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.
For a 1930s house in Dallas, Los Angeles-based designer Copper Gyer had the daunting task of creating a breakfast nook that would accommodate extra storage from dining room and kitchen spill-off. "The apartment is 1,400 square feet and—trust me—in Dallas this is trèscompact," says Gyer, a Georgia native. The clients wanted it to feel young and fun, but Gyer had the additional challenge of using a mix of inherited furniture. "I had to maximize space and increase storage, while keeping it looking fresh and modern without changing anything structurally."
1. The chairs, dark-wood Queen Annes, are part of the dining room set inherited from the client's family. "They needed to keep those chairs near the dining room for when they entertain, and there was no room elsewhere to store them," says Gyer. "Since the chairs were to traditional for the space, I had removable slip covers made so we could use them in here and keep the apartment from looking like a waiting room filled with the extra chairs. The polka-dotted lime Bergamo velvet tones down the formal mahogany.
2. The Lucite and glass table doesn't visually fill the space like a solid piece would. A traditional card-table-type style in a modern material tones down the traditional vibe, and, during larger parties, works just as well as a bar within reach of the galley kitchen.
3. Roman shades can be costly, but really make a huge impact. "I used some inexpensive Roman shades from Ikea and had them covered in a fabric. It's a great way to save money," Gyer says. "You can easily do this yourself or take it a workroom. This way, you can afford to use a more expensive fabric. Just make sure the Roman shade you purchase is the same color as the lining as the rest of the window treatments in your house for a consistent look."
4. Since Gyer wasn't able to change anything structurally, she worked with the existing woodwork and painted everything white. "Painting the trim all white and using all white accessories in the shelves makes the small room seem less cluttered and feel more modern," she sayas.
5. Gyer added another strong dose of color with a vintage ceramic cerulean-blue pendant: "Using vintage or antique lighting and hardware customizes a space—often without the huge expense. The contrasting color helps the space from feeling too matchy-matchy, while the scalloped edge reflects ceiling trim."