Brightening up room that has teak furniture, flooring

The Baltimore Sun

I like the look of teak furniture and teak flooring, but it seems I've overdone a good thing in my dining room. Not even the pale yellow walls prevent the space from looking dark and dull. Keeping my modest budget in mind, can you suggest how I might add some spark to this setting?

What your dining room needs is more color and contrast. And both can be introduced, without great expense, by means of paint, fabrics and accessories.

Consider painting over those pale yellow walls with a warm color such as melon or a reddish-orange. And if you prefer something cooler, a leaf-green or Mediterranean blue is always flattering to dark woods such as teak. Whichever color you choose can also be used as covering for the chairs, if your budget permits.

Another way of creating greater contrast between the furniture and the flooring would be to paint the walls a pure white while covering the table with natural linen. What gets placed on the table can have a big impact on a dining room's overall appearance. Dishes, serving pieces and napkins should act as more than accessories in a space such as the one you describe. Besides brightening the entire setting, the items on the table can make the food seem more interesting -- and even tastier.

Your choices are many. My preference is for white or cream dishes and smaller plates, with the serving pieces in stronger colors so they act as accents. Tabletop runners in a black pattern on linen fabric will add spark to a room with white walls and lots of teak furniture and teak flooring.

We've just built a home in a traditional American architectural style. Its entrance foyer is 10 feet wide and 12 feet deep with a hallway leading off each of the longer walls.

This configuration calls attention to the 10-foot wall across from the entrance door. How should it be treated? Can its color be different from what we use in other parts of the foyer? Would the wall look OK with a mirror on it and with a console in front of it?

Our aim, of course, is to create a welcoming space.

It's not easy to make an old house with a traditional design work well for a 21st-century lifestyle. That's why so many Americans build what architect Russell Versaci describes as "a new old house."

Perhaps this applies to your situation, although I'm not sure what you mean by traditional American architectural style. Because that's such a general term, it's difficult to picture the look of your house -- which in turn would influence the design of the foyer.

In general, I would not hang a mirror directly across from an entrance door. Your guests and the outdoors, as well as your own back, will instantly be reflected, and that's not an appropriate visual greeting.

A mirror and a console are useful items in a foyer, however, so they could be placed on one of the side walls. And because your space is so generous in size, situating a console in it should pose no problem.

Some of my other suggestions for designing a traditional foyer can be found in Versaci's book, Creating a New Old House, published by Taunton Press.

Whether it's a French Creole cottage or an antebellum plantation, Versaci shows how newly constructed homes are made to look timeless by following his "Eight Pillars of Design."

One idea from the book would be to add moldings to your foyer. They will help give a large space a unified look while also acting as a frame for any wallcovering or arrangement of pictures.

Detailing of this sort is one of the simpler ways to make the design of an interior conform to a home's traditional architecture.

As for the welcoming touch you desire, it can be achieved in part by adding a small settee with soft and inviting pillows.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at

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