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id 810's Functional, Double-Height Living Room in Jersey

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.

What to do with a giant room that's been sitting empty for a decade? Virgina Toledo and Jessica Geller, partners in the Manhattan-based firm id 810—whose modern Queens, N.Y., bachelor pad was recently featured on Curbed—took advantage of the double-height ceilings in this New Jersey living room and created various zones throughout the space. "The clients are a family-oriented couple—whenever we had design meetings, the kids would sit in—so it definitely needed to be family space," the decorators explain. "Yet they often host big parties so it also had to accommodate an adult-only crowd. We had to make it a space for entertaining as well as a place to read, watch TV, and play games." Below, see the room point-by-point.

1. The double-height ceiling and natural light are bonuses, but—rather counterintuitively—keeping the room light would render it cavernous and cold: "By painting the walls in a dark, is-it-brown-or-is-it-purple kind of color, the depth ends up absorbing the brightness and the room almost glows. A deep wall color can enrich an extra-large space," explain the decorators.
2. "One of our biggest pet peeves is when people assume that furniture has to be pushed up against walls. This room is way too large to have all the furniture in one position. By floating the large pieces in the center of the room with space to move between, we've allowed each area to own its space." Additionally, the two largest sofas in the room have rounded backs to keep them from feeling boxy, and by using furniture groupings and area rugs, Geller and Toledo were able to keep this large space intimate.
3. In rooms with extra-high ceilings you absolutely can't ignore the air space above. "Everything has a vertical quality here," say the decorators, "the zebra wood dry bar, the niches with glass treasures that the homeowners have collected highlighted over the fireplace, the drapery panels, and, of course, the lighting all bring the scale of the room down to normal proportions."
4. Ambient lighting is crucial, especially in a room this size. "At night, this space is so romantic and dramatic when the lights are dimmed. The Aqua Creations lights that hang over the seating area and the wall sconce over the fireplace are so interesting that the client invested in these as pieces of art, instead of a traditional painting or photograph as art on walls. And the cube light that we used on top of the custom-designed dry bar adds a bit of art-installation quality."
5. The client was ready to part with the wall-to-wall ivory carpeting, but Geller and Toledo kept it because the color was a perfect complement to the colors in the room. "It creates a floating effect in the space because of all of the darkness on the walls and weighty pieces of furniture. We love the way the various area rugs we used pop from it—it's a bright counterpart to the jewel tones."

· id 810 Design Group [official site]
· All Why This Works columns [Curbed National]
· A Modern Bachelor Pad Turned Family Home by id 810 [Curbed National]