More Than a Sum of Its Parts: Five Lovely Living Rooms

I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at photographs of interiors and when I stumble across a really beautiful room I tag it (or pin it) as a "favorite". But what exactly draws me to a particular room? The same elusive qualities that draw me to a certain song, symphony or painting. I appreciate the technical composition (placement of furniture or use of light and color). But I am also moved or intrigued or delighted on some emotional, sensorial or "gut" level. I suppose these favorite rooms capture the (albeit) fuzzy nature of my own personal and evolving aesthetic.

Sometimes these are spaces I want to live in. Other times, I just want to appreciate them from afar, like sublime artwork you don't want hanging in your home. Very often, these bookmarked rooms contain one or more of my long-loved styles (antique chairs and vibrant textiles, for example).

But some of my favorite rooms stand out precisely because they reflect choices I probably wouldn't have made--or choices that would not be obvious to me. At closer inspection, these are the rooms that help to challenge me and open my mind to styles, colors and compositions that I would not naturally be drawn to. I am drawn to the whole despite being less than enthralled by the parts. Because, at the end of the day, what is so fascinating about interior decorating is not just the individual choices people make--that stool, that pillow--but the way these choices are creatively and boldly combined. And isn't this the challenge for any decorator (professional or not)? To work with what you are given and make it sing?

Here are five living rooms I have tagged that contain parts I wouldn't normally embrace but work beautifully as a whole.

• Jenna Lyons' house from From The Right Bank. This is definitely on my list of all-time favorite rooms. But, let's face it: Part of what makes this living room so magnificent is the bones of the room itself: the architectural details, ornate moldings and impossibly high ceilings. But what Lyons did with the room is equally fantastic. I love the juxtaposition of the simple Beni Ouarian rug against the grand crystal chandelier. How about the burnt-out fireplace against the glamorous gilt of the mirror above the mantelpiece? And who would have thought that a buttery yellow couch and chunky faux fur throws could look so sophisticated yet edgy? By the way, this house is for sale for a few million bucks!

Mix and Chic. I lust after this super stylish room. What amazes me is how powerful the smallest burst of color can be in a room otherwise dominated by black, white and brown. The groovy green of the bolster pillow is subtly mirrored around the room: in the coffee table book and two tiny potted plants. The floor lamp is like a leggy sculpture and the hide rug brings a brightness and organic irregularity to the room. But look closer at some of the other elements. The traditional curtains, for example. Not an obvious choice by any stretch but a very wise one. Anything but basic white would certainly make the room far too busy. And how about the patterned French-style armchair? I may have been reluctant to echo the black and white of the hide rug, fearing it would be overkill. But the chair is terrific and fun and the perfect antidote to the wood industrial bookshelf and formal antique wood table on the left.

• Skona Hem via Interiors Porn. What I find so interesting about this lovely living room is that each individual piece would not be on my fantasy wish list. I probably wouldn't choose the rug or artwork, for example. But, they work so well in the room! There is such a calming symmetry and harmony to this room. A beautiful cohesion is formed among the lines and geometric shapes of the rug, rocking chair, flowers, art, and the throw. Yet, the room doesn't look the slightest bit matchy-matchy or overtly "themed". This is a space with personality and history and honesty.

• Mi Casa via Interiors Porn. A teal leather couch? White fur ottomans? An industrial-rustic coffee table with wheels? Definitely not obvious choices, which is precisely why this room is so brilliant and inspired! Here is a living room that is both cozy and hip (though perhaps a bit crowded). I want to lounge on that couch. Better yet, I want to sprawl out on that floor! But I also want to soak up the dramatic decorating. It appears to be a rather small space so the owner has cleverly used a white dining table and white ottomans to minimize the visual clutter when one looks across into the dining area. And I adore the oddly shaped mirror on the wall, which sets a whimsical tone throughout the room--and draws the eyes upwards to what appear to be high ceilings. More than anything, this living room looks like it was built over time by someone who falls in love with individual pieces and isn't afraid to improvise.

Because I'm Addicted. I first bookmarked this photo because I was drawn to the curious oversized floor lamp, which distracts the eye from the fact that the ceiling is actually sloped above the couch. I was also drawn to the giddy jewel toned pillows on the sofa. But when I look at each individual piece--the raw rustic wood coffee table, the wall hanging, the abundance of bright patterns and colors--I realize I may not have chosen these elements. But, as with the other rooms here, together the elements work quite well. The key here is dramatic contrast: a clean white couch against vibrant velvet cushions. An ornate religious (maybe?) piece of art juxtaposed against earthy natural table. And that oversized glossy black lamp incongruously overlooking it all! This combination could have been a disaster but it isn't. The designer took the plunge and wasn't afraid to play around with the decor. The result is unique, eclectic, and downright upbeat. Not exactly my taste but very appealing

Images: As linked above.

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