Get the look
A white foundation sets the stage for pieces that add color and drama

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BACKGROUND Radhakrishnan prefers clean white walls (most of her rooms are Duron's Shell White, Donald Kaufman DKC-28 or Benjamin Moore's Calming Cream) and neutral ceilings and floors. She calls this a "quiet shell."

Upstairs, her floors are covered in white wall-to-wall carpeting. "I like to give the rooms a spike of color and drama when I layer the furnishings, fabrics and art," she says.

She thinks that strong color on the walls steals the thunder from the room and takes all the attention. "I like a room to unfold more slowly," she says. "I like to let people discover things."

ACCESSORIES Books are great personal statements, Radhakrishnan believes. Her husband collects first editions and rare books on literature and philosophy; she loves old art books and ones on architecture and design. She likes stacking large books on side chairs in her living room and family room.

SCREENS A large folding screen can be used as a focal point, a camouflage agent or a family command center. She found an eight-foot screen made of mahogany, zebrawood and glass at Colony House in Arlington. She uses it to conceal a big heating and cooling vent in her formal dining room and to soften a dead corner between two doors. Now she tucks postcards, photographs and mementos in it; we spotted U2 tickets stashed there.

LAYERING Start with a large mirror and lean it against a wall atop a dresser or desk. Then arrange a group of framed prints around it by leaning them against the wall and one another. No nail holes are involved, and you can easily change what you display.

CUSTOM WALLCOVERING Take favorite photographs from trips and have them blown up into wallpaper. The Radhakrishnan house has murals made from photos she took at Versailles and at the British Museum. The higher the resolution, the better, she says. This can be an affordable way to make a major statement in your space. The murals can be ordered through Blue River Digital (

OPEN SHELVING Using bookcases of various sizes in kids' rooms encourages children to be more independent, says Radhakrishnan. Her 5-year-old's room has toys, books and art materials stacked on a wall of Ikea shelving. "He doesn't have to call me when he wants something, and he knows where everything is kept," she says. It promotes organization and a sense of order, she says.

FLOWERS Here's an inexpensive way to have fresh flowers in your house from summer to fall: Plant a row of hydrangeas in your yard. They bloom throughout the summer, and you'll always be able to cut bunches of them and put them all over the house. In the fall, the blossoms turn to rich greens and reds.

-- Jura Koncius

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