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Homes | Managing space

Got a house like a barn? Make it more intimate

For those who own larger or newer houses with open floor plans and high ceilings, creating a feeling of intimacy and warmth can seem impossible. However, when you are armed with these decorating tricks, making your big spaces feel snuggly is simple. Mary Carol Garrity, Scripps Howard News Service

Arrange furniture in small groups to break up space

The easiest and most effective way to make large rooms feel cozy is to dissect them into intimate furniture groupings. For instance, to make the long and lumbering living room in my Greek revival feel warm and inviting, I broke the space into two distinct seating areas.

I divided the room in half by placing a sizable pedestal table in the center. The table acted as a friendly barrier, directing guests to either the smaller, formal seating arrangement at the front of the room or the larger furniture grouping at the back, near the fireplace.

Then, I gave each seating area its own personality by using harmonious but dissimilar furnishings, area rugs, accents and artwork. The room flows beautifully together, but each space looks distinct and complete.

Pick a darker color

I'm a big believer in the power of paint, and I have seen cold, lofty rooms suddenly feel warm and cozy when the right color is on the walls. Though not every large room can handle a dark hue, those with big banks of beautiful windows have enough natural light to absorb a deeper color without feeling too dark and heavy.

Invest in a 'statement'

When you furnish your vast rooms, be sure to showcase one large "statement" piece that can hold its own and not get gobbled up in all that open space. Choose an oversized wood case, like a large bibliotheca, hutch, secretary or armoire (above). These dark and dramatic pieces absorb a lot of empty wall, serve as excellent focal points and give you lots of shelves on which to display the beautiful accents that personalize the room and give it character.

Introduce drama through creatively arranged art

Art is the best way to warm up a room, especially one that is large in scale. When selecting pieces for vast walls, try a larger, impressive painting above your sofa or fireplace. Fill up a blank wall with an extraordinary grid of similar pieces, like a set of nine or 12 architectural drawings, interesting maps or a black-and-white photographic study.

In a large space, using bold accent pieces works well

You can go two ways on this. One is to choose all harmonious fabrics, such as the various creams and white I paired together in my living room. Then, add colorful pillows and accent rugs. Or take a chance and experiment with bold patterns that would overwhelm a smaller room. Feature a spunky graphic pattern, interesting toile, sizable check or strong stripe in paneled drapes. Try them on minor upholstered pieces like a side chair or ottoman. Or bring them in through accent pillows on your sofa or club chairs.

Got a house like a barn? Make it more intimate 12/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:48am]

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