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An affection for African art inspired one designer to transform a dark, English-style library into a fanciful gathering room where treasures from Africa and elsewhere could be lived with and enjoyed. This exotic library was designed by Elizabeth K. Piper, managing design director of Michael Asner Associates Inc., in cooperation with senior designer Karen Aumen.

The design challenges here included 30-foot-high wood ceilings, wood floors and dull, oak floor-to-ceiling bookcases that literally sucked up what little light was able to filter in through the windows. However, the existing wood finish was not to be altered in any way except for a necessary cleaning.

The designers, inspired by the dazzling colors and patterns of African textiles, and carpets from Afghanistan, elected first to simplify the background of the room. They lightened the floor with a pale sisal carpet, and painted the walls a brilliant teal.

The setting presents an ideal background for the riot of pattern taken from the unusual array of African and New Guinea art and artifacts. These rare pieces represent a small portion of the personal collection of Dr. Nancy Stevens Carsey, executive director of Very Special Arts of Maryland. Turn-of-the-century and earlier furnishings, which reflect the period of African colonialism, are from Gaines/McHale antiques.

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