Q: Our teen-age daughter says she wants her room to look more feminine. One step we've agreed upon is to paint the headboard and dresser in a medium blue with an antique white trim. Now we're debating the addition of plaids and stripes, but I think these fabrics will make the room appear too tailored. Please advise.
A: I agree with you in principle. Plaids and stripes certainly can produce a tailored look, but I have also seen rooms in which they make a wonderful background for very relaxed settings. It all depends on how they are used and what sort of furniture accompanies them.
If your remodeling project is to include a furniture purchase, you should consider acquiring some Louis XV-style pieces. With their curvilinear lines and floral images, furnishings of this sort may conform to your daughter's concept of feminine design. What's more, Louis XV pieces are often embellished with cotton fabrics, printed or woven in plaids and stripes of appropriate scale.
Another way to dress up the room would involve using plaids and stripes in combination with a toile de Jouy print. That's the name originally given to a cotton-printing technique introduced in France by anIrish print works back in the 18th century. The images on these fabrics were of fashionably costumed people and pastoral scenes, and birds and flowers. The prints usually resembled line drawings, colored in deep blues or reds against a white background.
Similar designs are produced today in fabrics and wall coverings by Brunschwig & Fils. And they look great in combination with plaids and small stripes. Particularly striking, I think, are the images shown here, which were inspired by ceramic tile murals in a palace near Lisbon.
As for the room's overall color scheme, I suggest you consider using blue, yellow and white. That may not be typically feminine, but it is appropriate for a room that includes blue-and-white painted furniture.
Another possibility is a printed wall covering in a toile design against a white background. You could then paint the woodwork -- including the crown molding, if the room includes such a feature -- in the predominant color of the wallpaper design.
The apportionment of color and print to plaid and stripes should be given careful consideration. As a general rule, it's better not to risk being bold in such an arrangement. Feminine styles of the sort your daughter seems to prefer are based on light colors and do not include busy surfaces.