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Home Style Mary Carol Garrity



Just because a room is small doesnít mean you canít make it work for you. After painting, find the main focal point and work around that.   SHNS photo by Bryan E. McCay / Nell Hillís Entertaining in Style

Embrace small space by giving it drama

Q: I have a spare bedroom Iím dying to redecorate, but Iím not sure how to approach this space because the room is small and doesnít get much natural light.

A: Instead of fighting the roomís small, closed-in feel, why not embrace it? Turn it into a cozy cocoon that envelopes guests in its warmth and softness. Thatís exactly what my friend Cynthia did when she took on the challenge of redecorating a spare bedroom that sounds a lot like yours.

This middle bedroom, sandwiched in the center of the home, was so tiny the homeís previous owners used it as a large closet. Cynthia didnít need the extra closet space, but she did need a spot that would double as a study for her husband and a guestroom for visiting friends and family.

Since no amount of decorating tricks could make this room seem large, Cynthia abandoned the thought and decided instead to make the diminutive space as dramatic as she could.

In a bold move, she painted the walls Twilight, a deep, dark blue thatís one step from navy. For high contrast, she covered the wood trim in Garrity Cream, a fabulous shade of off-white that looks perfect paired with every wall color known to man.

Since I have this exact color combination in my dining room, I know firsthand how showy it can be. I was on pins and needles waiting to see what Cynthia would do against this backdrop. Since the roomís focal point was an exquisite French walnut bed, she started there. Through the years, the bed frame had acquired a golden-brown patina, which inspired Cynthia to add a third color to her blue-and-cream palette: caramel. She and I had a blast looking at swatches of fabric, finally picking out a to-die-for group of textiles that wove together the roomís navy, cream and caramel tones.

For fun, we decided to work the negative in the textiles, selecting a few patterns that came in reverse-color ways. For instance, the plaid we used on Cynthiaís duvet and curtain panels was offered in two contrasting versions. One featured a navy background and caramel plaid, and another was a caramel background with a navy plaid.

Iím a big fan of two-sided duvets, with each side in a different complementary fabric. They give your duvet two distinct personalities and enable you to get more mileage from your bed linens. So on Cynthiaís duvet, we paired the navy-caramel plaid with a yummy navy vine pattern.

We decided on a no-fuss pillow treatment with just two layers of pillows. In back we put two Euro shams covered in the contrasting plaid. Next came standard pillow shams made from solid navy fabric and piped in caramel. To give these plain pillows a little punch, we added a monogram on each.

Iím wild about mismatched nightstands, so I loved the unusual pieces Cynthia scooted up next to the bed. On one side she used a trolley cart, which could double as a bookshelf to hold a reading lamp, piles of books and even a few accents. On the other side of the bed, she showcased a darling antique marble-topped French nightstand. To dress the windows, Cynthia selected one of my all-time favorite combinations: simple bamboo shades flanked by classic fabric drapes, which were done in the gorgeous navy plaid. To bring more natural fibers into the room, she put a sea-grass area rug at the roomís center. Sea-grass rugs are perfect solutions for bedrooms because theyíre practical, durable and informal.

Cynthiaís final decorative touch elevated this snug double-use room from fabulous to out of this world. She discovered a number of engravings in an old art book that featured portraits of French nobility. She gingerly cut the nine portraits from the old book and had them framed so they looked like costly antiques. Then she hung all nine in a bold grid that covered two-thirds of the wall.

I want to encourage you to not be afraid of your small, dark bedroom. Just like Cynthia did with hers, you can turn your roomís challenges into strengths, creating a comfy, cozy oasis.

Mary Carol Garrity is the proprietor of three successful home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and the author of several best-selling books on home decorating. Write to Mary Carol at nellhills@ mail.lvnworth.com.

See more Home Style columns by Mary Carol Garrity