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Balanced pattern establishes stability in busy rooms

January 17, 2009

By ROSE BENNETT

GILBERT

Creators Syndicate

Q: I am at a loss about furniture arranging. Our living room has a fireplace in the center of one wall - windows opposite - and open doorways on both ends leading from the hallway to the sun porch. We are about to buy a new sofa, but there's no wall. Where should I put it? I love the warmth and formality of traditional-style decorating. Can you help?

A: Don't buy just "a sofa," buy two! Ditto for other furnishings you're adding to your new home. A well-balanced, symmetrical furniture arrangement is a sure way to anchor a room where traffic runs through. Face the matching sofas (or love seats if your space is small) in front of the fireplace with a low cocktail table between; the room will look and feel "established."

Symmetry also conjures a feeling of formality. It bespeaks order and calm, which is the overall attitude of the formal - but warm and inviting - pictured sitting room. Look closely and you'll see that the room is a mirror image with the fireplace at its epicenter: two sofas, two cocktail tables, two armchairs, two lamps on the mantel, two side tables under two large wall hangings.

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Or should we be saying it in French, "deux," considering that we've borrowed this room from a book called "Bringing Paris Home," written by designer Penny Drue Baird (The Monacelli Press). Baird's design firm Dessins is based in both New York and Paris, but her sensibilities are gloriously Gallic: refined, often formal, touched with antiques and appealing to all the senses.

Q: Are designer show houses just for show?

A: More for showing off the designers' skills, yes. That's half the story; the other half is about raising money for a charity or other good cause.

Offering an opportunity for a bravura performance, designer show houses have become important marketing tools for interior designers and other home professionals across the country. Because they can strut their stuff unencumbered by an actual client, imaginations can run free and demonstrate the range of talents to would-be clients.

It's a win-win all around: funds for a worthy cause, exposure for the designers and a wealth of ideas for you, the visiting home decorator, to take home and appropriate under your own roof.

Take-aways might have included recipes when l8 lucky guests were recently invited to the opulent Renaissance dining room, which New York designer Charles Pavarini III created for the Holiday House show house in an historic 1919 mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

High (l4-foot curved and carved plaster ceiling), wide (19 feet by 32 feet) and dramatically handsome, with a soaring centerpiece of tree branches and lamps marching down the baronial table, Pavarini's dining room was too compelling to be admired from only behind velvet ropes. So he turned the setting into a tableau vivant of sorts, inviting guests to enjoy a formal dinner that also raised funds for the show house charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.

Copyright 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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