DEAR GAIL: Can you help me with my living room? It’s about 600 square feet with 12 foot ceilings and white walls. I have gray carpet, a black baby grand piano, a purple sectional, glass tables and everything feels cold and dull. When I originally decorated I wanted a clean simple look, but we never go in because it’s so uninviting. I don’t want to replace any of my furniture, but I’m ready for a change. What can you suggest? — Maggie R.
DEAR MAGGIE: One reason your room feels so cold is that all your colors are cool tones, plus you have glass tables. You need to add some warm tones. There always needs to be some warm and cool colors in a room, otherwise it will feel uncomfortable and unbalanced.
Two warm colors to consider adding are gold and red. When used with black and purple, both of these colors create very rich color schemes. Since you have white walls, it’s time to grab your paint brush and get some color up on the walls.
Gold will immediately warm up your room but just make sure to use a darker gold tone and not something that is too bright. Gold and yellow are great warm and cheery colors, but if you go too bright you get what I call “Hello Yellow” because it glows and hits you right in the face. Look at the colors toward the bottom on the paint color strip.
Now if you want to be bold, red would be striking. But, it needs to be deep so that it doesn’t go to the pink side.
Using gold or red will bring excitement into the room, solving that dull feeling.
If both of these colors scare you, another option would be a neutral in the brown family, like a tan or sand tone. Look for a color that has more gold in it than gray. Watch out for taupe as most shades have gray and pink undertones. If you decide to use a neutral color on your walls, do you have any art niches or architectural features where you could paint one of the other colors? Even just a little bit of an accent color will make a big difference.
High ceilings also can make a room feel cool to some people. I know many people love the spaciousness that high ceilings give, but they can make a room feel cold. So you need to visually lower the ceiling, which can be easily done with paint.
The color you select for your walls will determine what color to paint the ceiling. I wouldn’t suggest red walls and a red ceiling, so stay neutral on the ceiling with red. If your walls are neutral, paint the ceiling at least two shades darker, but you could paint it red or gold. The darker the color the lower the ceiling will appear. Then add crown molding to have a breaking point between your walls and ceiling, and another element to get rid of the dullness. I like to paint my crown the same color as the baseboard and trim.
Since your room is fairly large, you’re seeing a lot of the gray carpet, a cool color. To warm it up, add color and pattern by bringing in an area rug. Try to look for a rug that has all of the colors in your room. Don’t obsess if they’re not all there or if there are other colors in the rug, as long as the main colors are from your color scheme.
Now add some additional textiles with accent pillows. Mix and match the fabrics and pillow styles. If you don’t sew and don’t want to invest in having them made, check out the home accessory departments of area stores. You can find wonderful pillows with trims and tassels in beautiful fabrics for less than $40. While you’re there, look at the chenille throws; even on the warmest days, there is something inviting about a luxurious throw.
If you have a lot of windows, the glass also will make the room feel cooler. We think of glass as being cold to the touch, even though, at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, our windows are pretty warm. Simple but elegant treatments are drapery panels on a wood pole. The panels can simply be ones with a rod pocket top that gathers on the pole. They can hang down straight or be pulled back with tassel tiebacks.
Proper lighting in a room is very important to making it feel warm and inviting. Make sure that all your seating has lighting near it and that there are no dark areas in the room. Use can lights behind your trees and floor plants, which will cast a wonderful glow and reflection on the wall.
Finally, you can add a lot of color and interest with your finishing touches: accessories. Bring height, texture and color into each accessory grouping. Add greenery, but if you don’t have a green thumb use nice quality silk greens.
If you’re unsure about how to accessorize, take an afternoon and walk through some model homes or better furniture stores to see how they have them arranged. Take along a camera and snap pictures of groupings that you like. Then take the pictures shopping with you and duplicate the look.
Maggie, by adding color, textures and light into your living room, it will transform it from cool and dull to warm, inviting and exciting.
Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is: www.GMJinteriors.com.