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September 23, 2011 > Real Rooms For Real People

Real Rooms For Real People

Three Different Looks for the Same Living Room Set

Q. I have navy blue living room furniture - a sofa and two matching chairs. They are a few years old, but are in good shape and I want to keep them. My walls are white right now and are in need of paint, and my carpet is neutral beige. What colors can I use for my walls and other furnishings to redecorate my living room?

A. It sounds like you have a great neutral palette to work with. My first question to you would be: "How would you like this room to feel when you are done?" The answer to that question will help guide your choices. We will look at three scenarios to see which one works best for you.

Scenario #1: "I want my room to be dramatic and formal. It is the first room you see when you walk in and I want it to be a showstopper." If this is your goal, then I suggest dark, rich colors. Pairing navy blue with deep burgundy and gold will give you a formal, dramatic look. Purchase a large Oriental area rug with a lot of pattern, in colors of burgundy, gold and navy) and use it to anchor your seating area. It is OK to place an area rug over carpeting as long as it is big enough, and you use a special rug pad underneath to keep it from becoming a tripping hazard.

Paint the walls a deep golden brown color and use dark wood for your end tables. For a coffee table, consider a glass-topped table so the rug pattern shows through. Add curtain panels in a silky fabric the same (or similar) color to the walls. Use dark wood curtain rods with beautiful carved finials. Add several throw pillows to the sofa and chairs in burgundy and gold-mix patterns and textures: some stripes and geometrics will work well with the rug. Look for pillows with gold fringe, tassels or rope cording for a more formal look.

Scenario #2: "I want my room to be light, airy and casual." If this is your goal, how about the classic combination of navy and white? Paint your walls a soft, creamy white, which will make your navy blue furniture really stand out. Hang some artwork that contains a lot of blues - perhaps with a nautical for a coastal casual look. Mix your woods and add lots of textures-for example: a light wood coffee table with wicker baskets underneath, and end tables in a medium wood tone.

Hang a pair of swing arm wall lights above the end tables instead of lamps. This will be an unexpected touch, and will free up space on the tables for accessories like family photos, vases, or a stack of books. Add throw pillows in a variety of fabrics in the colors of blue, white, cream, and tan. Look for linen and other casual fabrics. For the windows, consider Plantation shutters, white painted wood blinds, or soft linen panels in cream or white.

Scenario #3: "I want my room to feel clean, uncluttered and modern." For this goal, try pairing the navy with a blue-based gray color for the walls. For the windows, look at Silhouette window shadings, which will filter the light and provide a very clean modern look. For your tables, look at metal finishes and glass or stone tops. No ornate details. Keep accessories to a minimum, but make the few you do decide to use really count. For example, on your glass topped coffee table, place one large glass platter in a striking color like red, acid green, or purple. Anchor the seating area with a large solid-color area rug in a charcoal or silvery gray. For more drama, choose an area rug in a contrasting color like red or purple. Hang abstract paintings over the sofa and a collection of black and white photographs on another wall.

Anna Jacoby of Anna Jacoby Interiors is a local Interior Designer. Send your design questions to her at Call or fax her at 510-490-0379 or visit

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