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A console table behind the sofa divides a family room from the small sitting area behind it. A console table behind the sofa divides a family room from the small sitting area behind it.

For a more natural look, don't match colors- blend them. For a more natural look, don't match colors- blend them.
Designing Dilemmas March 2007 - Second Edition

Divide and Conquer Your Living/Dining Spaces

Dear Debbie: I am trying to find a way to separate my living and dining room area. I know that using furniture may be an option, but I was leaning toward adding a wall, partition, etc. between the dining and living room. Do you have any suggestions? Monica

Dear Monica: The question is, do you think there might be a time when you want to extend your dining space into the living room area, say for a large dinner party? The answer will lead you to whether this partition should be permanent and stationary or mobile.

Permanent solutions include a full floor to ceiling wall with a four to five foot opening, or a partial wall, as high as a typical counter or even a bit more. You can even build storage and display space into the walls with glass doors or open shelving. The cabinets/shelves can be open and accessible from either room. Doing this gives the illusion of continuous space- a feature that might help keep your rooms feeling open, but connected. You can also install sliding panels on a track or bi-fold doors- either of these two options will allow you to truly close off one room from the other and open them up when you want. It's not unusual to see paneled bi-fold doors done in homes like yours- it gives you the best of both worlds.

If you use furniture to separate space, make sure the piece(s) is finished on both sides. A cabinet or open shelving unit on locking casters would define the two rooms from one another, offer display space and move out of the way when you need to open up the area for better traffic flow. In the living room, a sofa or loveseat with a console table behind it will do the job too.

Another option is to install floor to ceiling curtains on either side of the opening that connects the living and dining rooms. Mount them on the ceiling and use tie backs to drape them back to the wall. The curtains will frame the space, just as they frame a large picture window and they'll serve as a room divider/entry way between the two spaces. If you've got shedding pets or kids, this is probably not your most durable option!

Two Colors Are Better Than One

Dear Debbie: We recently painted our family room from all plain white walls to Benjamin Moore's "Adobe Dust" (this is in between terracotta and rust) on one wall and a "Hepplewhite Ivory" color on all the other walls. We have a sage colored (microfiber) couch and love seat. The 8 X 11 area rug is contemporary with lots of distinct colors (rust, sage, blues, beige, maroon etc). The décor in the room is also mostly colored /ethnic stuff. All colors match the walls, couch and rug. We have one 34" window on the darker wall and a 72" patio door on the ivory wall. I need to choose valances for the door and window. My question is, can I choose two different colored valances - one for the door and one for the window? I am having a tough time finding a valance in a color that contrasts well on both wall colors. Hence the option to choose two different color. The valances I have in mind are made from the same type of fabric / manufacturer just in different colors. One is a striped combination of rust/ivory/bronze for the patio door. The other is a striped combination of ivory/bronze/sage for the window. Will this idea fly? M

Dear M: I feel like I'm in a James Bond movie addressing you as "M", but.......Yes! You can do the same valances in two complementary color ways of the same fabric. It will add another layer of interest to your decor and solve your problem. And here's another piece of advice. From what you describe, it seems as if everything in the room is carefully matched. Use caution! Rooms that look and feel "natural" do not match in color. If you look through design magazines, you'll find that professionals choose colors that are slightly off from each other. The sage green on your upholstery should be darker or lighter than the sage green in the carpet- they shouldn't match perfectly. You can even add in another color when choosing fabric for the valances. A stripe with a pale blue or butter would give more depth to your color scheme. It's just more "natural" to mix it up a bit. You'll enjoy your room decor even more.

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