Home & Garden

Design Master Class: Vara Bell transforms a living room

The living room measures 14 by 15 feet, but appears larger thanks to the simple color palette of taupes and whites.
The living room measures 14 by 15 feet, but appears larger thanks to the simple color palette of taupes and whites. NEW VIEW PHOTOGRAPHY

The challenge

This Raleigh townhome featured a dramatic, two-story living room with light flooding into the space from many windows. What was missing? Wall space. And any distinguishable architectural elements. The challenge was to make structural changes to create a functional and upgraded space, and then bring in an eclectic, sophisticated mix of furnishings. See more on page 2C.

Super space

We began by building up a 36-inch-high wall separating the foyer and living room. Now 11 feet tall, the wall houses a perfectly placed entertainment center and bookcase. A 12-inch-deep ledge at the kitchen pass-through was removed to allow for sectional seating; then we increased storage by adding glass door cabinets above with dimmable lighting.

In place of the builder-grade fireplace, we installed a carved wood French Louis mantel with Calcutta marble surround and hearth. Above the fireplace, 2-inch molding frames a 7 1/2- by 4-foot mirror, topped off with a custom landscape by Triangle artist Peggy Lee Mead.

Benjamin Moore’s Stone Hearth (984) transformed the existing cream walls to a warm, sophisticated taupe. For the trim, Benjamin Moore’s Simply White (117) semi-gloss creates a crisp contrast.

Our homeowners were delighted when the ceiling fan was removed and replaced with a two-tier antiqued gold Paris flea market-style chandelier.

For the windows, we maximized light by day and privacy by night with 3-inch-wide wood blinds. For a dramatic, ethereal effect, sheer drapery panels fashioned of coarse white linen fall two stories to the floor. And on the hardwood floor, a large cowhide rug in shades of taupe layered over a taupe wool sisal define the seating area.

We chose an English arm chaise sectional in an off-white cotton-linen blend, adding 20-inch down pillows in dark taupe quilted velvet and an ombre taupe chenille print.

For fireside, we paired tufted-back, skirted chairs with a 24-inch round off-white leather ottoman. A contemporary accent chair in a geometric print of taupe and cream completes the cozy conversation circle. Demilune mahogany tables with mercury lamps flank the fireplace. The coffee table is a simple 32-inch square in antiqued gold metal with two glass shelves.

So our two-fold mission has been accomplished. Functional, upgraded space? Check. Eclectic, sophisticated furnishing? Check. Very happy homeowners? Check.

(Not) by the book

When choosing accessories, have fun searching for an interesting assortment of items you fall in love with. We gave a nod to nature when we mixed porcelain with rustic garden pieces, contemporary glass lamps with plants and florals. Petrified wood bookends hold books we covered with gold-threaded art paper.

Terrific trick

In the adjacent dining room, the table and chairs left little room for a china cupboard or sideboard. When faced with limited space, think double duty – or even triple. We lacquered a 70-inch long wood credenza which doubles as a sofa table for the living room and provides china storage for the dining room. When the owner is hosting a buffet, the top can be cleared to create a sideboard. Now that’s triple-duty design.

Décor a la Carte

3947 Stags Leap Circle, Raleigh

919-782-0895 or varabell@aol.com