Visualize this room painted cream and feel the glow drain from it. While you are at it, notice how the contrast between the dark wall and light ceiling creates a wonderful feeling of height.
If you want to give your room a soaring ceiling, paint it a color much lighter than the walls. If you are doing the paint yourself and, like me, cannot paint a clean line for love or money, paint your walls and ceiling the same color. That will give your room a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Even if your ceilings are low, decide which feeling you want in the room and paint your ceiling accordingly.
I blame this rule on our moms and the 1950s, when dyed-to-match shoes were all the rage. The verve of the room shown here comes from its unmatched — and hence, wonderfully organic — color scheme.
Here's the deal: The color wheel was developed in the 18th century by painters, for painters. It was never meant to apply to using color in our homes.
Design heresy? Yes. But consider this: Studied rooms, where the palette was chosen nose-to-color-wheel, almost always feel ... studied. Rooms like the one shown here take a much freer, more organic approach, using color the way we see it in nature. Just look at the bit of the flower arrangement we can see. Revel in that natural approach to color!
We never worry whether the bright lime green of new needles on an evergreen tree works with the darker gray-green of the older foliage. We never declare it anathema because a warm color is mixed with a cool one. If you want a rule for how to work with color, simply take notes from nature.
Fortunately, you may consign this rule to the "Ignore Me" folder. If you want to take the mixed-sofa approach, check out this room for the keys to success. Although the sofas differ in both style and color, other important elements tie them together. Look at the colors in the carpet and that fabulous Italian advertising poster, and see how they are repeated in the sofas. Next look at the throw pillows, each of which features the color from the opposing sofa.
The room holds together beautifully and has the added perk of doubling the chances of family and guests' finding a seat that will comfortably fit them.
In reality, when all of the furniture in a room is the same style, the aura created tends to be sterile and uninteresting. Compare that to this dining room, which makes me want to come in, sit down and have a glass of wine. (Not that it takes much to elicit that response from me!) The table is casual contemporary, the host chairs are midcentury, and the side chairs are woven and wonderfully worn. The distinctly country corner cabinet completes this very interesting and welcoming room. Flush the consistent-style rule down the drain.
Let me be clear: There would be nothing wrong with decorating a home like this with rustic antiques and 18th-century-style upholstery. But do you have to? Absolutely not.
Let me amend that. Mixing styles, colors, patterns, textures, finishes, scales and even shapes is an excellent way to give your home warmth, interest and a confident, welcoming feel. Take the mix of fabrics, colors and patterns in this room. The fabrics seemingly have little to do with one another, but the overall effect is magical.
So what makes it work? The grayish geometric wallpaper nods to the pattern on the gray and white pillow. The soft blue wall behind the sofa repeats itself in a marvelously unmatchy way on the center throw pillow. Even though the warm pumpkin color of the sofa does not appear again, it invites you in and is the focal point of the room — at least from this angle. Note that all the patterns in this room are geometric or linear, giving the space a clean, contemporary feel.
This room, although done in a neutral palette, has great interest because of its mixed metals. The opulent gilded mirror over the mantel has a different finish than the equally ornate console, and the chandelier boasts yet another tone, as does the circular side table and the legs on the contemporary upholstered pieces.
Try this exercise: In your mind's eye, change all those pieces to the same finish. Can you feel what happens to this room? So here's a good rule: Mix your metals.
See how to mix metal finishes in the kitchen and bathroom.
For me this room's touch of genius is the completely unexpected and "wholly other" use of pink and gold on the throw pillows.
This room gets my imagination running. Was there a piece they couldn't part with that drove the design? Perhaps it was those midcentury chairs, or the terrific blackboard, or the old but fabulous table. Or maybe it was all of the above!
One thing is certain: This owner did a sterling job of making great design out of a conglomerate of loved pieces. Kudos!
More: Lessons in Living Comfortably: Embrace the Scratches and Dents