How to furnish a blank canvas.
Q. My family room is a blank canvas and I'm not sure where to begin. I have a sectional sofa, but that's about all. I'd welcome your ideas for colours and other furniture pieces, plus where to place them. As you can see, I need help!
— R.I., via email (To submit your own question, see our Ask A Designer™ page.)
A. What a great starting point! You have some good elements to work with here: the floor, mantel, sofa and shutters are all neutral and can go in many different aesthetic directions. For inspiration, take a look at the modern yet comfortable living room from the February 2010 issue of H&H — it's one of my favourites.
I think your wall colour is perfect; you've chosen a fresh but warm white. So I'd start by turning the fireplace into a stronger focal point. First, paint the mantel a medium grey, like Monday Morning (C2-489) by C2 Paint. Then, to amp up the wow factor, install Bianco Carrara marble tile (shown) around the insert in a herringbone mosaic — it's a classic pattern you won't get tired of.
Brighten up your sectional by layering it with throw pillows in a trendy zigzag print. The Flatiron pillows from Tonic Living (shown) in contrasting grey and lime will add a playful hit of colour.
To create symmetry, place a buffet like West Elm's Dumont (shown) on each side of your fireplace. I like how the lacquered white finish and contrasting pecan-stained legs give them a mid-century-modern vibe. Set your television on the console on the right (and stow cords and electronics behind the doors).
The bronze finish of Crate & Barrel's Echelon coffee table (shown) will pick up the rich tones in your gorgeous hardwood floor, bringing warmth to the room, and it offers a lower shelf for displaying stacks of books and other decorative items.
Finally, for a luxe dose of colour, position a pair of teal chenille-upholstered armchairs opposite the sofa. At only 30" wide, the Cumberland chair from Bernhardt (shown) will even allow you to place a small side table between them.