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Comfortable old things snap to attention


Q: My weekend house could use a major make-over, but I'm not willing to buy a lot of new furniture. In fact, I like my wood-stained, traditionally styled hand-me-downs. They make for a comfortable hodgepodge in the commodious rooms, and that seems just right for an old getaway in the mountains. Still, the place definitely needs a face lift. How can I make its tired interior look happier and snappier?

A: Snappier! It's wonderful to hear that old-fashioned word again because it perfectly expresses a look that I often strive to create for my clients.

First, do not worry about the age or the darkness of the furniture as long as most of the pieces have attractive lines. And since you're clearly fond of the furniture you've got, you won't need any convincing to keep it. May I suggest that you consider cleaning some of the mustier pieces? Reupholstering, adding some new slipcovers, and perhaps even re-staining or painting some of the wood frames might result in big improvements.

You may also wish to change the background color in a few of the rooms. Large areas of bright white or some other pale color, accompanied by sunny splashes of buttery or lemon yellows, will make a drowsy room -- and the tired furniture in it -- wake up.

Any fabrics, including rugs and curtains, should be kept simple in their patterns. An abundance of busy prints often accentuates the age of an older home, producing the sort of weary, worn-out effect that you're trying to eliminate.

Now let's consider the photo, which shows a well lived-in room that's been re-energized by designer Simone Feldman. Note her technique of paring down to the essentials and suffusing the setting with light.

White-and-yellow floral cotton slipcovers combine glowingly with the white-bleached wood floor. The rings on those pale putty drapery poles match the wall color, while the floor-length curtains are of the same bright whiteness as the bedspread. A simple Parson's table -- too treasured to be tossed aside -- has been turned into a pretty dressing table by adding a simple fabric, which is also used to cover the chair cushions and ottoman.

I'm sure at least a few examples from this touch-up can be adapted to your situation. If, for instance, your floors can't take a bleach stain, perhaps they can be painted white with a high-gloss finish and several coats of polyurethane. Or how about a pale-colored carpet that complements the brilliance of your repainted walls?

And don't forget to add a touch of color at the ceiling line, as is shown in the photo. A sage-green wallpaper border was the designer's tasteful choice to accent the white, yellow and putty color scheme. Details like this will make your weekend retreat look a lot snappier!

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