The world moves fast. Responsibilities pile up. The living room remains still, ready to offer solace to its weary owners. This is where we unwind, read a book to the kids, watch a flick, light a fire. The living room is security in an insecure world.
We don’t always think of a living room as a personal space, like a bathroom or a bedroom, but it is. It reflects individual
style and expresses to outsiders how a family spends its time together. It also speaks to the way a family welcomes friendships into its universe.
Designer Rose Giroso, of Rose Authentica in Wilmington, says that living rooms built in the early 1900s—which many in North Wilmington were—are basically large rectangular rooms with several openings.
“This giant living room design went on for about 50 years,” says Giroso, “and they don’t really make sense. Rectangles are not conversational, so the challenge becomes creating a center.”
For the Wilmington space featured on page 39, Giroso added built-in cabinetry on one end of the room, and a recreational area at another end. “Working within squares creates a more conversational space,” she says, which is why the fireplace is intentionally set off from the sofa. A game table by Maitland Smith adds informality to the room, and offers young folks a place to do homework or enjoy family games. However, Giroso warns against turning the living room into a toy story.
“It’s not good Feng Shui when the living room becomes the playroom, and toys are scattered around,” she says. “It drains the energy, so we want to create a higher vibration when entering.” (Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics that stresses balance to promote harmony and positive energy.)
Giroso’ s plan was to create unity and balance by incorporating several pieces of furniture from the same company. An oval cocktail table and rectangular side table are from Baker’s Thomas Pheasant Collection, and the sofa is from Baker’s Dapha line. The furniture was complemented with interesting accents, including Ferguson Copeland martini tables with marquetry tops with brass bases, and Century skirted kilt fireplace chairs by the hearth. Most of the pieces can be purchased with a professional interior designer at the Marketplace in Philadelphia.
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“People didn’t use their living rooms, and some still don’t,” says Giroso. “But design goes beyond just creating beautiful spaces. It’s about creating comfort and warmth. After all, isn’t a living room for the living?”
Linda Daniels, of Daniels Design Associates of Secane, Pennsylvania, was charged with designing a living space (pictured on page 36) for a family with teenage boys. Her clients, Karen and Alen Krigstein of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, wanted a “super personal room,” says Daniels, that offered serious lounging opportunities for the guys but a warm, elegant and inviting space for entertaining.
Daniels accomplished this mission by providing several lounge chairs, a comfortable sofa and an oversized leather ottoman. The men of the house put their feet up on the ottoman while they watch football games on the large television, but the ottoman also serves as additional seating space when the family entertains.
The elegance and warmth was created with bold color. Rich mustard walls and darker trim from the same palette provided a rich canvas for a room filled with bold colors, particularly red paisley lounge chairs that served as inspiration for the overall color design.
To create contrast between the rich, concentrated colors, Daniels chose a zebra-striped carpet by Mohawk and an antique white console reproduction. A barn red, custom built-in entertainment center accommodates the television, but its tongue and groove backsplash added sophistication. Sconces that were intentionally formal added just the right touch for what became an elegantly casual living room.
Casual elegance was the name of the game for Tim Dewson, the contractor responsible for rooms featured on pages 34 and 39. The Winterthur home featured on page 34 is surrounded by four acres that kiss the Winterthur Museum grounds, so the room had to showcase lovely views.
“The room is spacious yet comfortable,” says Dewson, of Dewson Construction in Wilmington. The rustic feel started at the bottom, with wide oak plank floors, and ended at the top with reclaimed handcrafted ceiling beams with arch-bracket details.
Adding more depth was a wormy chestnut custom entertainment center to accommodate a gigantic television, and additional cabinetry painted pale green to complement the wood.
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Designer Nancy Conklin of Wilmington chose the furniture, which includes blue and red color combinations.
Dewson’s formal living room, pictured on page 39, may be located in Centreville Reserve, but its design was taken from Florida architecture, says Dewson. Its dominant feature, of course, is the limestone fireplace, which had to be craned in through the roof, and required a support structure once in place. It weighed more than four tons.
The room also features an open floor plan, limestone archways, columns “and lots of glass,” says Dewson. The hammered-iron spindle and mahogany newel railing matches the front door design, and carries thematically through to the second floor balcony window.
But while some homeowners enjoy grand rooms like those designed by Dewson, many others are thinking about downsizing. In fact, says Rita Wilkins, president of Design Services in Wilmington and myonlinedecorator.com, the 5,000-square-foot house will not be the norm for baby boomers in the not-so-distant future.
“When boomers buy,” says Wilkins, “the average house size is going to be 2,400 square feet. That’s the new norm. And that means that rooms really have to be multi-functional.”
Case in point: Kathleen King’s West Grove, Pennsylvania, home, featured on page 38.
When Wilkins designed the living room for King, she took the owner’s exuberant personality into consideration. King is a single, professional executive with a background in graphic design.
“She is highly artistic and has a colorful personality with lots of flair,” says Wilkins. “When I work with a client like that, I always feel like more of a trusted adviser. I would never want to stifle their creativity.”
The collaboration began with King’s Indo-Persian, Tabriz Oriental carpet that featured a busy pattern accented in shades of brown and coral. Wilkins re-upholstered King’s “beloved French chairs” in a goldenrod and coral pattern. A maple-glazed entertainment center worked well with the warm coral tones, and quieted down the brown in the carpet.
King, an avid shopper always on the trail for bargains, plucked buffalo-check, silk window panels off the rack, and found knickknacks to accent what Wilkins calls “an exuberant French country room” that serves as both a den and a living room.
Living rooms in beach homes need to be practical yet stylish, to accommodate foot traffic from the beach as well as entertaining friends over the weekend. One way to save your space —and your sanity— is by using indoor-outdoor fabrics, which have come a long way, says Joyce D. Keeney, of Interior Concepts in Wilmington.
“Fabrics are fade-resistant, which is fine for swimsuits,” she says. “But they also feature down cushions and are luxurious—despite the practical nature of the fabrics.”
Keeney’s Rehoboth Beach space (found on page 37) is illustrative of casual elegance. The Nantucket-style home features views of a lake in front and the ocean in back. Keeney went with a neutral scheme to accentuate those views. A crème wool carpet with a blue canvas border blends well with the pebble-colored paint. White Hunter Douglas blinds perk up the room, and blue and coral accents add dashes of subdued color.
The livable space also features a hydraulic high-lo table that can be lowered for games or raised to cocktail height. After all, says Keeney, “The living space can also be a place for a quiet family gathering and for enjoying the view.”