Q: Having increased the size of our kitchen, we now have the opposite problem faced by many of your readers. The room is so big that it seems to present overwhelming difficulties. How do we produce a cozy, country-type design in a space with high ceilings, dark wood cabinets and floor and a huge amount of empty wall space?
A: I chose this photo, which shows part of a larger room, hoping it will provide you with inspiration for your entire space. As you can see, almost no surface here has been left bare. The floor, for example, is partly covered by a decorative area rug with a motif reminiscent of Pennsylvania Dutch designs. And the rug is not only nice-looking -- it's also part of a strategy that involves fragmenting the large room into various groupings.
A space as big as the one you describe must have more than one work or conversation area. But furniture combinations alone will not achieve this effect. You must also create a few focal points that will emphasize specific sections of the room.
The dining table and chairs will readily serve as one key grouping. And that composition can be accentuated by adding brightly colored seat cushions and by purchasing a scrubbed pine or ceramic-top table that will contrast dramatically with your dark flooring.
A seating area can meanwhile be created in one of the room's corners. All you need are a few upholstered lounge chairs, a lamp table and don't forget that decorative rug -- it will help unify the grouping while serving as another focal point.
I don't know whether your room contains a fireplace, but if it doesn't, you may want to add a prefabricated or free-standing model. With proper venting, and if outfitted with essential safety and anti-pollution features, a fireplace might be exactly what's needed to make your room feel more cozy. Some great metal and ceramic fireplace designs are available on today's market.
In the photo, the wall adjacent to the fireplace is surfaced with brick. Its color and texture form a strong contrast to the large piece of furniture that's been placed against the wall. The same effect can be achieved by giving one of the walls in your room a color or a finish that contrasts with the rest of the space. A dark color is a particularly smart choice because it will make the room look more compact.
Painting the ceiling a dark color will likewise cause the room to seem less cavernous. And even though I personally don't like fake beams, I must admit that they produce the illusion of a lower ceiling.
Since minimalism is not conducive to coziness, don't be shy about adding decorative elements. Display some collections on shelves and in open hutches. And keep in mind that it's perfectly OK in this sort of setting to mix fabric patterns such as plaids, checks and florals as long as they are properly scaled. That means they must be of different sizes.
Overall, the key to designing a room like yours is to give it a distinctive personality. Fill it with things you love, and don't try to emulate some picture-perfect interior. They may be plentiful in the pages of design magazines, but they're rare in real life.