Decorating Your First Apartment
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Charlotte Moss discusses decorating and small spaces
Small space decorating is a hot topic in these days of rising real estate prices.
Condos, apartments, and smaller homes all offer unique challenges in decorating: will everything fit, which colors should be used, and how can spaces be multi-functional and still beautiful?
Interior designer and author Charlotte Moss created some wonderful solutions as seen in the Victoria Magazine's book, Designers in Residence.
As shown, she's designed a room that features problem-solving ideas, along with a pleasing color palette and a carefully planned furniture arrangement. One level of this multi-level townhome needed to serve as the entry, living room, dining room, and home office -- all in a relatively small area. It's a room with many lessons in color, pattern, function, storage, and comfort.
We asked Charlotte to tell us about her approach to decorating this particular small space.
Q. How do you start a redecorating project? Charlotte Moss: The first thing doesn't have to do with buying anything. The first thing people should do is have a heart-to-heart talk about each individual's priorities for the home... I always recommend that you sit down and create a master plan, then prioritize, and then the first thing to do will just logically bubble to the surface. Really, to me it's about creating the plan and having the chat. I do it with all my clients, no matter what their budget.
Q. Many of us would see the fireplace as the focal point and set the sofa in front of it. How did you decide on this particular furniture placement? Charlotte Moss: This was a room that had to serve a couple of functions, because it was the entire first floor of that townhouse. So, if we had to have a dining and workspace, it logically had to be at the back of the room. The dining table had to function as a desk during the day, so we put it at the window so you could look out on the garden.
To me it was very logical as soon as I saw the space -- how it had to be arranged. It didn't bother me that the furniture wasn't all in front of the fireplace. And in fact, it never would have worked in that space because the fireplace was so close to the back of the room that everything would have been tight in one corner. The room wouldn't have breathed. I think there's something unsettling about having everything off in one corner when the other part of the room is sitting there waiting for you.
Also, in this room you walk, not into a foyer, but into the living room. Who wants to enter a home and walk right into the dining room table? The living room seating area provides a very gracious entry, because the first thing you see is a chair or sofa that is welcoming.
Q. In this room there is plenty of seating, without a lot of huge pieces of furniture. How did you approach this living area? Charlotte Moss: Here we tried to max out the seating area with one sofa and a loveseat. It was a long sofa, but everything else balanced with it. Don't go overboard trying to get the biggest sofa you can, thinking you'll seat the most people. The fact is that not everybody sits on a sofa.
It's better to have individual seating rather than have everyone lined up on one piece of furniture where they feel like they're in a receiving line! Also, I love little chairs; I think they're great for people to sit down low and pull themselves up. Page 2: More from Charlotte Moss...
Ideas on multi-functional spaces, choosing red,
and adding height to a room
Lessons in A Small Room, continued
Part 2: Charlotte Moss discusses small space decorating
Q. How can people create multi-functional spaces in small rooms? Charlotte Moss: A lot of people living in studio apartments or smaller houses, where they don't have a formal dining room, can create a dining area just by arranging the furniture like this. We could have done other things to separate the spaces. For example, we could have used a screen in place of the table behind the sofa. However, that would have eliminated that vista from the front window to the rear window. Your eye would stop there and make the room even smaller.
Q. Red is a fairly bold choice for the upholstery, when most of us probably would have thought we needed a light beige. Why did you choose red? Charlotte Moss: To me, red was natural. We painted the walls a buttery yellow -- all brown wood always looks great against the yellow. The yellow walls with red upholstery creates a warm color palette.
Beige goes with "everything" but so does a navy blue suit. You only live once -- you've got to kick off your shoes and try something new! I guess I've been around long enough that doing something like that, what many might consider bold, doesn't bother me.
Red is bold to be used on upholstery, but if you're reluctant to do a bold color on upholstery, then try it on the walls. It comes back to experimenting in a less confining way, because once you've done the upholstery, most of us are very reluctant to redo it immediately (whether you can afford to or not), whereas redoing paint is quite reasonable.
I don't think people can afford to hold back. If you really want to try red then go with slipcovers to give you added flexibility.
Q. You've used ten different fabric patterns in this room, but they are subtle additions that add a lot of interest. Charlotte Moss: You're right, there are a lot of patterns in this room, but you're not aware of them. The dominent fabrics are the linen print with the roses on it and the plain red. All the others are a mix to keep it from being monotonous, and we used them on the accessories and smaller pieces. I didn't feel it was necessary to make everything the same in this room, although I often do like using the same fabric everywhere... I love using toiles on the upholstery, on the curtains, on the walls, so you feel like you're just eveloped, and it adds harmony.
Q. A room in this style often has crown molding. Why did you decide to leave it out of this space? Charlotte Moss: The room didn't have molding, and we didn't feel compelled to add it. Also, it was another 'line' to add to a small space. What you can't see in the picture is that the staircase goes up and there are a lot of small walls and in-and-out lines, and the molding would have just added another horizontal line.
Q. This room has several vertical elements that add to the formal feeling, as well as adding some height to the space. How did you accomplish that? Charlotte Moss: Because it was a small space and the ceilings weren't tall, we had to give the illusion of tall. That's why the picture arrangements are tall, the bookcases are as big as we could make them, and the curtains are as high as possible. This creates an optical illusion of more height.