Best Paint Colors

December 5, 2008

How To Balance A Living Room

Q. You sometimes talk about size and balance in a room and I think my room is out of balance. My fireplace is fighting with my wall unit. Opposite the wall unit I only have windows above my sofa. Also, I would like to put a carpet in the room. What would you suggest?

— Ida Shein

A. The wall unit is definitely vying for attention in your living room. If you want to make your fireplace the focal point, since your room is quite narrow, “painting out” the wall unit would be a good solution and starting point. Start with choosing a warm off-white wall colour like Pratt & Lambert’s Snowflake. Paint the walls, ceiling and wall unit the same colour. You will be surprised at how much larger the room will instantly appear to be. You can try painting the trim of the wall unit a semi-gloss finish to give it a built-in look. Paint the ceiling fan blades the same white so they don’t stand out in the room. The newly painted light-coloured wall unit will subtly reflect the natural light from your windows instead of absorbing the light like when it was black.

Depending on your budget, you might want to reduce the marble or tile surround from the height of the whole wall to just 12” to 14” all around the fireplace. This will give you room to add a mantle and brighten up this wall. If you decide to go the neutral route, go further and slipcover your sofa in another neutral and consider an oriental carpet for warm contrast. If you plan to stick with the black fireplace wall and geometric sofa fabric, choose a solid carpet, like a honey-coloured sisal, to avoid pattern competition and finish off the space.