Glamorous Living Room Mixes It Up

Designers Jennifer Reiner and Robert White created a luxe living space using high-energy hues and a mix of custom and do-it-yourself touches.
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November 25, 2014

From a teal and black striped ceiling to accent walls clad with gray-toned wood flooring, this jewel-toned living room by Reiner White Design Studio masterfully mixes high and low with do-it-yourself and high-end elements.

Designers Jennifer Reiner and Robert White of Reiner White Design Studio are known for their tailored transitional spaces. To demonstrate how great design is possible at all price points, they applied their signature aesthetic to a spacious living room by combining custom and vintage pieces with upgraded retail purchases.

To use the single space for two purposes, the designers divided it into sections: one for casual conversation and cocktails, the other for reading or gathering around the table for a formal meal.

It all started with a geode! When the two designers started brainstorming, they decided to use the color palette, texture and sheen of a geode as their inspiration. From it, they’d use a mix of teal, black and white for their color scheme, as well as lustrous accents and coarse textures.

The seating area is made up of vintage Danish modern furniture, including a button-tufted sofa with its original upholstery. Instructed to design the historic space around the existing brass chandeliers, the duo decided to center a coffee table below one chandelier and a sofa table below the other, creating two separate zones.

Two of the main design elements of the space -- teal and texture -- come together in the entryway art. Best referred to as sculpture, this creation titled "Vortex" by artist Clint Bearden is made from disparate pieces of wood shaped by a mesh backing and an adhesive mix, which gives the materials a three-dimensional effect. While the majority of the design is sleek and polished, the rustic surface of the wood introduces a rough texture similar to the exterior of the geode used as the room’s inspiration.

Since the room lacked an architectural focal point around which to arrange a conversation area, Jennifer and Robert decided to create the look and feel of a fireplace with a custom overscaled shadowbox and gold-painted stacks of firewood. For a shot of extra glamour, the designers spray-painted each log metallic gold. In addition to helping anchor the space, the shadowbox helps unite various framed photographs and cast resin taxidermy.

From the get-go, Jennifer and Robert were told they’d have to work their design around the existing brass chandeliers original to the historic Georgian house. To update the classic fixtures, the designers draped crystal beads from the arms and changed flame bulbs to globe style bulbs.

One of the splurges in the space is a Danish modern coffee table from Bjork Studio featuring a rosewood base and a smoked glass top. The table’s sculptural qualities and perfectly fitting proportions made it right for the space; it also helps reflect the abundant light streaming in through the windows.

The room’s entry is an excellent example of a successful high and low mix. While the vintage furniture (provided by antiques expert and interior designer Amy Wikman), custom art and antique sconces are high-end and one-of-a-kind, the gray-toned cladding of the walls is made from $1.49-per-square-foot wood flooring purchased from a discount retailer. Due to the look and feel of its surroundings, the cost-saving wall application instantly takes on its own high-end identity.

One of the most surprising cost savers in the room is the window dressing. White linen panels picked up from a major big box retailer were sewn side by side for a more custom fit. To add a punch of metallic, industrial chain was spray-painted gold then attached to the wall for use as tiebacks.

Since art can quickly eat up a budget, especially in a large space with lots of wall surface to fill, Jennifer and Robert decided to balance the high-end gallery appeal of the wooden sculpture with something cost-effective and light-hearted. This reproduction of the Mona Lisa was hanging in the designers’ studio when an artist friend gave her a modern makeover with dramatic makeup and a gold chain featuring a peace sign. Flea market art and children’s art projects are both popular with designers to add one-of-a-kind pieces for budget-conscious clients.

Just a few feet away from the Mona Lisa art sits a custom dining table from Grey Furniture featuring a powder-coated steel base. Referred to as a “gear table” for its mechanical-inspired lines, the piece was chosen for its graphic shape and hefty scale. Powder coating can add new life to an old piece of furniture: a paint finish pro at a powder-coating studio can create the new finish for a fraction of the cost of buying a brand-new piece. An excellent designer trick for modernizing old pieces with paint is to stick with white and black, two colors that always result in a clean, timeless look.

In keeping with the jewel tone inspiration of the space, the designers incorporated elements of gold with nail heads, which accent a teal velvet sofa and vintage brass floor lamp. Both designers recommend using floor lamps in place of end tables when space won’t allow.

To fill the living room with interesting textures, the designers topped piles of books along the gear table with a mix of coral and metallic dimpled glass. The bright white of the accessories carries on from the coral to the center of the room in the form of ceramic greyhounds, which double as visual dividers between the reading area and the conversation area.

One of the ways interior designers add sophistication and timelessness to rooms is by accessorizing with books. Since coffee table books can be pricey, an excellent way to use books as decoration without breaking the bank is to pair high-end books with vintage books found at flea markets. To maximize an old book’s charm, remove its book jacket to expose the canvas, cloth or paper surface.

To add a glamorous touch to the firewood stacked below the overscaled shadowbox, the designers spray-painted each log gold, resulting in a perfect mix of rough and refined.

To accentuate the soaring height of the living room ceiling, the designers commissioned custom Roman shades featuring stripes made from teal Ultrasuede sewn directly down the centers. The stripe element carries downward from the Roman shade to the wingback chairs in the form of folded throw blankets made from the same Ultrasuede, which puddle onto the floor.

Bold stripes painted with a flat finish latex keep the striped effect flowing from the wingback chair, up to the window and then onto the ceiling. Painting patterns on ceilings is a great way to add a focal point to spaces lacking in architectural detail. While stripes can be created simply with the proper positioning of painter’s tape, geometric patterns require a fair amount of skill and are probably best left to professionals.

The use of black and white is used floor to ceiling in the form of a cowhide rug, a black powder-coated table base, black walls and white linen draperies and molding.

A collection of milk glass vessels decorates the glass top of the coffee table. To start a milk glass collection affordably, search flea markets and estate sales for one-offs rather than full sets. Single pieces are usually less desirable to collectors, who prefer numbered ensembles, so they’re often overlooked and available at a fraction of the cost. And randomly collected milk glass pieces will result in a beautiful mix of shapes, sizes and heights.

To make the generously sized living room feel more intimate, Jennifer and Robert painted the walls black then added some drama with mirrored and reflective accents, including a grouping of framed mirrors by the seating area.

To vary the metallics in the glamourous living room, the designers opted for oil-rubbed bronze nail heads on the wingback chairs and brass nail heads on the teal sofa. Nail-head detail is an excellent way to add custom flair to ready-made furniture. To apply them, use a rubber mallet and a steady hand. When considering quantity and budget, keep in mind that nail heads are usually sold in boxes of 500 or 1,000.

For a touch of old time parlor style, a midcentury modern sofa with original teal upholstery is dressed with Victorian style pillows. While the pillows at each end of the sofa feature a classic Victorian scroll pattern, the rectangular pillow in the middle was given Victorian flair with some fringe trim. Embellishing inexpensive retail store pillows is not difficult: pick up tape trim or tassels from the fabric store, apply them along the edges of the pillow with iron-on adhesive tape, fabric glue or a hot glue gun.

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