: I have a spare bedroom I’m dying to redecorate, but I’m not sure how to approach this tricky space because the room is small and doesn’t get much natural light.
A: Instead of fighting the room’s small, closed-in feel, why not embrace it? Turn it into a cozy cocoon that envelopes guests in its warmth and softness. That’s exactly what my friend Cynthia did when she took on the challenge of redecorating a spare bedroom that sounds a lot like yours.
This middle bedroom, sandwiched in the center of the home, was so tiny the home’s previous owners used it as a large closet. Cynthia didn’t need the extra closet space, but she did need a spot that would double as a study for her husband and a guest room for visiting friends and family.
Since no amount of decorating tricks could make this room seem large, Cynthia abandoned the thought and decided instead to make the diminutive space as dramatic as she could.
In a bold move, she painted the walls Twilight, a deep, dark blue that’s one step from navy. For high contrast, she covered the wood trim in Garrity cream, a fabulous shade of off-white that looks perfect paired with every wall color known to man.
Since I have this exact color combination in my dining room, I know firsthand how showy it can be. I was on pins and needles waiting to see what Cynthia would do against this backdrop.
Since the room’s focal point was an exquisite French walnut bed, she started there. Through the years, the bed frame had acquired a golden-brown patina, which inspired Cynthia to add a third color to her blue-and-cream palette: caramel. She and I had a blast looking at swatches of fabric, finally picking out a to-die-for group of textiles that wove together the room’s navy, cream and caramel tones.
For fun, we decided to work the negative in the textiles, selecting a few patterns that came in reverse-color ways. For instance, the plaid we used on Cynthia’s duvet and curtain panels was offered in two contrasting versions. One featured a navy background and caramel plaid, and another was a caramel background with a navy plaid.
I’m a big fan of two-sided duvets, with each side in a different complementary fabric. They give your duvet two distinct personalities and enable you to get more mileage from your bed linens. So on Cynthia’s duvet, we paired the navy-caramel plaid with a yummy navy vine pattern.
We decided on a no-fuss pillow treatment with just two layers of pillows. In back we put two Euro shams covered in the contrasting plaid. Next came standard pillow shams made from solid navy fabric and piped in caramel. To give these plain pillows a little punch, we added a monogram on each.
I’m wild about mismatched night stands, so I loved the unusual pieces Cynthia scooted up next to the bed. On one side she used a trolley cart, which could double as a bookshelf to hold a reading lamp, piles of books and even a few accents. On the other side of the bed, she showcased a darling antique marble-topped French night stand.
To dress the windows, Cynthia selected one of my all-time favorite combinations: simple bamboo shades flanked by classic fabric drapes, which were done in the gorgeous navy plaid. To bring more natural fibers into the room, she put a sea-grass area rug at the room’s center. Sea-grass rugs are perfect solutions for bedrooms because they’re practical, durable and informal.
Cynthia’s final decorative touch elevated this snug double-use room from fabulous to out of this world. She discovered a number of engravings in an old art book that featured portraits of French nobility. She gingerly cut the nine portraits from the old book and had them framed so they looked like costly antiques. Then she hung all nine in a bold grid that covered two-thirds of the wall.
I want to encourage you to not be afraid of your small, dark bedroom. Just like Cynthia did with hers, you can turn your room’s challenges into strengths, creating a comfy, cozy oasis.
Mary Carol Garrity owns several home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and wrote several books on home decorating. Write to Mary Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.