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 Manhattan clients requested that a makeshift room in their townhouse operate as a playroom for their young daughter and transition with her as she got older, Brian del Toro also aimed to make it sophisticated enough for the whole family to use. "While the space had to function for the daughter, it also had to function as a family room—playful but not juvenile," recalls del Toro, who heads his eponymous Manhattan interior design firm and called upon Lucite and lacquered wood paneling to make this project really shine. Details about why this works, below.
1.There's quite a bit of furniture, including a large sectional, in a space that's not huge square-footage-wise. Del Toro used a Lucite coffee table to lend airiness to the room without overwhelming it. "I wanted to have a large coffee table, but not hide the pattern of the rug or make the room look overcrowded," he says.
2. The window treatments add pattern to the room and lighten up the lacquered wood paneling. "The perforated semi-sheer ultra-suede curtains and patterned Roman shades allow for variable light control for the use of the room and optimum TV watching in a playful way," del Toro explains.
3.The lacquered wood paneling bathes the room in a rich warmness and hides storage. "The client needed more storage space for toys and games and out-of-season games," says the designer. "I built out the space and paneled the room so they hide a lot of storage on both walls—you don't know that someone's spring wardrobe is behind the cabinets. The lacquer made it playful and didn't give it that grown-up library feel."
4. A classic rug adds color and pattern, keeping the space lively and fun. "It's a silk-and-wool rug that most people might not think to use in a playroom or family room, but a patterned rug is actually very forgiving—it's got a lot of different colors is very cleanable and durable."
5. The organic patterns and colors in the rug, pillows, and curtains contrast with the room's square architecture. This juxtaposition creates a room that's "both are rich and playful enough that everyone feels the space is appropriate for them when they are in it."