Comfortable Living Room Comfortable Living Room

As we move from autumn's splendor into the chillier temperatures of winter, we wanted to analyze a room that offers warmth and comfort even in the coldest climates. So we chose this room to put under the microscope of the Sheffield Guidelines to Interior Design - function, mood, and harmony.

This home, located in Burlington, Vt., has to give the appearance of warmth, because most of the year it's surrounded by banks of snow, and keeping the heat turned up high could easily make a flush bank account drain to a whiter shade of pale.

In this case, the mood of the room takes our attention first. It would best be categorized as "eclectic," because the decorator hasn't limited herself to strictly using any one style. The room could also be called warm, comfortable, "shabby chic," and a little old-fashioned, but it has some modern notes as well.

One adage in interior design is to start with the flooring, and build the room's style around that. Here, the large Oriental rug, which nearly covers the entire floor, sets the tone, with its rich, deep, reds and elegant pattern.

That red is picked up and darkened a bit for one wall; but note, it's just for one wall, the one alongside the home's front window, which fronts close to the street. Had all the walls been painted this dark, the room would move beyond feeling warm to feeling downright claustrophobic. Here, the white walls balance the dark of the red.

The mood of warmth and comfort is furthered by the comfortable furniture. These are clearly not show-pieces provided more for perching than for sitting; the two chairs and the sofa all call for a visitor to snuggle in for a big glass of burgundy and a long conversation.

The red leather easy-chair, as you can see from the close-up, is an old favorite. Other decorators may choose to reupholster such a piece, but in this room, the wear and tear only adds to its charm, and contributes to the "shabby chic" style.

Turning to the function of this room, it is a room, as we've said, that's meant to be used. There is plenty of seating for the family and visitors to enjoy each other's company. The chairs and sofa are close enough that people can talk easily from one piece to the other. The coffee table, and the end table by the yellow Mission-style chair provide surfaces for drinks or books and magazines.

The work-specific light in this room is provided by the standing lamp and the table lamp on the table with the photos behind the sofa, so that the person in the Mission chair and the person on the sofa both have enough reading light.

In addition, ambient is provided by the windows on the narrow end of the room. Because these windows face so directly onto the sidewalk, the decorator has wisely chosen to use blinds which can be pulled up or down, so that they can block the view from the street while allowing in maximum light.

This is a home that's over 150 years old, and the ceiling is low by today's standards. To offset that, the beams were painted white, so that they fade up a bit into the ceiling rather than seeming to hang oppressively low.

An antique hutch anchors the other end of this room, displaying a group of blue and white pottery and a few of the homeowner's own sculpture. It's this kind of personal touch that makes a room really belong to its owner; here, the pottery reflects the owner's interest in antiques, which is also exhibited in some of the other furnishings.

Finally, looking at the harmony of this room, we see that even though there is a variety of styles, and even several colors, everything works together in harmony. The red leather chair picks up the tones of the rug and the wall, and is enhanced with a pattered cushion in a slightly different red. That pattern echoes the pattern in the rug and in the other cushion, and it's mimicked slightly in the shade on the standing lamp. The color of the sofa doesn't exactly match that of the Mission chair, but it complements it, and both the sofa and the Mission chair colors complement the reds, while acting to cool them off a bit as well.

Now, for the modern notes in the room: the coffee table. Because of its plain, sleek style, and because it's in natural wood, the table can bring in just a touch of modernity, keeping the room updated without throwing off the essential mood. In addition, the window shades are quite modern, but because they are plain white, they don't draw attention to themselves.

Overall, this room provides a cozy place of comfort and relaxation, a place to warm up on a cold winter's night.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design.

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