24 April 2009

Reader question: What is this and what do I do with it?

Help! I bought this bedroom set but I've no idea what the style is called or how to decorate around it. The bedroom is a square 17 x 17 with light grey carpet and walls. Nothing else is in the room at the moment. I'd like to find a paint that fits the furniture (no yellows) and decorate the room from scratch. Learning the style name would help. I'll take any ideas!

Before I get into your questions, I have a question for you. Is it too late to return it? If the answer's yes, check out the Silentnight web page for a great selection of beds and mattresses.

Oh my. Wow. I'd call that "style" a cartoon. It's a really poorly executed attempt to capture the allure and glamor of Italy. People who don't know any better refer to that "style" as Tuscan. Please see my post from 27 February, How Do I Decorate My Tuscany Dining Room. But really, it's wrong on a whole lot of levels.

So to answer your question about how to integrate it into a large bedroom so that you can decorate from scratch, I say scratch the bedroom suite and start over. You've fallen into a trap that catches a lot of people by the way, so don't feel too bad. 

That trap of course is not planning. If you're going to decorate that bedroom from scratch, the first thing you need is a plan. I know that taking the time to put together a plan removes the thrill of stumbling across treasures you'll impulse buy (like that Godawful bed and night stand), but trust me, it's worth it.

Step one in a plan I'd suggest is to hire an interior designer. But if you don't want to do that, start with a list of needs. Figure out what you need the furniture in your bedroom to do. You'll need a bed, obviously. Then you'll need night stands, lamps, a carpet, linens, window treatments and then furniture to hold your clothes. Inventory your stuff and think about how much storage you actually need. Don't think about what any of this stuff will look like yet, concentrate on function first.

Once you know what this bedroom furniture is going to do, then you can start thinking about how it's going to look. Before you start picking finishes though, you'll need to draw up a floor plan so you can make sure everything will fit. You can do it old school and get yourself a sheet of graph paper and draw a room in a scale where a quarter of an inch equals a foot. Or, you can do it new school and draw it in SketchUp. Keep it simple and go easy on the themes. After all, the theme should be you and your life.

Based on your selection of that bed and nightstand, you like things to be a bit on the traditional side. That's perfectly fine, just be careful of scale and proportion. The bedroom suite in your photo is massive and ungainly. Something like that will overwhelm that bedroom. Take it down a few pegs. Look for smaller-scale stuff and don't buy a suite. Your furniture shouldn't match necessarily, but it ought to come together into a cohesive group.

Now, if you can't return that bedroom suite and you're stuck with it just go for Baroque (bad pun I know) and pretend you're the Sun King. recreate Versailles with it.

Actually, please don't. Beg if you have to but return that bed and night table.


  1. Paul, I don't feel that the bed is all that bad however in a 17' x 17' room the scale/weight is inappropriate; therefore good advice re consideration to return it (and the night-table.) To me it wud work in much larger room perhaps with vaulted ceilings. Use your imagination .... smiles.

  2. Atrocious. Absolutely atrocious. Who designs this stuff?

  3. That bed is an abomination. All of those phallic columns look like compensation to me. Woops! Did I say that out loud?

  4. Somebody who spends a lot of time on the Vegas Strip, clearly.

  5. I would agree, returning it would be best, but since most people aren't going to do that, the best defense against something like this is going to be a good offense - namely camouflage.

    Deep, rich, dark colors and reflectivity will distract from these objects, help hide how they really don't fit terribly well in the space (as well as their ugliness) by making them blend in with the walls to a certain extent instead of stand out, and still fit with the "style".

    I'd recommend glazing the walls with a deep aubergine, and doing drapes and bed fittings in similar tones of aubergine, burgundy, and charcoal - brocades and damasks and the like. Replacing the carpet with something darker is a must - orientals would be good. If you want a more solid carpet, get something with a more subtle pattern that picks up the colors in the fabrics, because the room will look like the bottom fell out if it's one solid color.

    Finally, mirrors and lighting - Venetian glass mirrors and a Murano glass chandelier and sconces.

    So, no, the furniture isn't really Tuscan in style, but it's still better to head in that general direction with the rest of the decor and just go right over the top along these lines - http://tinyurl.com/c2laas or http://tinyurl.com/dd7xnr.

    Alternatively, dressing the room predominantly in more contemporary, sober and lighter tones of grey and charcoal with colors like the aubergine and burgundy as accents, would make the furniture stand out more, but would be calmer to the eye overall, and might be able to be worked in a way to hopefully still utilize the existing carpeting if the poster didn't want to replace it. In this approach, you basically treat the space as a more contemporary one with the ornate furniture used as accents. This would allow that the owner actually likes these things and let her see them better.

    At least the furniture physically fits in this room, even if out of scale. I recently saw a situation where the room was much smaller, and a dramatically worse bedroom set was purchased for a contemporary room that literally doesn't even fit in the space. The bed doesn't fit against the wall because of a curved glass wall jutting into it (they didn't realize it was a king instead of a queen), and the dresser is about 2' too long for any wall it would need to go on, and sits angled across the room, partially blocking the doorway. Getting in and out of the one side of the bed is only possible for a starving child, and one of the nighttables is positioned perfectly for taking an eye out when an occupant exists the other side of the bed. Ain't *nuttin'* that can be done about this situation at all.

  6. Hey there, thanks for the great and thorough response. I appreciate the time and thought that went into my readers' dilemma. I'll besure to pass along your suggestions. Welcome to my blog by the way, you have a terrific website. There's no way you could know this, but I've long told myself that I'll have really made it when I move to Mill Valley, CA. You're fortunate. You live in one of my dream locations!

  7. Thanks on all counts, Paul, and my pleasure. And thank you for all the great SketchUp links; I need to get down to business and really learn it one of these days, and they will help a lot.

    I wish I could edit the "ugly" comments out of my post here, though; clearly the reader loves these pieces even if we do not, and I shouldn't have used that language. Our job is to make the best of whatever a client has if they bring existing furniture and artwork to a project that they insist on using, whether we like it ourselves or not. A good designer will be able to do *something* to improve virtually anything, even if it will never be something we'd want to put in our portfolios.

    Very interesting that you are interested in living here. Let me know if you make it out my way and we can try to get together!


  8. Hey Wendy, don't sweat the ugly comments. This bedroom suit has a backstory a mile long. I answered this person privately in a gentler voice and all's well.

  9. I can see that plastic-y finish from a mile away. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

  10. At least that reader isn't stuck with the bed AND a house full of honey oak furniture, honey oak flooring, honey oak "paneling", honey oak picture frames, honey oak early american anything that isn't from his mother's which is all honey oak and honey oak mantle clock with eerily honey oak brass finished "decorative" trim involving a lot of craptastic netting and swirls...i hate my life.

  11. Great, you hate it we got that; however this shows the designer's shortcomings. Childish, snobby, and not up to taking on a designing challenge. Sometimes a clients taste is not yours, but you could have at least try to work with it. Do you always walk around with a chorus of Nancy boys repeating your every snide comment...

  12. And sometimes a piece of furniture is not only ugly, it's out of scale and can't be made to work. I love how you try to insult me from the safety of an anonymous comment. That's so brave. So I'm childish, snobby and somehow not up to the task at hand. Oh, I also have a chorus of nancy boys following me a round. Way to attack the person when you can't defend your own argument. Lay off the homophobic remarks, they're about the only thing that will make me delete a comment. You're welcome to join in, even anonymously. You're welcome to disagree with me. Hell, I encourage it. But what you're not free to do is insult me or anyone else and you're not free to spew slurs. Got it?


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