Welcome to Why This Works, in which 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.
For an event-planner client, decorators Callie Jenschke and Nicki Clendening were tasked with transforming a typically "Manhattan"—read, 250-square-foot—second office into a space that could pull double-duty. "It needed to be an actual workspace, but also a place where she could bring her clients. Because of her high-end clientele, it needed to look like an expensive space," explain the Southern-born duo behind NYC-based Scout Designs, named one of Trad Home's 20 "New Trads" to watch last year. Oh, and they had a month—and practically no budget—to complete the project.
1. It's hard to fill 20-foot walls, especially on a budget. Clendening and Jenschke used individual African headdresses to fill the space and dictate the color scheme. "We were faced with the challenge of finding a huge piece of art for the wall, but these were perfect. They were an inexpensive way to add interest and texture, and they make enough of a statement that you don't need anything else on the wall."
2. The windows in the space are massive, so natural light streams in. Still, the room needed something extra. The duo found the lamp at a flea market and replaced its boring cream shade with a black paper drum shade—a more modern choice. "We had the lamp rewired to take a brighter bulb, and we love the light a black shade gives off."
3. The coffee table is the most traditional element in the room. "Since this room is all about texture, we really wanted to do something with this marble," the decorators explain. "The table is an eBay find and we had the gold base lacquered black to tone down the traditionalist feel. And the high gloss gives it an expensive look."
4. The black-and-white rug gives the room a much-needed bold, graphic element. "We were actually going in an entirely different direction, but found this rug and it was the right size for the right price as well as graphically interesting," the pair says. "It just goes to show that you have to be open when it comes to design. The best plans on paper don't always translate to what the space actually needs."
5. "The sofa works here because it's smaller in scale—remember this room is only 250 square feet and we also had to fit in a work area—and we kept the skirt off to give it a cleaner line." The Clendening and Jenschke added needlepoint pillows to tone down the hard lines of the furniture and add more texture. ("Only two, because it's an office space.") They also work to introduce color in a subtle way that doesn't overwhem.