Minimalism retains its appeal

My mail suggests that many readers are tired of the black, box-like furniture so often featured in catalogues and design magazines. It’s regularly pointed out by what I take to be my older correspondents that these supposedly of-the-moment pieces are actually quite derivative of earlier designs.

I further sense a general disgruntlement with minimalism, especially in regard to its lack of color.

While I understand what prompts these complaints, I’m not yet bored with the pared-down look — and may never be. Some of that angular furniture still appears attractive to me, and minimalism itself hasn’t lost all its appeal.

It’s also not true that the market is dominated by this style. The same catalogues that may highlight such pieces up front present lots of traditional furniture elsewhere in their pages.

Q: My long, narrow and traditionally furnished living room has a 9-foot ceiling. Two tall windows punctuate the wall opposite the entrance, with a 6-foot space between them. Keeping in mind that I don’t like elaborate drapery, please suggest an interesting treatment for the end wall that will also make the room look shorter and wider.

A: That’s a challenging request, but it can actually be met in a few different ways.

In the parlor of a 19th century home, the preferred treatment would have been to install a pier mirror with a gilded and decorative frame. Today’s standard approach would involve hanging a colorful painting between the windows and above a console or a similarly commanding piece of furniture.

The accompanying photo shows a comparatively tall and narrow piece of this kind. It’s transitional in design but would be well-suited to a traditional interior — and even more so to the type of space you describe. Because of its superb detailing and lovely finishes, this console will certainly attract attention, which is crucial to altering perceptions of the length and width of your living room.

With a piece this impressive, you may not need to hang a painting between the two windows. As this arrangement suggests, a single topside decoration might be sufficient, as would a simple window treatment. You certainly don’t want to introduce elements that will compete with the look of the console itself.

The model you see here comes from David Francis Furniture, a firm that seems to specialize in furnishings that can be readily adapted to a variety of settings.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at

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