D.C. Design House 2009 - Living Room: One Big Room, Three Cozy Spaces

By Photography by Gordon Beall
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two months ago, the empty living room of the D.C. Design House felt large, imposing and intimidating. Today, it feels just the opposite. Using color, texture, pattern and perfect furniture placement, D.C. designer David Mitchell has transformed one sizable room into three cozy, comfortable spaces.

On one side, a cushy sofa surrounded by four chairs creates an intimate living space. On the other side, a daybed draped with a cotton throw and piled with pillows creates a garden-view sitting area. Between the two spaces, a skirted table sits on a bare wood floor and displays a vase of cherry blossoms that reach toward the ceiling.

The entire room, drenched in a pale palette of blue, ivory, yellow, khaki and wheat, feels casual yet formal and is definitely appealing. But it's the details, and the deft mix of high and low, that make this design a standout. Priceless Swedish antiques share space with modern wall art (created by Mitchell with inexpensive graphic art paper). Two inexpensive fiddle-leaf fig trees are paired with custom curtains to frame the French doors that lead outside.

And our favorite detail: the graphic pattern cut out of the edge of the sisal area rugs. It's a designer touch that can easily be had, says Mitchell: "Get a sisal from Pottery Barn, then have someone cut the key shape."

The room has "the comfort of traditional with a little edge," Mitchell says. We agree. He also says it's time to bring back the skirted table. That part, we need a little convincing on.

Terri Sapienza

A Designer's Tip for Beautiful Lighting

When it comes to recessed lighting, designer David Mitchell says less is more. "People tend to put too many recessed lights in a room, and it gets overwhelming," he says, ". . . and there are so many great hanging fixtures out there." His room in the D.C. Design House is a good example.

To help homeowners, the designer offers his formula for the most beautiful way to light a standard-size room:

-- Install four recessed lights, one in each corner of the room, placing them 24 inches from the wall (not the molding) for an overall warm glow.

-- Hang a fixture in the center for ambient lighting and to provide a focal point.

-- Use a table or floor lamp for accent and task lighting.

-- Watch your wattage. If your lamp has a single bulb, use a 60-watt. If your lamp has two bulbs, use two 40-watts.

-- Have all lights on dimmers, even lamps.

Terri Sapienza

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