I know you have oohed, aahed and gone googly-eyed over rooms featured in magazines. You’ve analyzed all the fabrics, tables, chairs and cabinets used, and thought “I can so do this!” And, gorgeous, I applaud you for the fortitude and the get-up-and-go to do just that. You knew you could whip that family room or dining room into a photo-ready showcase over a single weekend. Unfortunately, while you believe you followed the pictures like a well-tuned recipe, you end up with a disappointing room. I’ve heard this story too many times to mention: “I bought the furniture and painted the walls the same color, but it doesn’t look the same.” So what happened?
The problem is that we need to pay tribute to every little added this and that a room holds to reproduce that same glory! Unfortunately, duplicating just the wall color and pieces of furniture will never give you the completed room you dream of from a photo! Sorry, but you have to add all the extra stuff—the properly scaled lamps, the art that is framed like a masterpiece and, yes, all the little knickknacks and doodads that complete the room. Now, take a fresh look at the photo and really analyze what you missed. First, focus on the big pieces, like the red lamp on the side table that seems to shout “Don’t you dare forget about me!” Then start taking in the smaller details.
As an exercise, let’s break down a photo that showcases the amazing elements that complete a room to its finest. Keep in mind that the pieces and parts don’t need to cost a fortune (although they certainly can if antiques are used). More than anything, I believe the dedication to selecting and placing pieces in just the right juxtaposition to make one accessory play off the other is what completes the room. To illustrate how to break down a photo and discover what you must have to achieve a look, let’s dive into the photo. Refill that coffee or tea and follow me.
I have selected a dining room designed by one of my favorite design teams: Diamond and Baratta, now known as Anthony Baratta, LLC.
The first aspect that grabs the attention is the choice of the apple green for the walls. The contrast with the crisp, bright, white millwork lends this room a fresh and modern look that is contrasted by the classic mahogany Chippendale furniture. This period of dining room furniture is still frequently being used in dining rooms in our part of the country, whether antique or reproduction. But if this classic style of furniture is not your cup of tea, but perhaps a classic farmhouse oak or painted furniture are more your taste, the room could still be accomplished. The formality of the Chippendale could be substituted.
Page 2 of 3 - The next item that your eye is drawn to is the scale, color and pattern of the rug. Notice that there is ample room for the chairs to be fully pulled away from the table and remain on the rug. This rug does an impressive job of anchoring the dining room. As you can see, it doesn’t pay to skimp on the rug size. A well-chosen rug for the dining room will hold the table and all of the chairs entirely within its borders.
The next design elements to draw your attention are the blue transferware plates and platters on the walls. The display of the platters resting on the bright white corbels is a wonderful detail. No doubt the blue in the plates and platters, along with the apple green, inspired the color palette for this entire dining room. This combination of hues might not be the typical choice, especially for a dining room. But clearly the color choices are very calming and will make settling in for a long and leisurely Sunday dinner a joy.
The pair of brass and Delft china chandeliers double the lighting brilliance. This represents a very fearless move by the designers to add not one but two delicious chandeliers. Selecting a chandelier that is a bit on the smaller size, and having the confidence to use a pair, produces not only a brilliant lighting feature, but brilliant design as well. Again, a substitution could be made. If edgy is more to your liking, add a pair of “drum shade” chandeliers, but be cautious with scale. (And always remember the dimmers when installing chandeliers, especially when using a pair!). We are dining-not performing surgery! Oooch the lighting down a tad.
The next notable design element is the framing the window treatments give to the pair of chandeliers. A striking pop of intense white off the apple green is clean and elegant. Add just the gentle detailing of the grosgrain ribbon along the edge of the valance and it becomes a masterpiece. Imagine this tiniest of detail missing, and suddenly the shape and design of the valance disappears. These are the little essentials that you just can’t overlook. However, if this type of window treatment is too over the top for your liking, use just the panels and eliminate the valance. Then, add that very important detail of the ribbon along the inside edge of the window treatments. (Inside edges are the edges that meet in the middle when the treatments are closed.)
OK, now we can’t forget the skirts on the dining room chairs. This is such a delightful way to play down the seriousness of the Chippendale style.
The mahogany sideboard is perfectly accessorized with antique English knife boxes and a charger of "http://www.google.com/search?q=blue+and+white+chinese+porcelain&hl=en&tbo=u&rlz=1T4ADRA_enUS347US347&source=univ&tbm=shop&sa=X&ei=NngeUbq8GKj22QXtzoGABg&ved=0CNcBELMY"blue and white Chinese porcelain. The charger could easily be a reproduction available online or at specialty shops; the size is what’s important. If the English knife boxes are not to your liking, try just wonderful boxes, taking care with the size--miniscule will not work here. Also be sure to purchase a pair to give the balance required for this look.
Page 3 of 3 - The relationship of the sconces and the piece of art is not to be taken lightly. The three pieces act as one significant element. The art must be framed to its absolute best, whether a reclaimed frame that has been gilded or a newly framed piece, and the sconces need to be coordinated with the frame. All the lighting fixtures in the room were taken into consideration, all have a component of brass. An important detail!
The perfectly amazing flower arrangement on the dining table is a complete departure from the color palette—but against the apple green, what a dream! Can’t you almost smell the fragrance!
Finally, the plant in the cachepot residing on the bow front chest is precisely the perfect accessory. The green against the green is just too flawless for words.
And there you have a fully dissected room! Every single piece in this room adds to the complete look, and not one small detail could be eliminated. The next time you find just the perfect photo of the room of your dreams, look very closely and replicate the "tiniest" of details. You will find yourself whistling while you work. Have a great week gorgeous!
Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). She welcomes questions, which will be answered in her columns. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org