The best of both worlds: Elements of a successful space

by Patricia M. Cove
Posted 7/28/22

In researching successful interior projects, I came across this photo.

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The best of both worlds: Elements of a successful space


In researching successful interior projects, I came across this photo. Studying its elements and composition, I realized that if there were a room that exemplified all the important elements of design in 2022, this room could be it.

First off, it appears to be a space of an historic time period. The picture frame moldings have been retained and restored, giving the walls interest and dimension.  The substantial crown molding anchors the space and provides a sense of containment. The oversized windows, French doors and transom all contribute to the room’s historic nature and provide the architectural interest from which any room can benefit.

But the most important aspects contributing to the nature of this space is the way all of these features are treated and complement the furnishings.  So, let's take a specific look at exactly how and why this room is a room for today and into the future.

In times past, the woodwork or trim in a room, whether it was picture frame moldings, crown moldings or door and window frames, would be painted a color that contrasts with the walls, giving the space an historic look and feel.

In this space, the trims and the walls are all painted the same color. The only difference could be the “finish” used: flat for the walls and ceiling, gloss or semi- gloss for the trim. Because the color chosen is light, I would use the same color on the ceiling, as opposed to what some painters call “ceiling white.” Using the same light color on both the walls and the ceiling gives the room unity, and offers a more visual continuity to the space.

Any furnishings, window treatments and accessories incorporated into a room like this have the ability to look sensational simply because of the elegant architectural details surrounding them, and this room is no exception.

One of the most appealing elements of good design is symmetry, creating an inherent balance in the design. The location of the windows, the centered doorway, and the matching molding features of each wall lend that all important architectural balance. On the left wall is a fireplace that serves as the room's focal point, and balances the seating arrangement, contributing to that all important symmetry.

When used appropriately, modern furnishings can be the perfect complement to architecturally historic spaces. The streamlined sofas, low to the floor with narrow arms and backs, add weight to the room but do not overpower its dimensions. They are positioned strategically to encourage conversation, while enabling participants to enjoy all aspects of the space from different angles.

The fabrics chosen are solid yet textural. The sleek credenza and cocktail table complement the rectilinear lines of the room. The matador portrait above the credenza is balanced in height by the screen on the opposite wall, all sporting the same high gloss lacquer finish.

Where the windows may have at one time been covered with heavy draperies, today they are accented with simple stationery panels and flat Roman shades that could be closed for privacy if necessary. The incorporation of a traditional damask fabric for the window shades is the perfect foil for all the modern elements of the space.

Sculptural pieces, a modern lamp and two linear sconces are very simple but extremely effective accents that add modernity and historic reference at the same time. The area carpet is large enough to encompass the entire seating arrangement, but still allows the hardwood floor to be a visual element of the space.

The overall color palette reads monochromatic. But one of the most successful design features is the addition of unexpected shots of color in the vase of pink peonies, and the faux fur animal print throw in shades of camel, black and white.

The long narrow bench and the small round accent table complete what is certainly a terrific example of a room that exemplifies all the elements of a successful space, and a room that will carry you right into 2023 and beyond!

Patricia Cove is Principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill, and can be reached through her website: