If your family is as generous as both mine and my husband’s, I am sure you have encountered the dilemma of trying to make a hand-me-down piece of furniture work in your home. Why is it that something that looks so perfect at your parent’s house doesn’t quite work in your own? Think of it like a puzzle piece that you try to fit in a different puzzle… it is not going to work unless it fits with the surrounding pieces.
When my mom recently sold our home in Nashville, my husband and I decided to have some of the pieces we had left there (along with one very important hand-me-down) shipped to California. Anyone who has ever moved cross-country knows this is no minor expense, but it proved well worth it to get “Big Blue”. Big Blue is my mom’s beloved bed with a blue toile linen headboard. The selling feature to my husband was that it came with a king size memory foam mattress.
However, the beautiful headboard that was once the focal point in my mom’s bedroom was not settling in quite right in our new house (moving to California is a harsh adjustment for any southern belle and Big Blue is nothing if not a belle). What was bugging me the most was the background of the toile (which is gray-ish) looked dirty against my warm, creamy walls. I lived with everything in the room “as is” for a couple months knowing that changing the headboard would never be an option, so I needed to find a solution to make my room work with this new piece.
Here is my thought process: The headboard is the dominant piece in the room. I need to use it as my starting point and working out. Remember that… if you ever have a piece that feels like it is fighting the rest of the space, use it as your starting point. Other variables I was unable to change, two large, dark dressers and my bedside table. Other than that, I wanted to start with a blank canvas so I cleared off all my walls and surfaces. I lived with that for a couple of days waiting for inspiration to hit me, which it did! I remembered this beautiful French antique mirror that I picked up at the flea market this summer intending to use it in my daughters room. It had been re-finished in gray-ish blue that just might work with that gray in the background of the toile. I have always loved the look of a small-scale starburst mirror over a bed, and thought my look could be like a French cousin. It worked, I liked it. This move inspired the rest of my design. I needed to ditch my curtains (painful but necessary) and select a more dramatic paint color. Here is the key, I selected my paint color to be an exact match of the darkest shade of blue in the toile headboard (Novelty Navy by Dunn Edwards).
Going dark in your bedroom can be intimidating, but this just felt so right. It felt so right that I could not wait for my painter and went ahead and painted myself. The finished product is a room that feels rich and cohesive. The dark walls and toile headboard have enough chemistry that the room feels full but balanced. I selected a much more edited collection of prints and art to re-hang, all of which really pop with the contrasting wall color.
I share this example because it is something to keep in mind if you ever find yourself inheriting a family heirloom that is hard to work with. Try to make the focal points in each room compliment one another. Not long ago I helped someone who had a very special family dining set with chairs covered in silk fabric imported from France (the color scheme included ivory, pink, peach and gold) in a green dining room with a very fine oriental rug (with colors including navy and red). While all of these pieces are beautiful on their own, we needed to make them work together in the same space. The history behind the fabric and the chairs inspired our selection of a new paint color, which was a pale peach. The space has much better energy now and the wall color actually seems to disappear while you are in the room, really showcasing the gorgeous dining chairs.
Finding a starting point is always the best way to develop your design. If it is not something existing like Big Blue or the dining chairs, find a fabric, wallpaper, paint color… anything that speaks to you and build your design from there!