Welcome to Why This Works, a new Curbed column 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.
You may recognize Angie Hranowsky, one of Traditional Home's "20 Young Designers to Watch," from the pages of House Beautiful or Domino, but when faced with a dining room in a traditional Charleston, S.C., house, Hranowsky had a far more down-to-earth task: make it work for a family with a little girl and another on the way. "It's a beautiful old home, but very quaint in size so the rooms are not huge and there is no play room," she says. "They wanted this dining room to function for everyday eating, entertaining and paying bills, as well as homework and art projects for their daughter." That's quite a bit of multi-tasking for a tiny space, but the Charleston-based Hranowsky turned the small room into something highly functional and, of course, beautiful.
1. To soften the space and to make the ceilings appear higher, Hranowsky designed traditional-style drapes and paired them with inexpensive coral burlap. "We splurged on the Lee Jofa/Kelly Wearstler trim," she says. "It's expensive, but it'sthose tiny details that make a huge statement."
2. A massive vintage Italian lamp sits atop a small vintage chest: "I love the fact that it’s a huge lamp juxtaposed on a smaller piece of furniture. It's unexpected and achieves just the right balance, which is really important in any space." The blue lamp also brings out the touch of blue in the ikat fabric covering the chairs.
3. Floor space can be a premium in a small house with kids running around. To remedy this, Hranowsky found a vintage dining table that folds out to seat up to eight; folded down, however, it forms a compact little square. "It's really about making your furniture work for you," she says.
4. "Even with small children, I always think you can have beautiful fabrics and rugs that are also functional," Hranowsky says. "Since this is a dining room, we had to think about stains and cleanup." The China Seas fabric on the chairs is dark enough to hide spills, and the Madeline Weinrib cotton dhurrie rug is easily spot-cleaned—plus, it's reversible.
5. "I always strive for my spaces to feel collected," says Hranowsky. "With this room I mixed a vintage dining table and chairs and an Italian brass chandelier with antique side chairs that can be pulled up for extra seating."