New York metro area designer Jo Ann Alston of J. Stephens Interiors tells us how she transformed a dated, standard builder's family room into a space with a fresh take on English Country design.
The challenge of this project was to take a large-scale existing family room with a double-height ceiling that was devoid of interest and transform it into the client's desired aesthetic of English Country with a warm and friendly feeling for her busy family. The initial task was to devise a floor plan that divided up the room into two different areas: a cozy gathering area by the fireplace and TV, and the other a game table section.
Next, we had to tackle the architectural changes necessary to warm, formalize and visually enhance the room. We designed a custom wall of paneling as well as a waxed pine mantel piece and installed it over the existing brick fireplace surround. We retained the existing brick fireplace surround and hearth. We also changed all of the baseboards and the door and window casings to a more appropriate height and design for the room.
Upon entering the room, you are greeted by a mahogany demi lune and two chairs made by Holland and Company. The demi lune provides a wonderful landing spot for seasonal arrangements. On either side of the sofa are custom tables made in walnut by Kittinger and Company. The tables have a brass detail on the edge and brass fenules that further enhances the use of gold tones in the space. All of the table lamps are vintage from Carlos de la Puente.
One of the design techniques I use often in two-story spaces is to paint the walls and the ceiling the same color. In this case, it is a Sherwin Williams greige tone. This technique visually cocoons the space. The color palette was designed to coordinate with the Lee Jofa drapery material. The paneling is hand-painted in a green strié. This provides a strong focal point and is a beautiful backdrop for the gilt and crystal mirror which has a custom brown finish made by Stephen Cavallo Mirror Fair.
The choice of green paneling also helps to ground the room and make it more livable on the user level, as it brings your eye down and draws your eye to it visually foreshortening a long room. We also faux-finished the wood window mullions to match the paneling. The two wing chairs in front of the windows are made by Ironies and are covered in a deep brown espresso crocodile-embossed leather complemented by an animal print pillow. There is a generous mix of color, pattern and texture, which a large-scale room requires.
To the right, you see a custom coral lacquer sideboard which provides just the right unexpected note and boldness of color the room needs. The use of this color draws the viewer's eye around the room. The brass double-height chandelier is made by the Federalist, in addition there are four hurricane sconces by John Roselli.
Through the use of color, pattern, texture and interesting architectural treatments, we were able to take what once was a drab, unfriendly space and make it into a warm and welcoming, yet dramatic space.