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Fanning the Family Room

Designing a Bigger, Brighter Apartment
Designing Dilemmas May 2006

Fanning the Family Room

Dear Debbie: We bought a new home that has a two-story great room. We get to choose a ceiling fan. Do I go with white to fade into the background or do I go with cherry to match the relaxed formal setting (cherry end tables and t.v. armoire). It will be without a light - just a fan. I am getting conflicting opinions from family members! Bonnie

Dear Bonnie: I'll share some of the best life advice I ever received- from my maternal grandmother no less. She said, "If you want to be happy in your life, live it for yourself, not your family!" Wise words. Now, about that ceiling fan. As I thought about your answer, it occurred to me that in the past, when I've purchased and installed ceiling fans for many, many clients, sometimes I've chosen white fans and sometimes I've chosen wood-stained fans. There's been no hard and fast rule to follow. I've chosen the fans based on two factors: 1. function and 2. style.

When it comes to function, especially in a two-story great room, choose a fan with a wide blade span (50 inches or more) and a down-rod, so that air circulates closer to down to the first floor, where it will really increase your comfort when using the great room. Look for these options among the choices the builder offers you.

When it comes to style, choose a fan, with a blade span and down- rod, that best complements the style of your room. Whether it's white or cherry, the best choice will do the job well and complement your room style, be it traditional or contemporary. Pay attention to metal finishes as well. Fans now come with a choice of white, black, brass, chrome, brushed chrome, nickel and everything in between. If your door, cabinet hardware and lighting fixtures all match, try to choose a fan that will as well. For example, if your door hinges and handles, kitchen cabinet knobs and table lamps are all brushed nickel, choose a fan with brushed nickel hardware. There's no right or wrong between white or wood-stained. Just choose a fan that's functional and fits your style. And as my grandma would tell you, if she were still here "It's your house, choose whatever fan you like."

Designing a Bigger, Brighter Apartment

Dear Debbie: I live in a studio basement apt in Glover Park. There are low ceilings and just one tiny window. How do I make the small room feel bigger? And what can I do to brighten a room with no natural light? Liza

Dear Liza: I'm recommending paint and lighting to help make your small home seem more open and bright. First, the paint. Choose a pale color for your walls, like a soft yellow, fern green, periwinkle or blue. Even a pale pumpkin will work. The key here is to choose the actual color based on your style and your furnishings. Get something you like or use two colors you like and use one color to highlight a long wall or niche. Just keep it light to keep your place looking a bit brighter, happier and more spacious. Next, paint your trim and moldings in a bright white. Even though it tends to make a room look a bit more traditional, it also makes a room look fresher and brighter, so window frames, doors and any trim in white will be a good thing in your apartment. Now, the ceiling. My rule of thumb has always been that if you use a warm color on the walls, use a cool color on the ceiling, and vice versa. This holds true in your home too. Add just a hint of color to your ceiling (choose a blue tint with warm wall colors or a yellow tint with cool wall colors) to help improve the look and feel of your space.

Next, the lighting. You need lots of it! Check out Sharper Image, or on-line and mail order catalogs for "full spectrum" lighting and light bulbs. They more closely resemble actual daylight than standard incandescent bulbs, so you'll be doing yourself and your apartment a big favor by adding light that boosts your mood and brightens your home. Use a variety of fixtures- table, floor and clip-ons (from Target) that adhere to shelves and table tops. (I'm assuming that you don't want to add permanent wall or ceiling fixtures in your rental.) By mixing up the fixtures, you'll have ambient lighting (the floor lamps), task lighting (the table lamps) and accent lighting (the clip-ons) that will make your apartment bright, warm and user-friendly.

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