In Why This Works, decorator and former shelter-magazine editor Alexa Stevenson looks point-blank at professionally decorated rooms and breaks down the elements that make it work. Have a suggestion for someone whose work should be showcased? Do let us know.
A generously proportioned New Jersey bedroom with an awkward mix of matchy-matchy pine furniture was in desperate need of a makeover, so NYC-based decorator and author Elaine Griffin, whom one may recognize from her guest appearances on The Today Show, took it to task for Better Homes & Gardens magazine, where she's the contributing design editor. On first sight, Griffon observed "a pair of windows that were darkly dressed with sad, poufy scarves that did little to highlight their beauty, and a headboard-less king-size bed, flanked by diminutive nightstands, floating anchor-less on the wall." Ooof! So she created a warm, inviting space that's as functional as it is stylish—and it's budget-friendly, too.
1. Delightful a problem as it is, a bed wall that's too long—this one clocks in at almost 18 feet—can make traditional nightstands look dinky. Griffin substituted wider accent chests for more heft. "At 42 inches, chests this size are typically destined for foyers and living rooms, but they look great as nightstands in this space. A pair of comparably scaled mirrors commands the wall above them and are a chic alternative to art. Their walnut finish complements the painted chests without veering into the matchy-matchy."
2. "Hang your curtains high!" says Griffin. "I'm going to have that engraved on my tombstone. It's the one thing I want DIY decorators to always remember. Curtains hung as close to the ceiling as possible, and extending at least four to six inches past the window trim on either side, visually raise the ceiling height, enlarge the window, and look divine. It's the same thing stilettos do for legs." She adds, "You need dress curtains for style and warmth, plus a blind or a shade behind them, typically mounted inside the window box to control light and privacy."
3. "Many clients opt for wall-to-wall carpet in bedrooms to sink their toes into with the first step out of bed every morning, but trade secret: over-sized area rugs can work just as well. You want one that extends well beyond the perimeter of your bed, whatever size that is. The jute cutie here is 10 by almost 14 feet."
4. Stationing a telephone table or garden stool with a plant or books in front of an otherwise bare window zone creates visual interest to otherwise bare spaces. "This little gold-leafed vintage French number here takes up just enough visual real estate to add both warmth and personality without clutter."
5."In a bedroom, pay attention to the unused spaces to create a room that truly multitasks," says Griffin. "A 48-inch wide student desk daintily scoots between the windows, and I paired it with a discreet, low-backed dining chair that doesn't tower over the desk or try to steal the show. Oh, and more multitasking: "There's an armchair in the corner, and the TV lives in an armoire across from the bed."