How to Work With a Strong Architectural Feature That You Can’t Change

published Aug 18, 2017
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(Image credit: Lisa Diederich)

Celeste and Blaque are roommates in an East Nashville rental house built in the 1930s. It has plenty of room for the two women’s creative endeavors — Celeste is a painter and Blaque makes jewelry. It also has quite a strong architecture feature front and center in their living room: a bold, white brick and black marble fireplace and mantel. Though it’s an architectural element unique to this house, the way Celeste and Black designed with it, and not against it, is worthy of a closer look. This living room holds lessons that could be applied to other spaces.

(Image credit: Lisa Diederich)

Don’t pretend it’s not there

Halfheartedly or partially hiding your undesirable architectural feature could have the opposite effect than you’re intending — it can call even more attention to it. The idea is to take your strong architectural feature and minimize how visually “loud” it is by focusing on what you can do in the space around the feature.

What visually attention-grabbing things can you do with the rest of your decor that will take just a bit of the spotlight away from the architectural feature? Using black, large-scale furnishings helps distribute the visual weight in Celeste and Blaque’s living room. Instead of the black marble being the sole attention grabber, the beautiful lines of the furniture steal the show, too.

(Image credit: Lisa Diederich)

Keep the color palette consistent

Celeste and Blaque took color direction from the fireplace. Luckily for them, black and white is an easy palette to work with. By keeping the rest of the furnishings in the space black and white to complement the fireplace, the visual magnetism of the fireplace is ever-so-slightly diminished. Keeping the color palette consistent makes the entire room feel like one composition…and keeps the fireplace from sticking out like a sore thumb.

If you’re not as lucky as Celeste and Blaque and don’t have a simple black and white color palette on your strong architectural feature, you may still consider taking a color cue from yours. Complementing with the existing architectural color scheme will be more successful than ignoring it completely. And the more objects in the room with the same color as the architectural feature, the less the feature will stand out alone.

(Image credit: Lisa Diederich)

Balance visually heavy features with delicate elements

Oversized features or brightly colored elements have a “heavy” look to them, but you can fight back by contrasting with a lot of “delicate” items. In Celeste and Blaque’s living room, many small elements help soften the the fireplace’s strong look. A simple mirror doesn’t just reflect light; it doesn’t have a frame and has a barely-there look.

Tiny dried flowers on long, thin branches combine with the heavy mantel to take weight off the entire composition. Light and long-stemmed plants next to the fireplace have the same effect. Even the legs of the furniture in the space — like the coffee table, the side chair and the sofa — are thin, tall and a contrast to the thick features of the fireplace.

All of these things together add a subtle, sophisticated elegance to Celeste and Blaque’s living room, instead of making it feel clunky or like they “tried too hard.” Instead of surrounding the fireplace with contrasting colors or other heavy, dramatic elements to steal focus from the fireplace altogether (and potentially lead to a cluttered, unbalanced design), Celeste and Blaque worked with the existing features and were able to create a harmonious blend that permeates the entire room.

(Image credit: Lisa Diederich)