Hi friends! One question I get asked a lot by clients, friends and people who follow me on Instagram is how to liven up a dead space in a home. You know what I mean….the spaces that make you go, "what the heck do I do with this?" I know the feeling, and I LOVE solving that problem. It's like I was born to make awkward passthroughs go wheeeee! So I thought it would be perfect to address that question with the big reveal of a beautiful landing area from my Roosevelt project.
When I was touring my client's home for the first time, I just knew I had to get my hands on that space. It was a bit of a diamond in the rough. The leaded glass built-ins were beautiful in and of themselves, so Lord knows I wasn't going to touch them! My job is to enhance character, not mess with it! I wasn't going to touch them, but I just wanted to make their environment sing as much as they do. At first my clients hadn't planned on adding this space to my list, but I couldn't let the beauty of those cabinets go unappreciated! It's details like that which fuel my designer soul! I wanted to fix the lack of purpose of this space other than its use as a passthrough to other living spaces. It was a place that was either empty or dotted with teenager clutter depending on the day. Here's the before. (I apologize, the before angle is not the same as the after angles because this space has no windows and is remarkably difficult to photograph.)
As you can see - the cupboards are so charming! But the area is over all nothing to write home about, and I wanted to change that. Now I know you can see the shadows the light fixture is throwing, and I wish this before image captured it. I ended up advising my client not to switch it out - sometimes there’s no sense in replacing the old stuff with new stuff just to make it more modern. The original light fixture had the charm you want in an older home, so why would you ever throw that away? For me color was where it was at! I worked with my client to choose a super bold hue for the walls. It was important to her that she have a connective color thread through her entire home, so in other spaces there are shades of blue or white on the walls, and here I went complimentary. We landed on Sherwin Williams Quite Coral and I couldn't have been more pleased. It really created the high impact we were looking for and utterly transformed the space into something special. Plus, imagine my delight when Pantone later deemed Coral the color of the year for 2019! Coral really is a winning color. How do you feel about it?
BOOM! This space definitely ended up being one of my favorite moments in the parts of the house that I decorated, but I'll let you decide after they're all revealed! It just shows the power of color and décor to transform any space in your home.
Above the built ins, I styled mainly using the items that my client already owned. It's important to me that I infuse the DNA of my clients' lives and personalities into their spaces, because that's step 1 in not creating a home that looks like a showroom. So that leads me to the list of things you can do to create high impact in a little used space, or in this case a stair landing.
Create high impact in a dead zone:
Shop your home. Often you already have what you need to make your space shine. I hear what you're thinking - but that'll leave empty spaces in other parts of your home. I counter with, often not. The things that I found for styling this space came from places that I was already restyling and didn't need there as well as from a floor of a room they were using as storage. You'd be amazed how many great things I find in a person's house hidden away awaiting the right person to swoop in and give it new life. I'm the right person to do that. Also. Unsure? Just ask me. For this shelf top, I brought in a couple of elephants that my client brought back on one of her journeys to India. The framed art was courtesy of her son, and I couldn’t get over the cuteness. Side tip: your children's art will always look great in a frame. If you don't think you can afford original art, just invest in some Crayola and set your kid off and I guarantee they'll deliver…something. And yet, isn't that better than nothing? They already owned the plant, so really I just added some books and a super cool gator head. So speaking of plants, that brings us to the next item on the list.
Plants! I'm pretty sure every list I make for decorating any space ever will include plants on the list. I should just start there and make it my ipso facto number one item. Why? We're talking about creating high impact in a dead space in your home, sooooooo how else can you liven up a dead space that with a living thing?! Too on the nose? I think not! No one thinks they can take care of plants, well take it from me the former chairman of the Plant Killers Committee, yes, yes you absolutely can. Do you brush your teeth? Take out your trash every week? Bathe yourself? Those sound like habits to me. And guess what! You're never too old to develop new ones. And that just means watering your plant friends every trash day. I water mine on Friday mornings. Do I still kill plants? Yep, but the ones that die are my sworn enemies anyway and didn't listen to me when I told them not to get brown and droop. What's not meant to be won't be. Just make sure you find the right plants for your space! For this windowless stair landing, low light plants was the way to go. On the top of the other leaded glass built in, which I couldn't photograph because it had some red Buddhas also from my clients travels that just would NOT cooperate with my photographer. One of those cases of looking good IRL but not being friendly with the camera lens. Oh well, anyway, I put a Pothos. Pothos are a great option for beginner plant lovers as well as snake plants. I love both so much I have several in my own house - there are so many varieties they don't get old. I also put a ZZ plant in the space, as you can see next to the bench. Oh, look at that, another segue to my next item.
Add seating. So you've got a dead space in your house? Well, chances are you can add a bench or a chair or a pouf or a stool and create a little nook in that area that will convert it from a dead space to somewhere you might want to stay a while. Mind you, it doesn't actually have to be something you would sit in. The point is that it looks like you could if you wanted to. Does that sound pointless? Trust me, it's not. You've given that space a reason to live. You've given it beauty. You've given it purpose. You gave it a SEAT! You'll feel better, the room will feel better, and I'll feel better knowing that you took my advice to add a place for your bum in a dead spot in your house. Now, to for this landing, adding a thin bench worked the best. Because it's not an actual nook or room, I needed to leave ample walk space in all directions. I loved the color of this bench and it's raw, artisan feel. This bench is all about the aesthetics - it's not a bench that you want to sit on a long time - it's narrow and it's on a landing. But I added a pretty pillow! We're all about the aesthetics in this space. The bench looks so, so pretty here and helps to define the zone along with his friend, which is my next addition.
Use a rug. What better way to define a space and give it an identity of its own that with something pretty on the ground. I don't care what surface you're starting with - linoleum, marmoleum, concrete, tile, wood, carpet. You can use a rug on all of the above and probably on other things I haven't thought of or mentioned, like another rug. Just layer all the things. Just maybe not on a landing - don't want people tripping around up there. But yes, you can use a rug in a carpeted space to help better define the space you're reviving. I like to pretend carpet doesn't exist, and rugs help me and your friends do that. When looking for a rug - look for something with color and life to it - don't be afraid to be bold! Pay attention to the materials your rug is made from. That will tell you a lot about how long it will last. I love wool rugs, because they are long-lasting and naturally dispel liquid and dirt. I do not love bamboo viscose rugs, because they is porous and prone to disintegrate if you look at them wrong. Pay attention to the size of rug you are choosing as well - a tiny rug in a big space is not doing any favors for anyone.
Well, what do you think? Are you ready to tackle your own dead zone? If you’re stumped, I’m here to help! Otherwise, I’ll just be over here plotting more ways I can paint things coral.