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January 1999 Issue
A Space Meant for Living
by Jenny Wojcik
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Happy New Year everyone! I’ll just bet that most of us have made a resolution or two - one is invariably about our diet and exercise routines (or lack thereof) while some involve quitting one thing or another, or starting something new. One of my resolutions is doing something new for you! Each month I’ll be sharing "decor data" that will help you beautify your home, and make decorating a more pleasurable, affordable experience. I hope these little bits of information will be helpful to you, and I’d appreciate hearing from you with any specific questions. Email me here, or post a message in the message board.

As I thought about our tour through the house, it seemed that it was only appropriate to talk about Living Rooms this month. That’s a term that a lot of people don’t use anymore. Many architects today omit the "formal living room" when creating space on blueprint paper, because some homebuyers feel that it’s a wasted space. I’ve heard everything from "just another room to clean" to "I love it - it’s the only room the kids avoid".

In times not so terribly long ago, the living room was as much a hub of activity as the kitchen. Some called it a parlor, some a sitting room, but what happened in that room actually gave it it’s name: Living. We met our friends there. We introduced our dates to our parents in that room. We always entertained guests in the living room. It was always decorated for the holidays. We may have even stolen our first kiss in that room. Some of us played an instrument there, while most of us were seen and not heard in there. And now, there’s a segment of society who has given up the notion of formal living and has eliminated the living room from their floor plans. In exchange, we’ve created "great" rooms and "family" rooms - wonderful spaces indeed, but the living room (if we still have one) can and should be a very special place.

When we built our first house, the living room sat empty - void of furniture or window treatments - until we could afford to buy something really special for that room. I’m sure many of you have had that experience or you’re experiencing it for the first time now. We wanted that room to be the showcase of our house, so we waited and planned and looked at furniture sales until the magical moment occurred when we could furnish that room. When we finally finished the living room, it looked great. It was cozy and intimate, with an extremely comfortable couch and two chairs that were covered in a beautiful fabric. We bought the tables, the lamps, the art - and then we went into the family room and sat down - afraid to sit in our newly decorated living room. There was only one problem with our beautiful living room - no one was living in there. We were so caught up in the preservation of that room that we didn’t allow ourselves to enjoy it. In a nutshell, I think that’s why so many space planners have started to eliminate it.

If you’re fortunate enough to have the space for a living room - please, have one. I learned that by going into that room - day or night - to just sit, or to read and relax without the usual family room "sounds" (TV, stereo, CD player, Gameboy, you name it) was sheer pleasure. It became my escape for those moments that I needed to shake off the day’s stress or the feeling of being someone’s road kill at work that day.

That living room, that was always clutter free (because no one in the house used it) and as near perfect as a room could be, became my refuge. I could go there and imagine that the rest of my house looked as neat and clean as this one. I allowed myself to sit and listen for quiet. I gave thanks that I had chosen comfortable furniture and that the kids thought this was a really boring room. And when adult friends came over, I could invite them into a room where grownups felt at home and dogs and teenagers avoided like rabies shots and homework (respectively of course).

Decorating the living room was simply putting in it the things that made me feel alive. That’s about as simplified a decorating lesson as I can give you. You need to surround yourself with things that you love. Colors that you love will look great in your house - in your living room. There are no hard rules here. Paint your living room in a color that you love to be surrounded by - a color that soothes or excites you - a color that makes you feel alive. Be bold and brave in choosing your wall treatments! Paint or wallpaper - but DO something exciting.

If you are stumped - and some of you are just afraid and think you’re stumped - let me help you. Visualize the clothing that hangs in your closet - your wardrobe. What color clothing do you own the most of? Black? Blue? Brown? That says something about the colors you love. If you love wearing that color, chances are you’ll love living in it. Stopping short of telling you to paint your walls and ceilings black or even brown, use colors you love to furnish your home. If black is your favorite, then try a nice warm gray color for your walls and ceiling. (Gray as you know, is made from black and a touch of white.) Add black in your furniture or your accessories (or both) and I guarantee you’ll love that room. If brown is your favorite, then choose a shade of brown - taupe or honey beige - and add some living color to your living room. Try living in there now - I think you’ll love it.

DÉCOR DATA:

    When choosing colors for a room, select three of them. Choose one as the predominant color and the other two as accent colors. Within this tri-color framework, you can paint, wallpaper, select upholstery fabric and curtains, tables, lamps, rugs, floral arrangements - everything top to bottom - and it will all work beautifully together.


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