All-American Great Room

Thanks to an all-American palette, menswear fabrics and casual coastal touches, a lackluster great room becomes a red, white and blue masterpiece for young parents and their two little boys.
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November 25, 2014

Family Room: Before

Frustrated with its lack of personality, style and functional space, the homeowners of this new construction in Tennessee hired a designer to create a menswear-inspired great room where the family of four could gather to watch TV, enjoy formal dinners with guests, and share casual breakfasts together. Forget the muddy-colored walls and dark red brick fireplace: this room needs to be updated with a fresh palette, relaxed style, playful touches and masculine fabrics.

Family Room: After

On a two-week timeline, the family room was transformed into an inviting bright gathering place. The red, white and blue palette is appropriate for the colonial architecture of the house, and the playful touches and interesting shapes are modern and fun.

Capiz Shell Pendant

Prior to the redesign the family room area was poorly lit, mostly due to a lack of overhead lighting. By taking down the existing ceiling fan and replacing it with a high-end midcentury modern capiz shell pendant, the space is now grounded and properly lit. In recent years, capiz shell accents have become more readily available from major manufacturers, resulting in lower costs and a wider variety of options.

Wallpapered Bookcase

The existing built-in bookcases were updated by adding nautical wallpaper to their back panels then styling the shelves with framed photos, classic books and coastal accessories.

Maritime Patterned Wallpaper

For nautical flair along the backs of the bookcases, wallpaper featuring a pattern known as an international maritime signal was used. Maritime signals allowed ships to communicate with one another through a language created with easy-to-read graphic characters that could be seen from far distances thanks to high-contrast colors and shapes.

Toy Display

To add a nostalgic touch to one of the bookcases, a grouping of Duplo people from the 1980s is displayed inside a weathered crate, juxtaposing the casualness of nautical style with the playful look intended to keep the children’s presence prominent in the space.

Bookcase Vignette

The bookcase closest to the adjacent formal dining area is styled with framed art and vintage family photos as well as a mix of reflective materials in the mercury glass table lamp, vintage model propeller plane and framed mechanical blueprint.

Classic Toy Art

One way to add playfulness is through art and accessories. Above the mantel sits fine art photography by Daniel Collopy (, which features various sets of Duplo toy characters from the 1980s set up as a crowded mob of busy city people. While the nostalgia of the subject is meaningful to the homeowners, the playful colors and vibe are just as appealing to their young boys.

Polished Framing

Menswear-inspired interiors rely heavily on tailoring, structure and fine details to achieve their intended look. With that in mind, the playful photography was framed using a black matte frame and an inset chrome fillet featuring a small Greek key pattern. Fillets are used in framing to add an extra layer of detail between the mat and the art, or in this case, between the frame and the art.

Family Room: Before

Aside from its lack of an effective space plan, the windows were undressed, there were no side tables on which to place task lighting, and the white painted ceiling made the room feel shorter. All of these issues would be addressed in the new design.

Family Room: After

The new decor features windows dressed with plaid draperies, a ceiling painted 60 percent lighter than the navy blue walls, a sofa with a machine-washable slipcover, end tables and table lamps, as well as an upholstered storage ottoman that keeps the boys’ toys accessible yet out of sight.

Toy Storage

The upholstered storage ottoman is covered inside and out with large-scale houndstooth fabric, which keeps the menswear-inspiration flowing throughout the room. Slow-release hinges were installed to keep small hands and fingers safe from the closing top.

Camel Lamps

For a playful touch beside the sofas, ceramic camel lamps found at a flea market were placed atop spool end tables. The lamps are plugged into table top dimmers, which help add ambiance at night.

Faux Silk Lampshades

Though the pair of camel lamps was a steal at less than $100, the lamps were sold without lampshades. For a custom touch that coordinates with the rest of the space, faux silk drum shades were picked up at a lighting supply store for $45 each, then attached to harps with finials. Faux silk was chosen over organic silk due to its durability: faux silk can better withstand sticky little fingers.

Black Drapery Hardware

Menswear details make their way from the top-pinch pleated drapery panels to the window hardware itself. Classic black painted iron rods and drapery rings keep the panels securely on display, resulting in a transitional masculine touch.

Pinstripe Wingback Chairs

An existing pair of antique wingback chairs was given a menswear-inspired makeover with pinstripe upholstery. When planning to have furniture reupholstered with pinstripe fabric, keep in mind that a high level of experience and precision is required to ensure all the pinstripes line up and are perfectly straight. This could increase cost, due mostly to the amount of time required to do the job right.

Mixed Menswear Patterns

Throughout the room, assorted menswear fabrics were mixed to create a layered look. The key to layering patterns successfully is the proper mix of shape and scale unified with the use of similar colors.

Potted Boston Ferns

Greenery is the best way to add an element of life to a space. Be careful when choosing plants: you want to make sure you can provide proper maintenance. Ferns are one of the most carefree plants available, and Boston ferns tend to be commonly stocked by home improvement stores nationwide. To care for Boston ferns, keep them in cool spaces that receive indirect light. Check the soil every other day to ensure it remains moist. If the soil feels dry, water once or twice weekly. Adding fertilizer to the soil once a month will help the fern thrive.

Potted Succulents

Succulents are a low-maintenance option for indoor use. Dress them up with colorful pots, then place them in areas that receive direct sunlight. Periodically check the soil; water approximately once a week.

Breakfast Nook: Before

Prior to the redesign the breakfast nook was completely lacking in style. Since its existing table and light fixture would both fit properly with the great room’s updated look, they were kept for use in the new design.

Breakfast Nook: After

The updated breakfast nook is packed with vibrant hues and graphic lines. The walls were painted the same shade of navy blue as the family room area, and the windows are covered with the same drapery fabric and hardware, keeping the different spaces united for a cohesive look.

Textured Vinyl Upholstery

Ready-made side chairs bought through a big box retailer were upgraded with easy-care commercial-grade textured vinyl. Fire engine red upholstery provides bold contrast with the navy blue walls.

Weathered-Basket Pendant

Before the design plan was put in place, the homeowners had purchased this weathered basket pendant light, which coordinated perfectly with the intended new look. Weathered wood is a popular design element for adding coastal, casual flair to a space.

Breakfast Nook Table

Thanks to a smart collection of serving ware, breakfast with the boys is quick, easy and organized.

TV Wall: Before

With the original layout of the space, there was no obvious spot for hanging a flat panel TV, especially due to the height of the fireplace mantel. In its new state, the wall that housed a liquor cabinet will be reinvented as an architectural focal point, which will also conceal a flat panel TV placed at proper viewing height.

TV Wall: After

What was a muddy-colored wall now features custom paneling. To keep the paneling of the focal wall from being too busy, it was painted the same color as the walls. When closed, there’s no sign of a TV in sight.

TV Wall: After

Two central panels along the focal wall are hinged to open and reveal a recessed flat panel TV. When the TV is on, the hinged panels fold back fully to avoid impeding traffic flow. An additional panel along the bottom conceals video gaming systems and components that can be played while seated on a trio of burlap sack occasional ottomans.

Occasional Ottomans

Occasional ottomans feature upholstery made from recycled burlap import-export packaging. The Union Jack print along the top adds a graphic touch that coordinates well with the red, white and blue palette of the great room.

Recycled License Plate Art

Just above the TV wall sits a nook that was hard to accessorize properly. To add color and graphic elements, a custom-made sign featuring the family name was made by artist Aaron Foster ( from recycled vintage license plates.

Art-Filled Entry

The home’s entry doubles as a floor-to-ceiling art gallery packed with one-of-kind creations appealing to adults and kids. Wall hooks were installed among the featured art pieces to collect purses and backpacks. To keep keys, books and magazines in one spot, a navy blue wooden console was centered on an angled wall.

Sculptural Lighting

Three space-age-inspired bronze chandeliers ( keep the entry illuminated.

Gallery Wall

From kids’ art to sculptural wooden taxidermy to found objects and canvas prints of family photos, the entryway is packed with different mediums of art.

Dining Room: Before

In its original condition the formal dining area wasn’t much to look at: since the redesign, it’s become the most talked about area of the great room.

Dining Room: After

To keep the formal dining area cohesive in style with the family room and breakfast nook, it was painted the same navy blue then given personality through framed photography, refurbished vintage chairs and do-it-yourself lighting. Aside from the round breakfast nook table, the solid wood slab dining table was the only original piece of furniture used in the new design.

Dining Room Table

The dining table seats eight comfortably and is set with three chrome-and-glass bowls that can hold cut flowers when entertaining or be left empty for a more sculptural look. The solid wood slab table was chosen for its low-maintenance characteristics. To keep its rich finish, the table is treated with furniture and wood polish two to three times a year.

Dining Room Pendants

Unlike the pricey solid wood slab table and reupholstered flea market chairs, the trio of linen drum pendants hanging above the table were a major cost saver. Chosen for their tailored lines and casual linen construction, the drum shades were picked up at a major retail chain then outfitted with pendant kits before being hardwired into three ceiling-mounted junction boxes. All together the three DIY fixtures came to $120 including the pendant kits.

Wool Area Rug

A wool area rug featuring a transitional print was selected to help pull the blue tones of the great room’s color scheme underfoot. When adding area rugs to dining rooms, choose sizes wide enough to accommodate the distance made when chairs are pulled out from the table.

Dining Room Architecture: Before

Before the makeover, the dining room’s architectural details were lost among lackluster furnishing, muddy-colored walls and an unpainted ceiling.

Dining Room Architecture: After

With the redesign complete, the architecture of the dining room is truly the star of the space. Painting walls and ceilings the same color can make a room feel larger and less “chopped up.” When ceilings are left white and walls are painted a color, the eye is instantly directed to the white ceiling, making a room feel chopped into different areas. Using the same color on the ceiling and walls obscures the line between the two surfaces.

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