Ask the Experts

By staff November 1, 2003

Q. I'm going to redo a small bedroom into a lady's retreat/reading room and I'm longing to paint the walls chocolate brown. Can you give me some trim colors, window treatment options and furniture suggestions? The floors are maple. I don't want fussy-feminine, just comfortable and cozy.

Designer and interiors illustrator Dick Whittington, ASID, knows just how to create a literary masterpiece of a room. I love the idea of warm chocolate walls. Use an eggshell finish. For trim, use a peachy shade with cinnamon to pull brown into the trim. Use a semi-gloss finish. For the floor pick out an Oriental area rug with brown, cinnamon, reds and terra cotta shades. Angle the rug if your room is big enough. You'll want a desk and I suggest either a Beidermeier style or Shaker. Both are unfussy, and Biedermeier is timelessly elegant. Place the desk perpendicular to the wall and add a desk chair. To the back side of the desk, position a comfortable reading chair and ottoman or chaise so the desk can become a side table. A contemporary desk/reading lamp would add a nice contrast.

For window treatments, I'd suggest a Roman shade in a pattern that combines the colors of the walls and rug. Or you could use simple chocolate brown plantation shutters or uncomplicated drapery panels. Built-in book shelving or bookcases are a must. The tallest shelf should be at the bottom (for large art books) and the shelves should become shorter as they reach the top. Here's how tomake bookshelves look clean and classy: Pull all your books right to the edge of the shelf. And use books as accessories. Stack a few under a lamp or a stone bust or use stacked books as bookends. Incorporate some framed photos, antique plates and pieces of sculpture into the bookshelves. Play with it until it looks right to your eye. Finally, put a world globe on a stand in a corner of the room. Add additional lighting, one more chair, some green plants, and throw pillows that pick up the colors in the rug. What an inviting little sanctuary you've created!

Q. I know that paint color trends come and go. What are the "now" colors for Florida walls this season?

Laura Burnside, ASID, discusses what's current and comely. Paint is the easiest and most economical way to update a room. Nationally and locally I'm seeing a lot of what I call the Aegean hues-blue-green colors that are so right with a tropical look. You'll see these various shades with names such as Sea Mist, Misty Rain or Harbor Shadow. One of my favorites comes from Sherwin Williams and is called Corinthian Green. Diane Machise and I used this color in the guest room that we did for last year's ASID Showhouse and it drew lots of favorable attention. It's soft and cool yet lively.

Browns are very strong this season and so is a contemporary palate of bright blue, lime, orange and fuchsia. You're going to see yellows getting brighter and greens more true, although the soft sage green and butter cream to gold are still popular in this part of Florida because they are so friendly to Mediterranean Revival homes. You know when a color palate is truly popular when it begins to show up in bed linens, window fabrics and upholstered furniture. But you can get a jump on that with an updated wall color and a few accent pieces such as pillows and area rugs.

Q. How do I find out what my interior design style is when I'm doing a room from scratch? I seem to like everything.

If you really and truly like everything, your style is eclectic. But Micheline Laberge, ASID, will guide you to being more specific. Approach this task like homework and it will bring results. Gather design magazines and start ripping out pages of things you like. After you have a huge pile, start sorting into piles for color, furniture style, window treatments and such. Select the one or two sofas you like best, your favorite dining room table, the wall colors or wall coverings that would make you comfortable in a room. If you do this process thoughtfully and honestly, your personal design profile should emerge. If you still have doubts, take your files to a designer for a consultation.

Another key to your design personality can be found in your closet. Your color and pattern selections and your style choices in clothes (sporty, romantic, sophisticated) say a lot about how you'd like to furnish your room. If there is a lot of bright orange or hot pink on your hangers, then you probably have an adventurous spirit in design. If you're more comfortable with quiet earth tones, then serene room settings probably appeal to you.

I have an exercise I often perform with a client. I take him or her to a furniture store and I ask the client to choose one single object of desire (regardless of price because we aren't actually buying it), something that would just make the heart sing. You'd be amazed at what I can tell by what the client selects and sometimes the client is surprised, too, by what a single decor item can reveal about one's personal approach to successful interior spaces.

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