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.
When an old boathouse-turned-guesthouse on Lake Oliver in Columbus, Ga., begged for an extreme makeover, interior designer Ashley Holt, of the Columbus firm Ashley's Interiors, looked first to a bold palette. Holt, whose work spans the country, wanted to "celebrate the view of the lake but also inject as much color as the client wanted—without polluting the environment."
1."The rug was really the starting point of the whole room—we were looking at Orientals because the husband favored those, but to get the kind of color we needed we had to go for an Oushak," Holt explains. "They have the most unusual color combinations." This particular rug—vibrant with bright orange, red, green and gold—was bought for the dining room for the main house, but the client loved it so much she wanted to see it everyday. "It ended up in the guest house, which is used often. The room took a cue from its colors—it took off from there."
2. Bright orange leather isn't what tends to come to mind when one thinks of a boathouse, but "leather upholstery is soft and very durable—perfect for kids and dogs. It also ages so well," says Holt. The rug inspired this particular brand of orange: "It's bright, but cohesive so not overwhelming. It's such an easy color to live with and it’s a happy."
3. Holt chose lamps that would have an impact but also tone down the vibrancy of the upholstery and the rug. "The oversized pottery lamps are the color of the lake and the shape was correct for the space; although they are over-scaled, they are not overpowering and their color tones them down."
4. In a room with a lot going on, accessories are rightfully kept at bay. "I didn’t want anything else to scream, and I wanted the eye to move easily, so I kept accessories to a minimum," Holt says. "And they don't distract from the view of the lake. If you look at the way the coffee table is accessorized, it almost blends in to the room. The accessories are there to add warmth, but they don’t steal your attention. Your focus is drawn to the lamps, the color, and the view."
5. The eggplant walls aren't visible in this photo, but they're neutral despite being dark. "It's a feel-good space because the orange is happy. Keeping the rest of the room muted makes the color really pop—the space is cheerful and sophisticated."