Curves, color, texture blur condo's boxy edges

DEAR DEBBIE: How can I make my new condo look more interesting? The architecture is sterile and the bulkheads intrusive. -- Penny.

DEAR PENNY: Most apartments and condominiums are boxy, and there's no getting around the bulkheads either. But there are many decorative tricks to help you create a warm, inviting atmosphere, no matter what the initial structure.

Contemporary design is synonymous with sleek, hard edges, but too much of anything kills the overall intent. In order to make a positive impact, introduce opposing elements and the entire picture becomes balanced. As the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang explains, it is within the energy of opposites that we find comfort.

I was faced with the same challenges that you describe in my new city condo and I asked my good friend Mazyar Mortazavi from Tas DesignBuild for inspiration. Mazyar cleverly introduced some feature curves that changed the entire focus of the walls.

In the living room, he designed a walnut panel that runs along the ceiling and curves seamlessly down the wall to become the base for the plasma television and audio system. Both the shape and the warm hues of the wood designate the space as the lounging area. Underfoot, a thick, loopy noodle carpet is a tactile delight visually and to the touch.

In contrast with the low table, best accessed when sitting on the carpet, are the large, blue sofas that give the space boundaries. The wall of windows opens the condo up to the outside, keeping it bright and spacious. Since privacy is not an issue, I opted for no window coverings, as I prefer the unobstructed view. But you could introduce more curves here with a shaped valance or swag.

Not seen from this angle is the long back wall, which has been painted a bright fuchsia. This cheerful color imbues the entire condo with spirit. It's bold and playful, just what I was looking for.

Boxy doesn't ever have to be boring -- use your imagination to fill the space with textures, colors and shapes that invite the eye to investigate and you'll have made a brilliant transformation.

DEAR DEBBIE: I have constructed a small garden toolshed (functional garden art). Would you please advise me on some options for achieving a weathered appearance for the new lumber, perhaps shades of green, blue and brown? Thank you. -- Russell.

DEAR RUSSELL: I love your definition of functional garden art for a toolshed, and it tells me that you wouldn't be happy with anything too plain.

I would be inclined to give the new wood a pickled look. Choose a pale-gray exterior latex paint and rub it into the wood. Work in the direction of the grain, painting on and rubbing off the excess so that you see the wood's grain. Then it's up to you. Using the same technique, paint the doors blue and the trim the same color as the roof -- dark brown or green, but not both.


Debbie Travis is a columnist for King Features Syndicate. E-mail questions to her at