Enlarge a room with dark colors and large furnishings

May 09, 2009|By ROSE BENNETT GILBERT / Creators Syndicate

Q: Our old Victorian home (1904) has a lot of small rooms on the top floor -- the "rabbit warren," my husband calls it. We have a student tenant living in one, and I'm thinking about taking another as a hobby room for myself. I need ideas about color and furniture. I guess I should paint it white because it's so small.

A: Not necessarily so. Obviously, you have researched and learned that white and light colors equal a more spacious feeling, but rules can be bent.

Look how designer Garrow Kedigian uses dark, warm colors in the small pictured room -- and we do mean small: 7 feet 10 inches by 10 feet -- a former servant's quarters in the Manhattan mansion, where this year's Kips Bay Designer Show House is being held until May 17 (

Kedigian says the room is a throwback to his first-ever design project, for a woman whose stressful Park Avenue life made her crave a private getaway room where "she could escape husband and children to read, write and contemplate."


Kedigian's show house room may be closet-small, but it's large on cosseting with a classical theme. This "jewel box" is created with orangey/brown walls, brown velvet upholstery and outsized elements, which also goes against the conventional wisdom that small rooms require small furnishings. Here, the room-maker is a giant painting of Vladimir Mayakovsky, the Russian poet, writer and idealist.

The dark walls and ceiling enhance the snug illusion, but the most effective illusion of all comes from the faux mouldings - they're simply painted on the varnished walls.

If you visit the show house in person, you'll see yet another illusion created by the designer: an "oculus," a small window patterned on the ancient Pantheon in Rome. Kedigian broke through the wall to allow a glimmer of natural light into the windowless room as a "reminder of our connection to the outside world."

For more of Kedigian's legerdemain, click on

Q: What's new at High Point, the furniture capital of the world?

A: Many old items are new again, judging from the furniture offerings unveiled during the recent High Point Market (itself hitting the 100-year mark). But none are more interesting than the trend to reclaim and recycle wood from buildings 75 to 150 years old.

We're used to the idea in flooring, but it's new to the furniture industry. As manufacturers get in step with the march toward sustainability, abandoned factories, old buildings and many wood items from the good old days are being reincarnated as interestingly patinated tables, chairs and chests.

One of the best efforts came from Turning House Furniture ( of Bassett, Va., which unveiled many wood pieces that are otherwise unavailable today. HB2 Resources, the creative team led by industry veterans Dixon Bartlett and Caroline Hipple, waxed inventive with century-old birds-eye maple, old-growth oak, vintage pine and rare species like American chestnut.

"These are all woods that grew in the shadow of the Appalachians," according to Spencer Morten III, Turning House CEO and chairman as well as a fourth-generation furniture manufacturer. Well-aged and marked with "nature's fingerprints" -- worm holes, natural mineral streaks and wind checks caused by the trees twisting in the wind -- the woods make for pieces with individual personalities. No two can ever be exactly alike.

"It's a joy to transform these aged woods into fresh design and to do something good for our planet," Bartlett says.

Also on the reclaiming bandwagon, The Old Wood Co., of Asheville, N.C., reimagines wood from old buildings into remotely contemporary styles, often incorporating simple metal legs.

Their "Old Wood Select" collection offers rare wood species. The aptly named "Bourbon" round table is made from authentic Kentucky bourbon barrel heads; some are branded with the bourbon-brewer's inventory codes. See the line at

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

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