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A two story fireplace is decorated with down-to-earth art and accessories. A two story fireplace is decorated with down-to-earth art and accessories.
Designing Dilemmas May 2007 - First Edition

Tall Stories in the Family Room

Dear Debbie: Two-story stone fireplaces are all the rage now. How should I decorate around it since it is the focal point of the room? A long, tall piece or short? Mirror or art? Accessories too? Help! Karen

Dear Karen: Stone fireplaces can be both a blessing and a curse. As a built-in focal point in family rooms, they do make a strong statement that you can't camouflage or ignore, even if you wanted to! But they require special care when decorating. While you should select items that complement your room décor, you will have to pay special attention to scale and proportion.

Should you use art or a mirror? Totally your call and to help you decide, ask yourself if the view the mirror will reflect is worth seeing twice! You want to enjoy the reflection, instead of looking at the kitchen appliances or the door to the powder room. Try a large round mirror to break up the straight lines in the room and be sure to keep the mirror's reflection low in the room and not higher than the first eight feet so that you are reflecting the room's furnishings and not the ceiling or ceiling fan.. The size of the mirror's frame is important and should be as grand as the room to keep the scale and proportion in balance. You don't want a puny mirror on a two story fireplace in a great room. Nor do you want all glass- a decorative, substantial frame will anchor this fireplace piece.

Similar rules about scale and proportion apply if you're using art to decorate the fireplace. Art selection is very personal and any piece you choose should have meaning to you. The challenge will be to find a piece, or a collection of pieces, with the height and breadth needed to be in proper scale and proportion with the two story fireplace and the room. At the same time, you don't want to be straining your neck to enjoy the display. As a general rule, the wider the piece (s), the less tall it will need to be to look "right". A mix of tall and short items will work as nicely as one single piece- just use what you like.

Flip This Room

Dear Debbie: We need an office! We have an open foyer/living room (no walls) that we never use and a dining room used for holidays only. Can I flip flop them and use the dining room as an office and the living room as a dining room without it looking terrible when you walk in my front door? How do I conceal office? Nicole

Dear Nicole: Yes, you can flip flop rooms with no problem. You're paying for that space every month in your mortgage payment, so use it!

Consider investing in an armoire or tall, modular wall unit that houses your home office. They come in every price range, style and finish and can be found in Ballard Designs catalogs, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, and even hi-end lines like McGuire through Baker Furniture. Search on-line and you'll find entire wall units composed of mix and match pieces that function as home offices....behind closed doors! The beauty of these units lies in their ability to camouflage your papers and office equipment behind doors so that no one need see your work area and personal information. If you need more space than this, you can add a table that functions as a desk and a low wall cabinet that houses supplies, printer and other office equipment- just place it along a wall with receptacles so that there are no exposed wires running across the floor. Once you've tackled work space and storage, do add comfortable seating and good lighting so that the room still functions for reading and entertaining friends.

There's no problem placing your dining room at the forefront of your home either. Make it bold and decorative so that it makes an impression right at the foyer, when you first enter your home. The larger space will be perfect for entertaining, even if it's only once a year! You'll now have the space to insert all the tables' leaves permanently. Only catch I see is the lighting. The old dining table fixture may be too small for the new, larger dining space. You'll need to supplement the room's lighting with some recessed fixtures, wall sconces and a larger table fixture. But before you know it, you will wonder how you ever lived with these spaces any other way.

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