Decorating & Design

July 11, 2013

Ask A Designer: Casual & Airy Living Room

Q. I have been struggling with what to do in my living room for three years! I can’t decide on a colour — right now, it’s brick red — or what type of furniture to bring in. There are lots of windows, and I’m not sure if I should decorate them or leave them as is. Any advice is appreciated!

— A.M., via email (To submit your own question, see our Ask A Designer™ page.)

A. Wow, what a space! Terrific natural light and a nice high ceiling are great elements to work with. My first suggestion would be to use a warm white on the walls and ceiling (as in our inspiration room). With all those windows, there’s almost more ceiling than walls, so the existing colour has too much contrast. Orchid White (613-3) from Beauti-Tone on the walls and ceiling will create a clean background to build upon and establish your stone fireplace as a strong focal point.

Your current rug is a little too small; look for one that’s at least 8′ x 11′. The Tribe rug by Capel Rugs has a low-key pattern and muted tones that will work nicely against your dark wood floor. Then, pull your sofa away from the wall to build a cosy seating area closer to the fireplace. You have room to fit a second sofa plus two chairs here, too. I like Urban Barn’s custom Devon chair for its simple shape. Stick to neutral upholstery to balance your dark leather sofa, and add a few blue throw pillows, like the ones from Tonic Living, to the chairs and sofa for a burst of soft colour.

Place a cabinet in the spot vacated by your sofa. The Post and Rail sideboard from Urban Barn will add a rustic touch, offer you plenty of storage and anchor the colourful artwork. I often complement large wooden pieces with coffee tables that have a bit of metal on them. The metal frame of Bernhardt’s Huntington cocktail table is a perfect way to mix in a handsome industrial edge. Use two Mother of Pearl C-tables from Pier 1 Imports as side tables. They’re lightweight, so you can move them around as needed, and their pretty striped shell tops will add pattern and texture.

Hardwired sconces are a nice touch in a living room, but your existing ones look a bit lost so high on the wall. Swap them out for two Robert Abbey Gilbert sconces hung about 8″ lower. They’ll give a nice architectural look.

Your windows are a mix of shapes and sizes, so drapes may make them look too busy. I think the crisp white trim and natural light flooding through them are all they need!

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Author: Cameron MacNeil

Janis Nicolay (inspiration room)


1. Paint, Orchid White (613-3), Beauti-Tone. 2. Sideboard, Urban Barn. 3. Chair, Urban Barn. 4. Sconce, Robert Abbey. 5. Cocktail table, Bernhardt. 6. Side table, Pier 1 Imports. 7. Capel Rugs rug, Cocoon Furnishings. 8. Throw pillows, Tonic Living.


House & Home July 2013 issue