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Wide Open Space Decor
Designing Dilemmas October 2007 - Third Edition

Wide Open Space Decor

Dear Debbie: When my wife and I first bought our house we loved the big open space it had for our "living space". But now I am trying to decorate with paint color, accessories, art, etc. and it is too overwhelming. Our "living" area consists of one big open space that has a vaulted ceiling about 14ft. tall. This open space includes our kitchen, breakfast area, living room, and dining room. The only walls in the whole area are around the dining room. It has an 8ft. tall wall that is open above because of the vaulted ceiling and there are 6ft. openings into the dining room (no doors). The rest of the rooms are wide open and have nothing to separate them from one another. I have tried to paint each a different color, but this does not look very pleasing to the eye... plus with the large walls I am having a hard time taking up the space up high... it looks so "blank". Is it possible to decorate each of these areas separately?. There has to be a way to make this wide open area flow somehow. I am not so sure I like my big open space any more. Help! Larry

Dear Larry: The big open space sounds like the Ponderosa- which tackled its problems with fencing. Let's give it a try!

Take a look at floor screens. They can do wonders to fill corners and dead space that make an area seem to go on forever. Consider open shelving units that keep the views intact from one area to another, but also serve as room dividers, separating one space from another. Best of all, you can display accessories in these shelving units and enjoy them from either side of the room. These are your best bets for "fencing" in one area of the room and "fencing" out another, without permanently blocking any of the wide-open Ponderosa feeling that you built into your home.

About that wide open ceiling- I have two ideas for you. First, the ceiling would be a great place to add paint- strong paint- to make the ceiling feel more connected to the floor and the furnishings in the room. The stronger you paint the ceiling, the cozier the space will feel. Your eye will be drawn to the ceiling color, making the wide open non-stop space feel more defined and cozier. You'll probably think I'm crazy when you read my next idea, but I've actually done this before and it's a wonderful design technique. Instead of painting the ceiling, suspend something from it. I don't mean a fan or a light fixture, but a large flat, open frame that makes a canopy over a particular area of the room. Think about the effect of leafy trees that connect over opposite sides of a road, providing a canopy as you walk or drive underneath. You can achieve this same effect with sculpture or even fabric, mounted on a large frame then suspended from the ceiling. I'm attaching a picture so you can see what I mean. If you want to make a statement, this would do the trick with style and sophistication.

Going Roman

Dear Debbie: I have beautiful red oak floors and have just purchased lovely new leather furniture in "cherry" stained leather. My room has 2 large windows (casement style, nice large open panes of glass) and I want to do new window treatments. The furniture style is traditional, but I really don't want draperies. Could I use roman shades? Thank You! Marion

Dear Marion: Yes! You could absolutely use roman shades! And there are so many kinds of roman shades so I'll give you a few pointers to help you make the best choice.

Do you have a rug in the room or many "soft" furnishings like a skirted table or upholstered chairs? If not, a soft fold roman shade would make the perfect window treatment. This treatment has many soft, but distinct folds of fabric spaced evenly throughout the length of the shade. By adding more fabric and softness on the window, you'll provide sound insulation (and keep the room from echoing) and add a nice balance to the leather sofa and wood floors- two very un-soft surfaces.

If softness is not a concern, a flat roman shade gives a more minimalist style, with folds of fabric occurring only when you pull up the shade. Because the shade is flat and simple, a well patterned fabric or trimming on the bottom will give more style and substance to this kind of window treatment.

Does the room have a lot of rectangles? Casement windows are often tall and thin (like me!) and a roman shade with a softly curved bottom looks wonderful on them. The folding fabric is relaxed and pulled up so that the sides of the shade create a soft bow in the center. It's simple, soft, elegant and a great contrast in a room of right angles.

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