Before: Storage SpaceToby and her family live in a newly renovated house that is a designer's dream. The home has a French decorating style, chosen because the family adores France and travels there at every opportunity. However, there was one area in the home that was sadly out of place: the basement, which was mostly used as a storage area.
The room, which opened up onto a lovely garden, was missing a certain "je ne sais quoi," but it had great potential.
So, donning my best beret, I set out to create a little fabulousness and design a French country-inspired room where Toby and her family and friends could gather to munch on croissants, sip a little Bordeaux and perhaps even brush up on their Francais.
When we think "French country," we tend to picture yellow and blue patterns and whitewashed antiques. Yet, because I don't like to take a particular style too seriously or too literally, I decided that for this project I was going to steer clear of the "anticipated" and move toward the "unexpected." I wanted to create a "French-bistro-meets-kooky-Mad Hatter" mood: a place where the traditional blends seamlessly with the modern.
After: French-Flair BasementTo get started I said "adieu" to everything in the space except for Toby's assortment of beloved French antiques and mementos. I then got to work on choosing the perfect blend of colors and fabrics. I decided on conventional black and white checks, stripes and toiles and mixed them up with candy apple red fabrics and bold geometrics.
The room's existing bland green walls did not scream "bonjour," so I repainted them in a softer shade of cream to match the terra-cotta floor tiles. Three of the four walls had doors and windows, which I softened with striped curtains, but it was the fourth wall that was to be the piece de resistance. I jazzed it up with faux red leather wallpaper and turned it into a focus wall with cabinetry and display shelving.
After the colors, patterns and fabrics were selected, I attended to the organizational aspects of the room. I decided to divide the basement into two main areas: a dining/kitchen space and a lounge/conversation spot.
For the dining area, I chose French cafe style. On the new feature wall, I built up a "satellite kitchen," complete with a mix of ebony cabinets and open shelving, a two-tiered counter, an under-cabinet fridge and a beverage storage area. I then installed an eclectic furniture mix by incorporating Toby's traditional French antique dresser and table with funky chairs upholstered in sizzling red and eye-catching black-and-white checks.
I also combined the expected with the unexpected in the lounge area. I put in a beautiful black-and-white toile sofa and then kicked things up with a mirrored coffee table, a black leather chair and a faux cowhide area rug.
To lighten and brighten this newly decorated room, I pulled out the old recessed lighting and added a bit more sparkle. In addition to an abundance of under-cabinet lighting that helped showcase Toby's French treasures, I installed a nontraditional, whimsical crystal chandelier in the dining area and a single, stunning crystal pendant light in the lounge area.
After adding a few more finishing touches decorative bowls, vases, candlesticks and pictures the room was complete. Toby's French-flair basement now matches the rest of her stunning home and rivals any country villa in France. Ooh la la!
(Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of Home & Garden Television's Divine Design.)