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Large spaces have their own decorating dilemmas as Marilyn and Jack discovered regarding their cavernous living room. The twenty-foot ceiling was finished in dark wood, which made it feel even higher. A huge stretch of windows was dressed with 'chilly' metal blinds, and the fireplace was dwarfed by a towering brick wall. All this space and the room felt drab and uninviting. The traditional spindle railing that ran the length of the long gallery overlooking the living room did not complement the architecture of the home's clean, straight lines. Furnishings and carpets were dated, and there was no cohesion to the overall design. This is a fabulous room that the family loves to live in. It was last decorated in the 70s, and begged to be reinvented for the new century.
It always helps to imagine a style you love that suits the space. Inspired by the ceiling height and the oversized windows, we decided to give it a Cape Cod feeling, and developed the mood with colors and materials. We began the transformation by painting the wood plank ceiling white, and this alone made a huge impact. Blood red paint on the walls above and around the windows as well as behind the bookshelves in the gallery heats up the space in an energetic and dramatic way. Nautical blue was used for the window frames and as an accent on other focal points such as the mantel and large mirror.
To bring the living room into scale, it helps to select some oversized pieces and accessories. Large white iron coach lamps hang from the ceiling, the tall mirror over the fireplace is framed with sections of wide baseboard, and the spectacular floor is laid in an exaggerated pattern of dark and light laminate planks. Curtain rods are hung high, with full lengths of fabric attached by rope ties.
The flat expanse of brick was given a boost with 8-foot, veneered wood panels, and a rustic wood mantelpiece. To further ground the fireplace, the pale brick base was painted deep red brown.
All the wood, including the book shelves, new pine railing, and wall panels were unified with the same color and a paint finish that emulates wood bleached by the sun and slightly worn by time.
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The actual fireplace box was dwarfed by the 20-foot-tall brick wall, so we built a wood mantel, and antiqued it with the wall's deep red and window frame's blue. The brick hearth step was painted dark red brown to ground and balance the fireplace, and to give it focus.
You can devise your own design by alternating colors of tongue and groove laminated planks. We chose oak and Jatoba (the darker one) and laid out a pattern of thin and thick stripes.
The simple, but sturdy safety railing was built with select pine having no knots; 3" x 3" for the posts and 2" x 3" for the rails. Once assembled, the edges were rounded with a router for a more professional finish. The pine was then sealed with a paint wash, 1 part latex paint, 1 part water using a color that matched the veneer panels on the brick wall.
Oversized mirrors are popular today, and make a fabulous focal element in large and small rooms. We built this frame from wide baseboard moulding, painted it the same copper as the coffee table, and then antiqued it with layers of red and blue dry-brushed on and rubbed back to highlight the lines and crevices.
To create interest and bring the brick wall into a more comfortable human scale, large sections of wood panels were built flanking the fireplace. Wood veneer panels were cut into 8-inch widths and adhered to the brick in a staggered pattern, like laying a floor. All the wood in the room was lightened up with a sun-bleached effect by applying a butter cream-colored, water-based glaze over the Mocha Café base coat. We brushed the glaze over the surface and wiped it back with a soft rag so the base coat shows through.
Slipcovers of stretchy blue denim transform the couches, along with the boldly striped cushions in red, white and blue.
Tray Coffee Table
The rim for this circular coffee table is made from flexible plywood. The pattern was cut with a jigsaw, then the piece glued and nailed around the circumference of the plywood circle. We built the table base with copper piping and joinery found in the plumbing section of any hardware store. The tabletop has a copper-colored base coat. Blue latex paint is rolled over the dry base and then dabbed with a wet sea sponge to give it texture. Next, the surface is sprayed lightly with a copper oil paint. The water-based and oil-based paints react chemically, making an interesting pattern of cracks and swirls. For a durable finish, we sealed the tabletop with oil-based varnish.
Walls & Ceiling
Plenty of sunbleached wood, and a nautical color scheme for paint and fabrics works well to unify this two-storey living room. The walls are Para Paint's Sweeter than Wine, the wood plank ceiling brightened with Elephant Tusk white, and blue frames the windows and accents the mantel and mirror frame.
Although a wall of windows invites in the outside light and views, all that glass can feel a little hard and cold, especially in winter. To remedy this, we heated up the walls with deep red and painted the window frames a strong mid-tone blue. Fabric panels soften up the large flat expanse, hung high over rods that run the length of the windows. We snapped grommets along the top of each curtain panel, and tied them onto the rods with nylon rope as a nod to nautical Cape Cod.