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When this Gainesville, Virginia family first approached me to design their family room I didn’t know they would become one of my absolute favorite clients. Judging by their collection of beautiful items for around the world, they have great taste, there is no doubt about it. But the more I got to know them, see them interact with each other and the way they totally and completely collaborated with me on their design project was so easy going and positive, it made every moment of designing their space and implementing their design so pleasurable and easy. When we first started talking they shared with me stories of their travels and their collection of amazing furnishings and accessories from around the world. They also shared that they enjoy spending time with their tween children at home and wanted to create a family room that made them all feel great. It had to be comfortable for lounging and watching movies together, doing homework, as well as mild entertaining. It also had to feel incredibly warm and inviting. They wanted to incorporate a mildly Tuscan feel without it feeling thematic or over the top. They wanted the warmth and texture of Tuscany with the an updated feel.

The Design
Together we landed on a warm, golden yellow that just brightens up the space and invites you in. I then brought in a lot of texture and contrast with the olive colored draperies. I embellished them with red, green and gold fringe trim on the leading edge. A simple french pleat header adds to the traditional feel. We hung them from vintage gold wood traversing rods to finish off the look. On the sofas we went more bold with the red and gold stripe on the chair and a half and a textured red with gold undertones on the sofa. The accent pillows tie the fabrics together. The piece de la resistance is a gorgeous accent chair which I upholstered in a red fabric with grey/black medallions. A small accent table and floor lamp creates a comfy reading nook for early Sunday morning paper reading. Here are the results:

Sofa, chair and chair and a half are from Bassett Furniture. Draperies are Creative Elegance Interiors. Fireplace arched accent is from Uttermost and fireplace screen is from Willow House.

We tied the breakfast area and kitchen to the family room by adding short box pleated valances in a decorative, embroidered fabric in a slightly lighter green color. We kept the breakfast room treatments short so as not block out any great natural light.

One of my favorite parts of my job is combining and coordinating fabrics and textiles.  When you see a perfectly designed room in a magazine, you often fine combinations of fabrics, patterns, textures and colors that you probably wouldn’t have thought to put together yourself, yet they look so perfectly executed within the design.  There is an art to combining fabrics and textiles to get a beautiful, cohesive, well-designed look.  But it doesn’t have to be so difficult.  Here are a few simple rules I use to help me perfectly combine fabric and textiles in my designs.

* Find a unifying color – you can easily combine different patterns of fabrics and textiles if you choose one unifying color among all of them to tie them together.  For example, in my family room I have chosen blue-green as my unifying color.  I have successfully been able to combine a small Ikat print in small accent pillows, with a slightly larger geometric in the draperies, a solid silk accent pillow and a floral metallic wallpaper in the back of the built-in, using the blue green as the unifier.  The sofa is a darker blue and the rich dark woods around the room help to ground it all.

*Choose one fabric and pull your other colors from that one fabric.  It should be a bolder fabric and should be the used as the highlight or centerpiece of your design.  For my master bedroom I have selected several beautiful fabrics from Thibaut for my upcoming redo.  In this case, I fell in love with the bold floral print.  I pulled the blue out again in the fabric for the soft shades.  The green Ikat will either be cornices above the shades or accent pillows and the solid blue will likely be the custom uphosltered headboard.  The large print floral that I fell in love with will be the new upholstery on a new pair of chairs I have yet to find.

Fabric selections for my upcoming master bedroom redo.

*Don’t forget about texture.  Varying your texture can help to add depth to your design.  Even if you are using the same color or a more monochromatic color scheme, varying the textures can help give life and depth to the design of the room.  Consider combining a chenille with a woven with a wool and add a bit of silk for glamour.

*Use textured solids or tone on tone, large scaled patterns on the large pieces and add punches of busier pattern and textures in your smaller pieces.  By using textured solids or tone on tone on your larger pieces you are keeping them more neutral, making it easy to change out your accents later on.  If you put a large, heavy or busy print on a larger piece (such as a sofa), it can limit you if you choose to change your decor down the road.

My living room sofa with a tone on tone damask fabric.

A textured neutral on the sofa and tone on tone modern metallic fabric on the chairs allows us to play with other patterns throughout the room in this Alexandria home.

Selecting fabric patterns and textures can be a lot of fun and can really help to pull together the design of your room.  Don’t be afraid to try unique and unusual combinations of fabric patters and colors.  You just might surprise yourself at the cool new look you might create.

I love accent chairs.  If it were up to me, the whole house would be full of beautiful accent chairs in all sorts of fun and funky fabrics.  I guess it is up to me, however, having a home full of fun and funky accent chairs would not be very practical for my growing family.  So I’ve settled a few beautiful accent chairs in interesting design styles and textures to finish off my living room and family room and am excited because I have found the perfect fabric for some accent chairs that I will one day have in my master bedroom.  Accent chairs are a great way to add additional, movable seating to a space and to add pops of color, texture and/or interest to as space.  Because they are usually a bit smaller, they can easily withstand a bolder fabric that really reflects you style.  Because they are smaller they are also easier and less expensive to reupholster if you happen to get sick of that bolder fabric. There are many incredibly beautiful chair design styles you can use in your decor.  The slipper chair has become quite popular in recent years as a great accent chair choice.  Here is a picture of a pair of slipper chairs I have used in my family room.  If you read my blog this is not the first time you’ve seen these.  Recently we purchased the second chair to match and finish off the seating in the living room.  It is the Bassett Furniture Chandler Chair in Raffia. You’ve also seen the beautiful, t-back exposed wood chairs upholstered in a blue knit fabric.  These finish off my family room so nicely.  The fabric is actually quite soft and the chairs are really comfortable.   Yes, I said I was done in there but honestly, my work is never done.  We switched the wood coffee table we had in the family room to the living room and bought the Peekaboo Coffee Table (www.cb2.com) CB2 last week.  We love how it opens up the space and allows a full, clear view to the fireplace. Here are other beautiful accent chairs from other projects we’ve worked on:

5248 Chair from DR Kincaid for a client in Alexandria.  The black chair in the
background is the 8196 Chair also by DR Kincaid.
Traditional wing-back chair in office of client in Alexandria.
Flychair from BoConcepts for bachelor pad in Arlington, VA.

As I said in my last post, reupholstering old pieces is a great way to give them new life and to recycle.  It can save the piece from being tossed and in some cases can save you money from having to buy a new piece all together (depending on the fabric you choose, if you embellish, etc.)  So how do you know if a piece is worthy or reupholstery?  There are few tips that I can provide to help you decide.

*How is it holding up?  Are the cushions deflated, flattened or lumpy?  Has it basically retained its shape over the years?  How are the cushions constructed?  There are many materials from which your cushions could be constructed, including: down (most expensive), down lined with Decron Polyester fibers or Blendown (still expensive), and polyurethane wrapped in cotton or other fibers (most reasonable) are among the most common fillings.  If your cushions are made of high density, good quality foam they will not have broken down (or would have broken down less) over time.  Even your cushions are not holding up, however, there are other factors to consider in the construction of your sofa so don’t let this be the only deciding factor.  A good upholsterer can always provide you with new cushions to replace poor quality ones (of course, this will add to your overall price).

Client's reupholstered antique settee.

Here is another picture of the 50’s sleeper sofa I purchased and had reupholstered in a linen blend fabric…

1950's Sleeper Sofa reupholstered in linen blend. It was in excellent condition and is an incredible quality piece. The cushions needed to be remade and we replaced the mattress. We are very happy with it.

*Does it have good, solid bones?  If the piece is sturdy, strong and well constructed, you should definitely consider giving it a facelift. One of the tell tales signs of a quality piece of furniture is the joint system.  Good quality pieces have mitered joint systems or are dovetailed or tongue and grooved, and the frames are often glued and screwed together.  If the piece is made of particle board or plywood and the frame is held together with staples, it is probably not worth investing in reupholstery for the piece.

*Quality of exposed wood – if your piece has any exposed wood (dining chairs, sofas with wood legs, etc.) what kind of shape is the wood in?  If it has a few knicks and scratches it can probably be repaired fairly easily or these can add to the charm of the piece.  If the wood is rotted or broken or falling apart, you may want to reconsider as it may be costly to repair the piece.  Painting or restaining exposed wood is also an option but you may have to do some heavy sanding to remove any top coat that has been added so that the piece will take new paint or stain.  Here are pictures, before and after of my breakfast room chairs which I got from an old neighbor when I fell in love with the back design and I repainted and reupholstered them to be more interesting and updated.

Unpainted, pre-reupholstered dining room chairs I got from a neighbor. They are over 30 years old and were in great shape except for some scrapes and scratches. I had reupholstered them when I first got them in a paisley fabric.

My chairs now, painted in a blue metallic paint and reupholstered in brown polka-dotted fabric.

*Does it, or can it work with your existing or new decor?  It is important to consider if refacing a piece will allow it to fit more nicely into your decor.  There are some very creative things that can be done with old pieces to bring them up to date and give them updated style.  You can get creative with your fabric choice.  I love seeing traditional wingback chairs in very contemporary or graphic fabric patterns and colors, for example.  Don’t discount a piece because it simply looks dated.  Think about how you could make it into a contemporary piece that is perhaps fun and funky, or unique, or almost art like.  Paint can take furniture a long way these days.  Take a look at these pictures…

Traditional chairs in contemporary silk fabric from a project I completed in Alexandria.

I have these fantastic chairs that I actually got for free from a neighbor at my old house.  I drove by them in the morning and fell in love and they were still there when I came back in the afternoon.  They were with a circular dining table (which I regret not getting) and I asked him if he would sell the chairs alone.  He told me to take them.  He mentioned that they were 30 years old.  They have seen better days but are in good condition.  I loved the detailing on the backs.  The fabric on the seats was atrocious but I was able to look past that at their potential.  When I first got them I reupholstered them in a more traditional paisley fabric.  But when we moved here I decided I wanted to do something more fun and contemporary with them.  My solution, I had Andrew at Vienna Paint of Gainesville help me to paint them in a metallic blue color.  Vienna Paints sells a great metallic product that can be used for walls, furniture and other things.  On the walls you typically want to use a sprayer as painting this product with a brush will leave streak marks.  It is a glaze so you have to give whatever you are painting a base coat of regular paint and then go over that with your metallic glaze product.  I love the way it looks.

So I painted two of the chairs.  It took Andrew a while to get these two painted because it seemed like every time he started to paint, someone came into the store and needed help.  This product dries quickly and will leave streak marks if you are not careful so starting and stopping was not a good idea.  He finally got two of the four chairs completed.  Now I’m trying to decide if I want to do the other two in the same color or if I want to be creative and do them in a brown metallic, or a regular brown paint color.    I would love to hear thoughts if anyone has an opinion on this either way.  I am leaning towards doing all four in blue but I’m not so sure…

I changed the fabric on the two chairs that I had painted once more to a more contemporary circular pattern design in a brown that matches more closely with the rug that the chairs sit on.  Take a look at the before and afters..

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Another view of the chair newly painted and reupholstered.

I love finding beautiful old pieces and giving them a new life.  You would be surprised how unique and updated an antique piece can look when you place it among more contemporary furnishings.  I have acquired this beautiful antique sofa that was made for my great, great grandmother in the Dominican Republic.  It is a beautiful sofa that has more traditional lines.  However, I have decided that it will have a home among my more contemporary and updated traditional furnishings.  I have happily placed it in my living room.  It patiently awaits a new coffee table which I have yet to find.  I am having some beautiful accent pillows made to compliment the damask fabric that my aunt reupholstered it in.  It is a piece of my past, that has been handed down from family member to family member and I so honored to have it my home.  I personally think it looks fantastic here.  Check it out.

Here is a photo of my great, great grandmother's antique sofa in my living room.

I love the traditional lines and the detailing on the arms and legs.

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