Living Room Mixes Charm and Style

Designer Mary Susan Bicicchi creates a living room that mixes contemporary, transitional, and cottage styles.

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Different styles can be combined but there has to be some glue or similarity—whether scale, color, or even repetition of a few patterns. Here Chicago-area designer Mary Susan Bicicchi shows how inviting and comfortable a mix can be.

What were the main items on the family's wish list?

My client was a single woman, and it was the first time--in a long time--that she could express her individual sense of style. It was my main goal to interpret her style and guide her through the design process. She wanted to have a mixture or hybrid of styles that were contemporary, transitional, primitive, and cottage. Comfortable and inviting were words she used to describe the room she wanted. This ranch is located on a lake, so its location lends itself to relaxed living. I blogged about this look and titled it "Design Mixology!"

Browse Pictures of this Living Room Remodel

What was the single largest issue you wanted to address?

The existing space had smaller entrances with interior drapery to adjacent rooms and a cluttered wall unit. I wanted to bring the outdoors in and open up the entrances to these rooms and simplify the wall unit, making the art work, which we helped her collect, more of a focal point along with the beautiful outdoor view.

What was your biggest obstacle in this space?

All the adjacent rooms to this great room are visible at the same time. The challenge was to mix both color and style throughout the entire first floor so that all these design elements related. Good design has the perfect balance of both repetition and contrast. For example, you might repeat colors like the black-and-cream as accented throughout, but change up the style of furnishings. The reclaimed barn-wood chest contrasts with the organic black iron cocktail table and plaid wing chairs.

How does the end result match up with your original vision?

I am thrilled with how this space turned out. It is a wonderful space to be in, and I cannot think of one thing I would change. One thing to note: We did re-purpose the cornice (reupholstered it). With take-down and shipping fees, it may have been less of a hassle and cost to have just done this new. However, I do feel happy when we can re-purpose.

What lessons did you learn?

This was a true reminder of how important scale is to a room. I am very pleased with the upholstery scale as it relates to the barn-wood chest and round end table. I actually used a round game table for an end table for these oversized sofas. The game table was 36" round and 29" high, which works well with the height of the sofa-arm height. Seeing all this come together was a reminder of how designers have to constantly check ourselves with size and scale.

What were the hidden gems?

Things to notice in this contemporary cottage style Great Room: The modern art contrasts nicely with the barn-wood chest; the scale of the accessories--for the most part, fewer larger items; the texture of the sisal rug works beautifully with the texture of the upholstered pieces; mix of modern art with the black-and-cream traditional wing chairs is a commentary on contrast in design and how exciting it can be; the TV entertainment area with beadboard-style cab doors to repeat the ceiling treatment.

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