Dear Miranda: Start by choosing a new sofa and chairs, as these are big investments and will also help you make the transition from pure traditional to a more modern approach. Look for minimal lines, nothing too padded, low armrests and bare legs. Fifties sofas are back in favor; they have clean lines, are comfortable and fit nicely into small spaces. Look for them at antique or secondhand stores or yard sales.
The emerging trend this year is to use two different fabrics and patterns on a sofa or chair – one for the back and sides, the other for the seat cushions. Pair up leather and cotton duck, velvet and denim, checks and solids or florals. Augment this with a variety of throw cushions for a wonderful color and texture story. Turquoise, marigold, acid green and clear blue are modern shades that have that newly grown freshness of spring. The fabrics on the sofa shown here are from the stunning variety designed by one of my favorite home-fashion icons, Tricia Guild. Visit her website for an inspirational glance at what’s new in furnishings, fabrics and wallcoverings: www.designersguild. com.
Try a warm neutral such as pale caramel on the living-room walls. This can be the tie-in with your dining room, where I would paint fat caramel stripes separated by small white or turquoise strips. And re-upholster the dining chairs as well. These changes will have a huge effect on the mood of your home, evident instantly when you enter the hall.
Dear Debbie: I have a paneled family room right in the middle of my brick rancher. The only natural light source comes from the screened-in porch, not much. The back wall is dark-wood bookcases; the front wall is thin, white brick with dark grout, and paneled side walls. It is so dark and dreary, but I don’t want to mess too much with the Jefferson style of the house. – Dolores
Dear Dolores: Your home’s layout does speak to Jefferson’s powerful quest for order, simplicity and centrality. The plan also encompasses another element – the screened-in porch connects the central family room to a view of nature. Jefferson’s ideas were original and striking for their time. He chose classic components such as columns in the Greek tradition, French curves and Chinese latticework, then Americanized the buildings with Virginia red brick and painted furniture. So you won’t be offending the style or architecture of your home by making a few changes of your own to brighten up the den.
It is important that the rooms connect to each other, and you haven’t said how the rest of your home is decorated. If the panels are constructed of good-quality wood, rather than inexpensive veneer, I would keep them in their natural form, and the bookcases complement the purpose of the room. Paint out the dark grout so that the brick wall is completely white. Lay down a sisal carpet – the natural fibers and light shade will suit the style – and choose upholstery fabrics that have a white background. If the panels are veneer, you can paint them in a historic shade of white, pale blue or green. Well-placed lighting will eliminate any residual darkness, and this room will be transformed from dreary to inviting and cozy.
Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Debbie_Travis. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.