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Patti Cowger

I was thinking back to a photoshoot that took place years ago. Photoshoot day is my favorite day of any project. I visualize it from the moment I begin a job. It keeps me on track and motivated. The photos capture all the discussions, planning, drawings, budgeting, shopping and hiccups along the way. The work, the waiting, and the reward all finally come to life in that single day.

The one of which I now write involved a couple who had different tastes and styles. Jon’s were high-end and minimal whereas Linda’s were thriftier and more traditional. Linda also had collected pottery, magnifying glasses, ink bottles, and boxes throughout the years. However, her collections were not noticeable because pieces were scattered about rather than grouped in kind.

The one thing that Jon and Linda agreed on was that their large living room was being ignored. They were committed to making significant changes knowing that what they had in mind would increase the value of their home. They would also benefit from the changes while continuing to live there.

These changes included removing two walls and replacing them with floor-to-ceiling windows. Without the walls, they’d have priceless views of the Napa Valley all the way to Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. But, this also meant that they’d lose wall space and their furniture would no longer work. In my mind, it wasn’t working anyway or else the room would not have been ignored.

Jon and Linda agreed to start fresh with new furnishings and this is where balancing both styles began. The new windows automatically created a more modern feeling. The space also felt lighter. As Linda’s traditional tastes were becoming accustomed to this new feeling, I suggested that they not replace the wall-to-wall carpeting (which would be destroyed during the renovation) and expose the hardwood floors beneath. Jon enthusiastically agreed but Linda worried about the sparseness that seemed to be unfolding. She also wondered where the new furniture would go and where would she be able to display her collections.

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There’s nothing better for me than an empty canvas. I showed them the new space plan where I used a large rug to define a new conversational area. I also showed them my idea for their third wall (the fourth “wall” was a 16-foot opening to the rest of the house). I had imagined a low cabinet on the wall that expanded its entire width. I then drew open shelving the rest of the way up the wall and also spanning its width. I purposefully made the shelving open so that we could paint the wall a dramatic color.

Linda appreciated the fact that the rug and the wall color would warm up the space. We could also display her collections on the shelves in an artful way. The collections would even stand out more prominently in front of a colorful wall. Jon liked the idea of organizing all her “stuff” in one place. It spoke to his minimalist sensibility.

A rug was at the top of our shopping list. It would determine the color scheme. We found a large Tibetan wool from Aga John Rug Company. The pattern was mostly solid and the colors were layers of green. It was neither too modern for Linda nor too traditional for Jon, and the color connected with the outdoor landscape. I found a paint color for the wall that matched the darkest green in the rug.

The rest of the shopping list resulted in a linen velvet sofa, two chairs, two leather benches, and accent tables. The fabrics were warm and textural to suit both Jon and Linda and done in greens, blues and browns to suit the rug, wall and landscape.

With the new window walls, furnishings and striking shelving, it’s no surprise that this became Jon and Linda’s favorite and most frequented room.

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Patti L Cowger is an award-winning 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.