HomeSource - Color, furnishings help manage large spaces


Q: Everybody else complains about rooms that are too small, but I have the opposite problem: the entire downstairs of our new house is one big open space. All the houses in this complex are like this. Yet, I haven't seen many room arrangements I like enough to live with. People just seem to throw in everything so you can't tell where the "dining room" is and where the "living room" begins. I like more organization. But how?

A: Yours is a bewilderment of riches. To tame so much space without actually building walls or barriers, you'll have to think organized.

That's just what the design team from Fitzgerald Design Systems has accomplished in the spacious country home we show here. Not only do the rooms all flow together, the ceiling soars two stories high, further exaggerating the effect of openness. To bring things down to size without abusing the graciousness of the space, the designers used area rugs and wall-hung art.


One rug anchors the seating area in the foreground, staking a visual claim to the "living room" seating grouping. Backing that claim is a pair of flower paintings hung over the sofa. By night, table lamps, one at each end of the sofa, literally embrace and demarcate the space within a warm circle of light.

On the other side of the room another, smaller and less-formal seating area invites relaxing by the fire. Meanwhile, yet another arrangement - the dining table and chairs - claims the area just off the kitchen as the "dining room." Each of the elements is self-contained and holds together as a cohesive unit, even as they blend into the overall space. Color has a lot to do with the success of the arrangements: the palette of soft creams and yellows unites the entire first floor, balanced by the dark woods of the floor, furniture and overhead beams.

For more info on mastering inner space, have a look at a very smart book by Kira Wilson Gould with Saxon Henry, called "Big Home, Big Challenge" (McGraw-Hill). In addition to using area rugs and furniture groupings, the authors list other ways to define space, among them: a change of color; change of elevation; architectural details such as beams, wainscoting and columns; variation in floor texture, finish or pattern; and modulated lighting.

Q: We moved from one apartment to another and were disappointed to find that the lovely swags we had made for our first windows didn't fit the second. They were custom-made and the fabric coordinates with our sofa cover, so we're trying to find a way to keep them. Any suggestions?

A: I have a brilliant solution, stolen directly from designer Jerome Hanauer, (917) 446-5158, who faced a similar situation for clients changing apartments in New York City. When they found that the new windows weren't compatible with the size of their old swags, Hanauer simply removed each swag from its supporting board, pulled out the stitches and took out the lining to let the fabric lie flat once again.

Then he brushed wallpaper paste inside the top of the window reveal and up to the ceiling line above, and pressed the fabric in place, carefully squaring the sides and top edge. When the fabric was dry, he edged the sides in flat braid (attached with Elmer's glue), and then gave the entire fabric surface a coat of clear shellac to "bring up the colors," the designer explained. Voila! Creative recycling that cost nothing and looks like a million.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Please send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190, or online at

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