Design lesson: Perfecting imperfections
Rarely is a room perfect. Those of us with low ceilings may have little sympathy for homeowners who complain of soaring ceiling syndrome, but double-height rooms can pose problems: How do you strategically place artwork for viewing from two separate floors? And where should draperies begin and end? Consider, too, the misshapen room, with sloped ceilings and irregular floors, or the living room that's akin to a bowling alley. Here are suggestions on how to improve an awkward room.
Kimberley's guide to colour correction
Problem: Odd angles
Solution: No need to get bent out of shape by awkward angles. Soften them by using one paint colour. If you like wallpaper, pick an overall pattern to cleverly distract the eye. But avoid stripes and other geometrics -- they'll only highlight bumps and twists.
Problem: Ceiling is too high
Solution: Paint the ceiling a darker colour, creating the illusion of a lower ceiling. This is an ideal fix in rooms like the dining room, where you want to establish intimacy.
Problem: Inconsequential crown moulding
Solution: Never highlight crown moulding or baseboards that are small or inadequate. Instead, minimize their impact by painting them the colour of the walls.
Problem: Long, narrow hallway
Solution: Create a feature wall at one end of the hallway by painting it a contrasting, dramatic colour; that will serve to visually bring it forward. Another trick is to paper the walls in a repeating pattern like a trellis, toile or other motif.
Dos and don'ts
DO physically change the proportions of an oddly shaped space with built-ins, as in the room at left, featured in Room Rescues: Decorating Solutions for Awkward Spaces by Jane Burdon. Square off an irregular angle or enclose a cumbersome bulkhead inside cabinetry.
DON'T overlook the drama of soaring draperies for double-height windows. Calculate 2-1/2 to three times the window width for fullness or else the drapes will look skimpy. If instead of one tall window you have a single window on the main floor and a matching one above, choose draperies for the first floor and wooden blinds or shutters for the second storey.
DO hang large-scale, bold works of art in double-height spaces. Choose an abstract image, or display a tapestry, wall hanging, folding screen or ceremonial kimono to make a grand statement upstairs and down.
DON'T allow a sloped floor or ceiling to put you off balance. Cheat crown moulding and baseboards to run at right angles to walls. Paint them your chosen trim colour, then darken the paint that goes in the gap, forcing it to recede from view.
DO widen a narrow room visually by creating a focal point on the small end wall –- perhaps a grouping of plates or sculptural accents like masks.
DON'T treat a long, narrow hallway like a throughway. Add interest by hanging photos in tight, geometric groupings. Picture lights will dramatically improve even the narrowest hallway. Anchor artwork by placing narrow console tables (10 inches deep or less) against the wall.