Letting the Room Speak for Itself

Every now and then, you walk onto a project and the inspiration you need to re-work the room is staring you right in the face.  In this case, a portrait already hanging on the wall – a startlingly simple watercolor rendering of a crying Andean child in traditional dress – spurred the design.  I wanted something rustic yet refined: something that had a global, almost tribal, sensibility without being able to be pinned down thematically.  To that end, we removed the colonial-style overmantle at the fire and installed in its place a ledgestone chimney breast which goes all the way up to the eaves of the cathedral ceiling.  Knowing it would feel a little lonesome floating around way up there on its own, we anchored the towering ceiling by running beams, stained a dark Spanish oak, from eave to eave.  Dropping a larger, wrought-iron chandelier between the beams was a matter of course, but we chose a piece that had exposed Edison bulbs and a geometric form to keep it from feeling medieval or heavy.  Sconces (Currey & Co.) on the chimney breast echo the iron in the chandelier but are softened by the more civilized shades.

The face of the child in the painting is marked with tears and a runny nose – it feels so real – and I wanted to make sure I captured something a bit more visceral in the soft furnishings.  We took down the too-red curtains that had been at the windows and chose an ikat geometric (Thibaut) for the drapery with a bone-colored background, overlaid with an earthy crimson and a muddy brown in the pattern.  The criss-cross of the diamond shapes repeats the strong angles of the beams and the trellis in the dhurrie rug.  We brought the red to the sofa with a textured woven (Osborne & Little) on the pillows that again has a homespun, clannish feel. To further highlight a natural element, we used a faux bois print (Duralee) on the accent pillows on antiqued burnished leather chairs.  The accents are from nature, too – horn and bone, wood and stone, willow stems, fruit in iron bowls…I especially love the way the drum table provides a little ethnic energy in the corner!

The wall color is Benjamin Moore’s Rocky Beach (CSP-190), a neutral greige green that provided a solid ground at the seated level, but was still light enough to ensure we had no shadowy depths in the soaring ceiling.  Though the room now feels more together, the beams and paint color actually seem to add space, rather than fill it up.

The genuine, down-to-earth depiction of the youngster’s emotion in the portrait is brought home in the raw, organic pieces we introduced to the room, which, when set against the more elegant and traditional furnishings, create a comfortable space with unmistakable mood.

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