The LookThe first room was designed by the Real Simple editors, who created a comfortable, multifunctional space that makes getting down to work a lot less grueling. The upholstered sofette from Pottery Barn is comfortable enough for both an impromptu meeting and a quick catnap.
The IdeasA rug by Madeline Weinrib complements walls painted in Blue Hydrangea by Benjamin Moore, which provided all the paint for the event. The lime green chair adds a shot of color, while smart-looking perforated metal bins hide extra office supplies.
The Real Simple ChallengeThe designers were asked to work these three items into their creations, to show how the same piece can take on many different personalities.
Terri Crystal Lamp by Circa Lighting
Chin Chin Trays by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Macau Chair by Ballard Designs
The furnishings in the rooms were sold, raising $500,000 to benefit Housing Works, a New York City organization that provides services to people living with HIV and AIDS.
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A Cozy Nook
The LookSuzanne Kasler has a thing for horses. To create this space, she painted the walls in Kingsport Gray and covered them with horse-bit prints that she designed. Another equine touch: old horseshoes repurposed as curtain brackets.
The Ideas“The art has so many patterns, so I kept everything else neutral,” says Kasler, who painted the chair in the same subtle color as the walls and upholstered both the bench and the chair in inexpensive burlap. The tray (to the left of the bench on the floor) cradles a print, while the round mirror softens the edges of the artwork. A pillow, a throw, and a decorative ceramic ball in bright orange add oomph.
Three Questions for… Suzanne Kasler1. Which colors make a great match? I love combining classic white and French blue. The blue works well because it has some gray in it, so it can be elegant or it can be fresh and fun.
2. What is your favorite decorating trick? To paint a really bold color on the ceiling. I’ve done that when I want to punch up a room but would rather not use a bright color on all four walls.
3. Is there a decorating no-no that’s actually ok? Painting a small room in a dark color. Artwork tends to show up better against a dark wall; it can add dimension and become a room’s focal point.
Suzanne Kasler, an Atlanta-based interior designer, recently unveiled a line of furniture for home-furnishings company Hickory Chair.
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An Island Idyll
The Look“I call it my Jamaica moment,” says Charlotte Moss of this breezy, summery space. The designer chose natural materials―bamboo furniture, a sisal rug―for texture and went with blue accents, like the mirror and the tray, because “blue evokes the ocean.”
The IdeasTo make the room look lived-in, Moss rummaged through her closet and found silky robes to drape over chairs. The wall stripes, painted in Fiji and Mascarpone, are playfully wide―“like big cabana stripes,” she says―and deceptively easy to apply, since “they’re simply the width of the roller.” After cutting a leaf design into a halved raw potato, she dipped it in the Fiji paint and stamped the shade and the chair cushion.
Three Questions for… Charlotte Moss1. Which colors make a great match? Pale aqua and ivory―it’s an easy combination to build from. You can keep the palette quiet by adding a soft color like butter yellow, or intensify it with a deep claret.
2. What is your favorite decorating trick? You can get a lot of mileage from repurposing an inexpensive sheet. Try using a pretty embroidered one as a tablecloth in the dining room, or cut a piece from a graphic one and wrap it around a lamp shade.
3. Is there a decorating no-no that’s actually ok? By introducing one unexpectedly large piece of furniture, you can change the entire look of a room. You have to be a little adventurous sometimes.
Interior designer Charlotte Moss owns the Charlotte Moss Townhouse, a home-furnishings shop in New York City.
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A Spalike Bathroom
The Look“White is clean and soothing,” says Mary Foley, who with partner Michael Cox created a serene space, painted in Gardenia, with just a few leafy green accents.
The Ideas“A monochromatic palette can make a room seem larger because your eye continues to move along rather than stopping at patterns or colors,” says Foley. The team mixed matte and shiny finishes, painting the chair and the tray in a glossy white, adding accessories and fixtures, like a wooden bowl and a honed marble sink, and incorporating a variety of textures, including a terry-cloth bench cushion and a sea-grass rug. Simple linen sheers act as “a soft wall” to relax the otherwise boxy space.
Three Questions for… Foley & Cox1. Which colors make a great match? Navy blue and French blue. It’s a classic combination, and it creates a great backdrop for pops of canary yellow, bright coral, or fire engine red.
2. What is your favorite decorating trick? We find whimsical illustrations from vintage children’s books and put them in modern white frames. They give character to a playroom, a child’s bedroom, or a bathroom―where you don’t want to expose valuable art to steam.
3. Is there a decorating no-no that’s actually ok? You don’t have to preserve the exact look of an heirloom. Reinvent it instead. Paint stripes on a dresser or stain it in a darker color to give it new life.
Mary Foley and Michael Cox run a design firm in New York City and own a furnishings shop in Hudson, New York.
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An Urban Oasis
The LookPhilip Gorrivan packed this space, which he envisioned as a room in a contemporary apartment, with modern touches, like a pony-hair rug and chrome chairs.
The IdeasThe inky, dark walls, painted in Witching Hour, “make the room feel both cavernous and cozy,” Gorrivan says. He injected punchy colors, painting the chair bright green, bringing in two dot-print throw pillows, and anchoring the viburnum centerpiece on the turquoise tray. On the console, he placed candles in front of a mirror to reflect light. Gorrivan, an avid gardener, is a big believer in decorating with plants. “You can put many shades of green together and it’s like living in a forest,” he says.
Three Questions for… Philip Gorrivan1. Which colors make a great match? I love pairing a neutral tone with an unexpected shot of color, like brown with acid yellow. It wakes you up and grounds you at the same time.
2. What is your favorite decorating trick? Installing fabric or wallpaper on the ceiling adds depth and takes advantage of a large surface that otherwise would go unnoticed.
3. Is there a decorating no-no that’s actually ok? Introducing lots of pattern in a small space. When you mix and match patterns, they almost neutralize each other.
New York City–based Philip Gorrivan has designed everything from apartments to beach homes.
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A Rustic Retreat
The LookInspired by the lily pad–print canvas cots sold in her New York City furnishings shop, Susan Hable Smith created an outdoorsy space. “I’ve always loved things that are practical without being dull,” she says.
The IdeasHable Smith had fun with “campinglike” elements, topping the cots with duvets tied up with rope, sleeping bag–style, and placing the tray on a canvas stool. To instill a sense of nature, the designer mixed tones of green, from the sage-colored walls painted in Lush to the artwork (canvas stretched over simple frames). She encouraged kicking back by stacking pillows at the end of each cot, then used the same fabric to cover the lamp shade.
Three Questions for… Susan Hable Smith1. Which colors make a great match? Right now I love combining all ranges of purple and green. It’s a natural pairing―these are the colors that I often see together while gardening.
2. What is your favorite decorating trick? Using liquid starch as a wall adhesive lets you apply fabric―in an artful pattern or to cover an expanse―and easily take it down without damaging the walls.
3. Is there a decorating no-no that’s actually ok? Using clashing colors together in the same space, or mixing cool and warm tones that really have nothing in common.
Susan Hable Smith owns Hable Construction, a textile firm and retail shop, with her sister, Katharine Hable Sweeney.
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A Dramatic Sitting Area
The LookJamie Drake created a theatrical room with walls painted in Amethyst Cream. “Believe it or not, I think of it as a pastel,” says the designer, a fan of bold colors. The patterned, elaborately draped silk curtains are “like ones you’d see in an opera house.”
The IdeasThe jewel-tone artwork and the tall vase “speak to the busy curtains,” says Drake. The designer tempered the bright colors with a white sofa and the white painted chair, and he brought in a darker purple cushion and pillow because “it’s a good idea to introduce different shades of one color, to pull the space together.” Drake added bronze theater masks as curtain tiebacks for a playful touch.
Three Questions for… Jamie Drake1. Which colors make a great match? Right now I’m in love with black and white. It’s the perfect canvas for any color of the rainbow.
2. What is your favorite decorating trick? Coat your boring wood furniture with high-gloss paint. White can be dazzling and crisp, or use a vibrant color to really make a statement.
3. Is there a decorating no-no that’s actually ok? Adding something totally off, wrong, and crazy to a room. Try putting a rustic table in a formal space, or hang a Baroque candelabra in a super-modern room with clean lines. If your look leans toward farmhouse chic, cover a chair in sensuous satin.
Manhattan-based Jamie Drake serves on the board of the Alpha Workshops, an organization that employs people living with HIV and AIDS in the decorative arts.