds visual weight to the airy space and ties in with the built-ins and floor. The creamy yellow on the pinch-pleated silk drapes, tone-on-tone patterns on the upholstery and decorative trim on drapes and pillows lend color and interest, while balancing the wood tones in the wall of built-ins.

Durable, kid- and pet-friendly fabrics were chosen with grandchildren and grand-dogs in mind. The walls are covered in a washable flat paint.

Tip: Picking fabrics

For durability, look for fabrics that withstand abrasion well. This is usually measured in how many “double rubs” the material can withstand before tearing. Aim for at least 15,000 double rubs; 30,000 is ideal. And keep in mind that patterned fabrics will hide damage better than plain fabrics. For large pieces like the sofa, consider a subtle tone-on-tone design that you won’t tire of and reserve patterned fabrics for smaller pieces and accents.

Tip: Work in stages

A big design project may be best done in stages, as budget and time allows. Just be sure to keep in mind the overall colors and patterns as you make your furniture, fabric and accessory selections. When you shop, bring along a small notebook with fabric and paint samples, and keep measurements and photos on your smart phone.

Amy Brothers Interior Designs

901 Jaybird Lane,


919-552-7022 or

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