You’ve got design questions. We’ve got the answers. Designer and Style at Home contributor Karl Lohnes solves your decorating challenges.
Q1: My 20-year-old burgundy-colour dining room needs an update. I’d like to create an intimate dining space. I am not afraid of colour but would like some new ones for a more cozy feeling. In the rest of my house, I’ve got light neutrals like taupe and warm toffee.
Lise F., via email
S@H I’m glad you’re not afraid to be dramatic in decorating the dining room. It’s one of the rooms in the house that can hold a bit of colour or pattern without needing to match other spaces. I suggest wallpaper. When choosing a pattern, link it to other colours in your home, but also choose one with an interesting accent colour so the dining room stands apart. A beautiful seagrass wallpaper with a silk texture could look very elegant with your home’s palette. Or consider a mural. Note that murals don’t have to be scenic; I love the subtle details in JF Fabric’s Kyoto Collection. Then paint the ceiling a toffee colour, like Benjamin Moore’s Candle Glow CSP-1015, to visually lower the ceiling and to create an intimate feel and a lovely golden glow. Finally, add drapery side panels to the windows in a shade darker than the main wallpaper colour.
Kyoto Collection 8128-63 WALLCOVERING, JF Fabrics, jffabrics.com.
Candle Glow CSP-1015, Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.ca
Q2: I live in a small long-term rental apartment and want to redecorate. I’d like to create a formal space with antiques, fireplace mantel, fancy sconces and more. I have no idea how to start this makeover. Shopping, organizing painting, refinishing furniture, reupholstering – it seems overwhelming. What options do I have, as a busy single professional, to make my vision – as grand as I imagine it –come to be?
Pasquale C., Toronto
S@H Start the process by creating a visual storyboard (virtual or hard copy), as this will keep you focused and help you communicate your vision to others. Many people choose their wall colours first, but I make decisions on fabrics, art and rugs first; then near the end, I choose a colour that links everything together. In your spare time, look online for vintage, antique and secondhand furnishings. Don’t forget to look at retailers who produce quality reproductions, since this can save much time in your search. If the process still feels too daunting or time consuming, hire an interior decorator to help with some of the work, such as hunting for antiques and special pieces. Many work on partial projects, so you needn’t feel obligated to work with them from the beginning to the end of the project. If you give over some tasks, your makeover will feel more doable.
English Baroque Mirror, RH, rh.com. Vintage Turkish Antalya
4'10" x 6'9" RUG, Ecarpetgallery, ecarpetgallery.com.
Q3: I need your advice on arranging my living room/parlour. The space is small and narrow, and the ceiling is 19 feet high. I would like to create an informal conversation area and would love some help with furniture size and placement, wall decor, and advice on whether we should add an area rug.
Melissa B., via email
S@H Small rooms with very high ceilings are tricky because they often appear to have more square footage than they actually do. The secret to furnishing such a space is to buy size-appropriate furniture, use wall decor to draw the eye up (to show off the height as a feature), and then unite the elements with an area rug. Here are a few specifics.
Nikka tufted storage OTTOMAN, Structube, structube.com.
- Ensure the sofa is no more than two-thirds of the width of the room. In your small room, I suggest a sofa around seven feet long. Place it at the end of the room so that it absorbs a bit of the length, since you’ve got more length than width.
- Position two matching accent chairs facing the sofa. Ensure they are no larger than 36 inches square. In lieu of a coffee table, add a cocktail-table-height ottoman between the sofa and the chairs; top it with a large tray when entertaining or use it as additional seating in a pinch.
- For the walls, add stationary drapery side panels to soften the space and emphasize the height of the ceiling. Use artwork that stacks vertically to draw the eye upward. If there’s space between the top of the windows and the ceiling, add art, mirrors or a large clock for a decorative element.
- An area rug will unite the elements and make the room cozy. Be sure that the front legs of any furniture grouping are sitting on the rug. A six-by-nine-foot or eight-by-10-foot rug will fit your small parlour well, and a pattern or design in the centre of the rug will bring beauty to the centre of the space.
Q4: I’d like to find a warm white or light beige paint colour to use throughout my main floor. I have many gold- and caramel-coloured elements (flooring, furniture and wood trim) and would like to balance those so the walls don’t look too yellow.
Karen P., Nanaimo, B.C.
S@H I suggest an off-white/beige paint colour with a cool brown undertone. The brown base will ensure that the walls look warm, while the cool undertone will counter all the existing yellow tones. I suggest Behr’s Crisp Linen MQ3-13. This colour will look great in rooms facing north or south and won’t be too blue or overly yellow.
Crisp linen MQ3-13, Behr, Home Depot, homedepot.ca
► We’d love to help solve your decorating questions! Email us at email@example.com.