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Dear Patti:

We moved from an Eichler home in Terra Linda to a Victorian in Napa. We’re keeping our modern dining room furniture but need living room furniture. Both rooms are open to each other. Our dining chairs are clear Lucite and the table is round glass with a silver base. We love modern furniture, but don’t think we should buy more of it for this house. But we don’t want to buy Victorian, either. We also have a lot colorful modern art. Can you steer us in the right direction?

What a challenge. It took more than two cups of coffee this morning to come up with an idea. Because you are modernists, I think you’ll like my answer. It involves an overall color scheme of black, white and gray and one additional color that I’ll get to later. I’m assuming that your floors are hardwood and that your walls have wainscot or some form of paneling or molding. You might also have crown molding, coffered ceilings and embellished millwork around your doors and windows.

If you’re not embracing all this lumber, try to think of it as devotion to quality craftsmanship from an era gone by. You can transform all this wood to meet your tastes by painting it glossy white. Your painting contractor might moan over the idea of glossy paint because it is a challenging application. A second choice would be a high-quality semi-gloss paint. Use the same color white, but in an eggshell sheen, for any sheetrocked walls.

Although you did not ask about paint colors, this step will modernize your interiors in a fresh, clean and significant way. It will also unify the spaces and act as the foundation for your furnishings. The next items I’m suggesting are two gray rugs for your dining room and living room. I’m envisioning tone-on-tone gray but they could have gray and white patterns.

You could also use a Flokati shag rug in your living room. Use the rugs to drive your fabric selection for simple draperies or shades. That is, gray or a gray and white combination. I don’t recommend wood blinds or shutters because you already have a lot of wood. Fabric will soften the rooms.

I’m finally getting to your question about furniture. Depending on the size of your living room, you need at least a sofa and two chairs. Stick with a straight-lined sofa upholstered in a rich fabric like wool, silk or linen. I’m imagining a heathered-gray color. The simplicity of the sofa could be embellished with a braid or nickel nail heads. Don’t reject this idea thinking that it goes against your modern sensibility. It all depends on the exact choices you make. Such elements show respect for detail (like your wood paneling).

Pair your sofa with replicas of Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs. Even though they are mid-century, they are artful and comfortable additions to any design style. If your rug is dark gray, choose white or light gray leather. Otherwise, white, gray or black leather will work.

Your coffee table could have a stainless steel or nickel base, similar to but not matching, your dining table. The top could be gray stone or metal or even vinyl. Add a Lucite console or accent table to balance your Lucite dining chairs. If you need light fixtures, feel free to go as modern as you like. But they should be statement-making and probably black.

What about that fourth color I mentioned? I’ve purposefully adhered to white, gray and black to create a strong and focused design. Now choose a color that you both like — ideally, one that is predominately featured in your artwork. Find a large bowl to set on your dining table. Sprinkle this same color, sparingly, (if at all) in your living room. This could be in the form of lacquered boxes, book covers, or ceramics – but not pillows or a throw.

Because of your neutral and cohesive background, this accent color, as well as your bold art will bring the Victorian era into the modern world.

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Patti L. Cowger is an award-winning, credentialed, Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors.

For more information about her design services, visit her website at plcinteriors.com call (707) 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net.

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