Decorating A Condo or Small Home

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Decorating a Condo or Small Home

Q. My new condo is transitional with mostly straight lines. I can’t change the floor plan, but I can customize some of the built-in elements like countertops, cabinets, fireplace, and shower tiles. I travel internationally and really want to create a resort feel even though the condo is in downtown Nashville. The rooms are not big, but they are open to each other, so it doesn’t feel small. How many colors and patterns should I use in each room? How do I get an exotic feel without a lot of clutter?  Since I travel a lot, I don’t want to spend time dusting when I get home Should I paint all it one wall color? Are there any “rules” for this kind of space? —MLR

A. As they say, “All rules are made to be broken,” but I can give you something of a formula to launch your design. Combining urban and resort is an emerging trend that began with boutique hotels in large cities. Look at each surface that may be customized and plan ways to maximize the impact of that surface. Avoid “non-decisions” that “go with everything,” because they fall short of complimenting anything.

If the surface is plain, explore finishes. If the color is bland, consider shape, texture, and pattern. Here are photos of examples that create intrigue without giving up any floor space. In the dining room, notice what looks like an accent wall is really a hallway seen through the doorway. Choosing contrasting paint costs nothing, but it has a lot of impact here. In the kitchen, countertops are staggered vertically at heights that are useful and eye-catching

A safe bet for an open floor plan is a three-color combination. Variations on any of the three colors may be included as accents. In the early stage of planning color and fabrics, gather favorites without forcing them into rooms or roles. Build a “family” around your favorites. If you have three favorites, build three “families” of materials. You will find that the further you go, the more one grouping will stand out. Materials in the same room should feel like siblings. Materials in rooms open to another room should be like immediate family. Living spaces on the same floor should be like cousins. Private rooms may depart from the scheme.

For example, suppose we visited the dining room at a show home and took away two ideas: the contrasting hallway, and the amber/natural color of the rug against the espresso flooring. While you are shopping fabrics you consider several designer linen prints depicting birds. You notice that most of the fabrics look English country or 60’s modern, so you venture into tropical bird prints. You become intrigued with this strongly colored teal background print.

Reflecting on the rich colors, you decide that they are good complements to the concrete and metal in your building. Next, you flip further in the tropical collection to discover the amber tiger stripe and VOILA! Magic! The two pieces set the stage for your entire condo, but since you want a spacious look you strategically place your favorites. The pattern is not layered in order to avoid clutter or a busy feeling. Textiles relate to each other from room to room. 

Note: We welcome all questions related to home design—ask us about color, room arrangement, planning for a new home, selecting furnishings, lighting, flooring, and more. Answers provided by Tanna Espy Miller, who has operated her award-winning interior design practice for 23 years. You may also contact Tanna at 615/ 601-0552.


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