House Contemporary Design

Practice contemporary design

Television writer Bill Persky and advertising executive Joanna Patton already knew the architects as tried and true talents. Stamberg and Aferiat had previously renovated a much-loved weekend residence for Persky. When he and Patton decided to marry, all involved thought it best to give the couple a new start with a home of their own. As Stamberg Aferiat’s first ground-up residence, the project came with virtually no constraints to aesthetic interpretation. In a creative sense, the architects were home free.

“We practice contemporary design,” state Stamberg and Aferiat emphatically. Their take, a consistently fresh response to conditions and personalities, is perfectly illustrated here in the compound’s main house, guest pavilion, and freestanding garage.

practice contemporary house design
practice contemporary house design

Public living and dining/kitchen

The admittedly dramatic 2,000-sq.-ft. main house is composed of articulated volumes and capped by a curved roof. Yet the scheme was derived from site conditions, not arbitrary gestures. The property’s severe narrowing from roadside to water’s edge resulted in a maximum width allowance of just 35 ft., provoking the house’s tight, linear form. Furthermore, the hillside site dictated a split-level parti. Entry is at grade; the public living and dining/kitchen expanse is down half a level with the master suite situated above. To relieve the long expanse and to provide organizational cues, the architects expressed each mass with a different material. The entry structure is a single-story concrete block; upper volumes are of cedar; and lower portions are clad with corrugated metal. The enveloping roof, a reference to the full-blown sails of the couple’s 50-year-old Norwegian sailboat, Lulu, is covered with rubber. The yacht served as further inspiration, with the cable supports for the house’s entry awning and sun porch suggested by the stays of Lulu’s mast. “These are humble materials,” state Stamberg and Aferiat of their choices. “They easily could have been used to clad the barn-like structures of a camp.”

Open living space with contemporary furniture interior
Open living space with contemporary furniture interior

Views and changing qualities of natural light figured strongly into the architecture, and the clients had clear-cut ideas on fenestration. Unlike many of their Hamptons counterparts, this house was to have no monolithic expanses of either glass or glass block. Persky and Patton preferred a more traditional approach. Thus, doors and windows are mahogany framed. Glass block is used sparingly for clerestories.

Persky and Patton are serious cooks, but they had no intentions of separating themselves from guests during meal preparations. With cooking tied to entertaining, the main floor is an open arrangement of living, dining, and kitchen spaces. There is a four-ft.-high corrugated metal partition between the kitchen and dining table, sofas and recliners, but this is meant to mask the mess when the guests are seated, not deter guests from activity in the kitchen. The living area has a double-height ceiling, a counterpoint to the building’s slender width. A type of architectural trompe l’oeil, the treatment generates a perception of increased spatial proportions.

Fooring and Indoor Furniture

Stamberg and Aferiat continued their exterior materials study indoors. Concrete flooring begins at the entry and pervades the public zone. The kitchen is defined by a timber frame with columns and a beamed ceiling, repeating a favorite aspect of Persky’s previous house. Steel introduces a shimmering quality in the form of cables and railings. Maple, used for the master suite’s library balcony, injects warmth.

Clients and architects had purchased top-quality furnishings for Persky’s earlier residence. Re-using them here validates the wisdom of buying the best. Both furniture and architecture embrace an attitude of low-key glamour coupled with informal coziness. As for Camp Persky Patton’s guest house, the clients requested that it be similar in structure and finishes to the main dwelling. “It was a strategy that was both gracious and economical,” relates Stamberg.

Proudest of the varied materials palette plus the house’s siting within the landscape, Stamberg and Aferiat obtained another thrill from the project. They discovered the charms of Shelter Island and purchased property for themselves.

Before & After Smart Reno; On a tiny budget A dark, rundown terrace is gutted and refashioned into a light-filled family home

Lucky FIND a home

THINGS DIDN’T look promising during the first year of Rachel Brown and Stuart Davidson’s quest for a home. Even though search radiated further and further out from inner-city Sydney, they were repeatedly priced out. – Then they struck gold – overnight. “We found a house on a website in Rockdale with best recliners, which is just south of the airport, and made an offer. With the help of a super-helpful agent, 24 hours later, it’ s ours,” Rachel says. They paid 1405,000, and after settlement rented out the place on a six-month lease while they drew up a renovation game plan. It was going to be a big job, and they had just $30,000 to completely overhaul the old, decaying, pre-WW2 house.

HELPING HANDS Stuart’s father is a builder and was able to* recommend best-value suppliers-” and give free instruction and advice; Stuart’s uncle is a plumber; friends and Stuart’s two brothers were willing to help with labour. So with the exception of electrical work, waterproofing and sanding, Rachel and the boys did all the work themselves. It took 41/2 months, and the couple moved in just one week before their wedding.

Let’s GO for home renovation


Demolition After the house passed its check for structural integrity (conducted by a builder), the team could begin. On weekends, after work and during school holidays, they knocked out the internal dividing walls in the rear section of the house, tore Gyprock and wooden panelling off walls, and pulled out all the fittings in the kitchen and bathroom. Floors were ripped out (see page 103), revealing a fascinating collection of pre-war newspapers and other long-lost curiosities.

Time factor: about 6 weeks.

structural check for home re-fashion
structural check for home re-fashion

Structural check for home re-fashion


Stuart’ luncle the plumber came inland laid new pipes. The couple had to keep the old plumbing in the laundry because of budget.

Time factor: 1 day. ?

Who lives here? Homewares designer Rachel Brown, her husband Stuart Davidson, new baby Pietta, and Ruby the kelpie cross

  1. Home shop New mum Rachel runs her Attia Homewares business from home. She specialises in beautiful ceramics and wooden servingware. Visit the site to check out the range.
  2. Home work Stuart is a high-school teacher. School holidays came in very handy indeed for the renovations!

ATTBR: Big difference Here’s the finished living/ kitchen/dining area, taken from a similar camera angle as the image opposite. The now-renovated bathroom is behind the door at rear. Rachel had a slipcover made (from a Mokum fabric) for their Ikea “Klippan” sofa, and had cushions made from leather from NSW Leather Co and Warwick Fabrics fabric. The hide is from Spence & Lyda, Surry Hills, NSW.

living kitchen dining area
living kitchen dining area

living kitchen dining area

Ladder time


The exterior wall to the left of this paragraph – you can see it better on the previous page – was remodelled. Part of the wall was knocked out to accommodate new, large floor-to-ceiling glass doors, and the part of the structure where the old brown exit door was (see page 100) was rebricked. The ceiling was patched and the electricals were rewired. This involved scraping back long sections of wall, replacing the old wiring and electrical hardware, and then filling in the walls again. Vents for the exisiting reverse cycle air-conditioning were replaced. The brickwork was bagged with a mixture of sand and cement to achieve a roughrendered look that would later be painted, and cornices and ceiling moulds were installed.

Replacing wiring and electrical hardware at home
Replacing wiring and electrical hardware at home

Time factor: approx 3 weeks.

AFTER: Arty accessorising An Ikea PS cabinet is home to a mini gallery of white homewares, a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces that Rachel has gathered over the years while working as a stylist. The rear wall was constructed of lining boards laid horizontally. “This creates the illusion that the room is wider than it is and contrasts against the room’s height,” Rachel says. The door to the bathroom was found on the side of the road.



Quite a few of the original floorboards in the hall and bedrooms were rotten; most of them in the rear section were. All were ripped up; salvagable ones from the rear were used to repair the floor at the front. Rachel and Stuart would have liked to use kauri timber for the living/ kitchen area to match the hall but, when quoted at $6500, they had to find an alternative. They settled for 150mm Cyprus pine from Sydney Flooring (cost: $1300), which they laid themselves and had sanded and stained by a professional. As for the stain, they had wanted to use Feast Watson “Black Japan” black timber stain, but it would have cost at least $4500, so they settled for a dark Cabots stain plus a matte polyurethane sealant.

Time factor: 3 days.

AFTER: Lovely living

Rachel and Stuart love the seamless look of the plain white walls; those in the living area were bagged to let the shape of the bricks show through, rather than being rendererd. They’ll install a Jetmaster heater in the fireplace, which has a gas point, once they’ve saved up. Rachel bought the Mogens Lassen for Jorgen Wolff folding leather chairs from Great Dane Furniture long before she was married; they were made in 1946. The “All Stops To… Watsons Bay” screenprint (see was a wedding present.

Clean & fresh

Furniture renew with classical table set and reclining chairs as relax spaces in living room
Furniture renew with classical table set and reclining chairs as relax spaces in living room

Furniture renew with classical table set and reclining chairs as relax spaces in living room

The kitchen was built and installed by ZW New Concept of Granville, NSW. Corian was installed as countertops on benches as well as on the Ikea. Best recliners were setup in living rooms as a relax space in the house as a suggestion by recliner reviews site.

“Stenstorp” island – the original oak top was removed. Attia baskets store Tupperware and so on. The old school science lab stools were bought at auction. Rachel chose Whirlpool oven, gas cooker and rangehood, and a Westinghouse dishwasher.

Your Home; Take your pick from this month’s selection of cool products for the home


Got an old mobile phone? Accessories you never use? Recycle with MobileMuster’s “Old phones, more trees” campaign before 30 September to help regenerate Australia’s coastline.


Old mobile phone
Old mobile phone

mobile phone


Normal vacuuming doesn’t remove all the ground-in dirt and bacteria from your carpet like BISSELL’s range of Deep Cleaning machines can. For a healthier way to deep clean your home visit

vaccumm for cleaning
vaccumm for cleaning


Tailor your wardrobe doors to suit your style. With integrated rail system and a wide range of contemporary panel design options you can customise doors that are stylish, stable and fully sealed.

slide door system in your home
slide door system in your home


The Love Art, Love Life porcelain mug collection features beautiful designs handpainted by renowned Australian artist, David Hart. The range features flowers tangled together in Hart’s unique style.

Feature flowers for unique home styles
Feature flowers for unique home styles


Haymes Ultratrim High Gloss paint has a new low-odour formula which means no lingering smells. Designed to provide a rich, higher gloss finish, whilst still being waterbased, your trims will look better for longer! $34.95 for 1 litre.


You can’t buy a smile but you can build one with Porta. Spend an afternoon building projects – and smiles! – with the great range of timber products and DIY plans from Porta. Visit to download the Castle Shelves project (pictured) – and lots more!


Australia’s leading name in bathrooms presents the perfect winter warmer – the stunning Milli “Edge” Heated Towel Rail. This stylish wall design uses around 25% less energy than a standard rail, keeping your towels warm for less! To view the full range, visit

perfect winter warmer
perfect winter warmer


Try new Plaistowe 70% cocoa – real, quality chocolate for cooking. Based on a Swiss recipe (they know their chocolate!), the high cocoa content will help give all your treats an intense chocolatey taste. Perfect for recipes like dark chocolate truffles and tarts. Yum!

How big is too big

Retail outlets and customer interest

Consumer interest in giant-sized retail outlets such as home furniture, big-box stores, discount mass merchants, and category-killer specialty stores seems to be waning as customers seek more convenience. Core consumer groups such as singles, young parents, and wealthy empty nesters are beginning to turn away from the potentially confusing size and variety of these megastores. Toys “R” Us has rearranged many of its stores into its customer-friendly Concept 2000 format, and other retailers are taking similar actions.

It’s 8 p.m. on what should be a slow Monday night, weeks before the official start of the Christmasshopping season, but parking already is at a premium in front of the Barnes & Noble superstore in Paramus, N.J.
retail outlets
retail outlets

retail outlets

Big-box retailers

While most other retailers in this sprawling regional agglomeration of home furniture, big-box retailers, discount mass merchants and specialty stores are winding down after an uneventful Monday, the 60,000-square-foot book emporium is bustling. An in-store Starbucks cafe, sections dedicated to music, computer software and used books, and enough sofas and armchairs to furnish a Morris County mansion have drawn customers from miles around.

Collection of megastore for selling various furniture for home and office such as model table, chair, even kitchen set
Collection of megastore for selling various furniture for home and office such as model table, chair, even kitchen set

Collection of megastore for selling various furniture for home and office such as model table, chair, even kitchen set

“I’ve heard [B&N] is a great place to meet people,” said Sloatsburg, N.Y., native Jenn ScanIon, a 23-year-old social sciences major, as she checks out a new paperback. “It’s supposedly replacing the bar scene,” added her companion, Glenn Norton, 28, of Park Ridge, N.J.

Retailers are increasingly turning the shopping experience into a social event, cramming a bevy of attractions and distractions into their hangar-like environs. Supercenters and warehouse clubs big enough to house the Spruce Goose are coupling radial tires and Ring Dings under one roof.Consumer electronics behemoth Incredible Universe is mixing karaoke and McDonald’s hamburgers with CPUs and VCRs, while megabookstores like B&N are hosting lecture series and poetry readings. But is bigger truly better?

Some retail experts and Wall Street analysts are beginning to warn that megastore formats packed with an endless selection of SKUs are alienating core consumer demographics from affluent empty nesters, who in theory ought to have the time to navigate the stores, to time-pressed young parents and single shoppers. While the die-hard bargain hunter may relish the allure of discovery amid a maze of aisles, less-driven shoppers often find the same format frustrating or intimidating.

Tradeoff of selection versus convenience

In the tradeoff of selection versus convenience, the growing legions of time-strapped Americans have demonstrated a preference for the latter, opting for prepared meals and pricier quick-hit trips to convenience stores and strip malls. Yet mass merchants have been expanding at a staggering pace into larger-format stores like Wal-Mart’s general-merchandise-and-food supercenters, which measure on average 188,000 square feet, and the 184,000-square-foot Incredible Universe consumer electronics/computer “gigastore.” For some, like B&N, the strategy seems to be working, but some observers think the trend soon may reach a point of diminishing returns.

“The big boxes are readily expanding in view of demographic [data] that reflects the opposite trend,” warned Gary A. Wright, a Denver-based retail consultant. Older consumers, for One group, are turned off by the prospect of parking on the fringe of a huge parking lot situated just off a highway, then lugging bulky packages back to the car, Wright said. Young parents with cranky kids in tow don’t have time to figure out a bewildering store layout. Single shoppers don’t necessarily want to waste precious afterwork or weekend hours indoors.

Disguise the size

Recognizing this, some retailers are learning to disguise their size. Instead of packing a bewildering assortment of SKUs onto floor-to-ceiling shelves, many are going with a more logical presentation. Wider aisles, shorter shelves, in-store boutiques and enhanced lighting have given them a look more akin to leaner, smaller competitors, despite having double or triple the SKU count. Many, in their advertising, are playing up not their vast selections, but rather their ability to provide personalized solutions to consumers’ problems, all while getting them into and out of the store quickly. And food retailers are building up offerings of prepared foods, offering the promise of greater convenience at the food preparation end of the process even if consumers must navigate large stores to pick up the products.

In an effort to shake its dubious reputation for unpleasant shopping experiences, Toys “R” Us this summer reformatted scores of stores, shedding the warehouse look in favor of a bright and spacious layout dubbed Concept 2000. It reduced SKUs by 4,000, lowered shelves and widened aisles. TRU plans to convert 55 stores in 1997, bringing the total to 98 stores by 1998.

“Customers think we have more products because they can see more,” says TRU’s vp of store planning, Mike Gerety. “The response has been overwhelming. The customer is clearly spending more time in the store and usually, hopefully, that equates to more sales.”

TRU is banking on similar results for its largest format yet, KidsWorld, which opened in Elizabeth, N.J,. and Fairfax, Va., last month. KidsWorld was designed “to pull all the synergies of the business into one format,” as Gerety put it. At between 85,000 and 95,000 square feet, KidsWorld is more than double the size of the traditional stores and holds thousands of TRU SKUs and those of its apparel and toddler siblings, Kids “R” Us and Babies “R” Us. There also is a candy store, a diner featuring Pizza Hut morsels, a Kids Foot Locker, a photography studio, kids hair salon and mini-amusement park.

TRU’s push comes at a time when specialty kid furniture such as recliner for kids, tables for kids, and toy retailers like Noodle KidDoodle, Zany Brainy and Imaginarium believe they can carve out a viable niche in the $17.5 billion toy store industry by stocking their shelves with educational and lesser-known brands and training knowledgeable, courteous sales staffs to create a less intimidating shopping experience. And the big guys are taking notice. Despite the added attractions at KidsWorld and Concept 2000, TRU maintains the primary goal of their reformatting initiative is to improve customer satisfaction.

Mass merchant Kmart is taking another tack to put a smaller face out to consumers. Under new chairman Floyd Hall, it has adopted a “high-frequency” strategy that stresses convenience by placing high-turn items near the store entrance to communicate to the time-strapped consumer that Kmart can be an in-and-out shopping experience. Next year, 400 Kmart stores will be converted to include an in-store Pantry, akin to an 8,700-square-foot supermarket, stocking some 7,000 SKUs such as paper products, pet supplies, beverages and eggs. To build on the perception of manageability communicated by the Pantry, the rest of the store has been reformatted with wider aisles, larger “airport” signage to identify departments, and improved interdepartmental sight lines to generate impulse purchases elsewhere in the store. Adjacencies have been rethought too. For instance, the “Kidsworld” department (children’s apparel and toys) has been moved to the front of the store next to the ladies department. “It’s all focused towards our core customer: women between the ages of 24 and 49 with kids at home,” said Bill Gryson, Kmart’s vp of special projects.

In the face of encroaching competition from discount mass merchants, drug chains, c-stores, supercenters and even gas stations, supermarkets also have been reinventing themselves. A new breed of megasupermarket, including Minneapolis-based Byerly’s and Wegmans of Rochester, N.Y., have created destination stores that draw customers in with an enticing lineup of prepared foods, quality private-label products and even cooking classes. Many are shifting emphasis from meal ingredients to meal solutions, offering a lure of convenience that can offset the large size of many of the stores. A new Wegmans in Pensfield, N.Y., includes a “Fresh to Go” section that stocks pasta sauces, soups, salads and 87 varieties of fish that can be cooked on-site at no extra cost, said Columbus, Ohio-based Elaine Pollack, director of Management Horizon’s Retail Intelligence System/Food, Drug, Mass.

The tradeoff between convenience and unlimited selection

The tradeoff between convenience and unlimited selection is a distinction that retailers would prefer to keep blurred, since consumers really would like to have both. In the past, retailers tried to overwhelm the consumer by creating the image that their store had an unmatched selection “to give the customer the feel that, ‘Oh my god, if this store doesn’t have it, nobody will,’” said Wright.

One format that tilts to selection over convenience is the flagging warehouse club. Their bulk packaging and membership fees have turned off all but small business owners and few have been able to establish a blueprint for mass appeal. Market leader Sam’s Warehouse Club, operated by Wal-Mart, now is resigned to this fact and will open just 10 new locations in 1996, matching the 1995 level, said Howard Eilenberg, a retail analyst for LJR Redbook Research, N.Y.

flagging warehouse and big-box
flagging warehouse and big-box

flagging warehouse and big-box

“I think membership warehouses and what they’re trying to do is pushing the envelope for what is too big,” Wright said.

Behemoth category killers are the biggest culprits at emphasizing their enormity, injecting an amusement park4ike feel to create a festive shopping experience. Some, like their defunct predecessor, the hypermarket, which swelled to over 230,000 square feet of retail space under one roof, have done a poor job managing their size.

Tandy’s Incredible Universe, the four-year-old electronics chain designed by Disney consultants, has received failing grades from Wall Street. From the outset, IU has been marketed as the ultimate consumer electronics/computer retailer, mixing an unmatched 85,000 SKUs, every-day low prices, interactive displays and entertainment to attract people to out-of-the-way sites and keep them there for the better part of the day. The stores, called “shows,” are replete with disc jockey booths, a rotunda and stage for merchandise demos, karaoke machines, a McDonald’s and Kidsview, a high-tech amusement area, to keep every member of the family occupied.

“The dwell factor is very important to us,” says Henry Schiarelli, IU’s vp/gm. “Admittedly, some people are overwhelmed, but we do a high repeat business” that’s greater even than Tandy blockbuster Radio Shack.

Wall Street analysts, chalking up the repeat business to the store’s faddish nature, are extremely pessimistic about the concept, saying the infusion of entertainment is distracting to the discerning techno shopper. And because IU is typically located in fringe areas, shoppers only frequent it on weekends, keeping sales well below what one analyst estimated to be the magic $325-per-square-foot breakeven point. As a result, analysts are forecasting the chain’s losses to double to $75 million this year; a disappointing holiday season could spell its demise, they predict. IU is proceeding cautiously, foregoing further expansion until sales pick up.

Big-box retailing

The closely watched IU experiment has provided valuable lessons to other big-box retailing execs, especially for furniture store and electronic products segments. One, in a noncompeting category, recently said he would only open larger-format stores one at a time, so that consumer demand could be monitored and adjustments made, and also will resist any temptation to bombard shoppers with side attractions.

For those sticking with large formats, specialty retailers are increasingly being imitated for insights into making the shopping trip more satisfying. Automotive aftercare outlets market themselves as the place to go for one-on-one consultation for perplexing repairs, while ads for the leading home improvement centers seldom refer to the store’s overall selection, but instead feature particular departments within the store and helpful staffers who can get the shopper out in a hurry.

If consumers are showing signs of resistance to some big-box formats, one exception so far seems to be the supercenters being set up by Kmart, Wal-Mart and, to a lesser extent, Target, which marry groceries and general merchandise items under one roof in a manner that allows dual-wage-earner families to consolidate shipping trips.

Analysts remain bullish on the com cept, which should double in the next three years to 1,500 with projected revenues exceeding $100 billion, said Mary Beth Whitfield, a principal retail consultant for Price Waterhouse’s Management Horizons unit in New York. By driving repeat business, “It’s a win-win situation,” said Redbook’s Eilenberg. “They’re getting market share from food retailers and getting additional sales in the general merchandise side.”

Tips to decorate your home

Decorate it yourself: with the home depot and home decorators collection, you can complete your room from inspiration to installation






1 Start with a focal point for your room, such as the Home Decorators Collection fireplace shown here, available at The Home Depot.

2 Once the focal point is 4.d in place, surround it with furnishings that fit your style–a combination ofsofas, chairs, ottomans, and tables from Home Decorators Collection.




3 Far from boring or bland, neutral paint colors create a sophisticated backdrop without stealing the limelight from other furnishings. Browse Home Decorators Collection by BEHR paint chips in stores or online at

paint to pillows
paint to pillows



4 Neutral allows for bold statements with artwork and decor accessories from Home Decorators Collection. Complete your room with pillows that tie in the colors from artwork and window treatments.


Table and chair recliners
Table and chair recliners


For a room that’s one-of-a-kind, you need options. And no one offers more variety–or more value–than Home Decorators Collection. Find lighting that speaks to you, seating that speaks for itself, decor that speaks volumes about your good taste. Combined with the project know-how you’ll find at The Home Depot[R] it’s everything you need to complete a room that’s distinctly you.

How to select paint colors for your house?

“When I chose the color for my library, I needed something sophisticated since it’s next to theliving room. This blue-gray is quiet and dramatic at the same time, which is the definition of elegance. It’s equally lovely in the morning light or in the evening, lit by the glow of a lamp. It would also look great on kitchen cabinets.”




56RB 09/302
56RB 09/302




“This is a combination of plum and iris, deep, rich, and perfectly pigmented to evoke old-world glamour and elegance. I would love to use it in high gloss in a dining room, with bleached herringbone floors and lots of crisp white cotton trimmed in purple for curtains and upholstery.”










“In our bedroom in a little California beach house, I wanted to create a soft, cozy box for sleeping. I draped the walls in an amazing lavender linen and found this paint to match. With undertones of gray and pink–like lilacs that have been bleached by the sun–it immediately calms the soul. Completely dreamy.”




PELT 254



“After a long day In New York City, I really want to go into a cocoon. And this deep, dark eggplant would completely envelop you. It conjures up Europe and the past but has a crispness that’s contemporary too. I’d use it in a library, with an extra-deep leather sofa, old patinated brass, and a lime-green cashmere throw to snuggle up in. Don’t disturb me.”






50GG 55/049


“Even if you’re nowhere near a beach or a blue sky, this color would remind you of something out of nature. It’s like sea foam–a blue-green with a powdery gray undertone. It makes me feel happy and calm at the same time. Layer it with bold navy and bright white. I might add a touch of fuchsia or lemon.”







“This is magic-hour blue, that moment in between daylight and twilight before the color gradually fades out of the sky. It’s a layered shade that captures the violet spectrum of blue yet never turns frigid. Silver sparkles against it, gold gleams, and mahogany takes on a glow. It’s a saturated yet tranquil blue that may be the precise shade of heaven.”







“This color Is hard to describe–it looks like caramel in the daylight and more olive green at night. It has a historical, Colonial quality and brings a sense of tradition and elegance to a new house. The paneling on the walls may be only paint-grade, but this color gives it the richness and depth of mahogany.”








“This delicate blue is the color of a husky’s eyes, with just a touch of periwinkle in It to offset the sweetness. It’s serene and soothing and especially gorgeous in a sitting room with crisp white tailored upholstery and Indian-print floral curtains.”









“I can’t seem to quit using Sea Salt. It’s the perfect grayish blue that can also go green. I’ve used it on woodwork to set off panels of de Gournay silk as well as on the floors of a 1900s summer cabin. Use it on a tired piece of brown furniture, mix it with a wild chintz, or wear it on your feet! I am so crazy for this color that I bought a pair of Balenciaga strappy sandals that are a perfect match.”







“With a good dose of aqua, this green is an earthy, nourishing, grounding, and healing color. You might see It in a room In an 18th-century house, but it doesn’t feel antique. It feels timeless. Some people have said that green is the most restful color for the human eye, and I believe it!”







“I’ve always loved deep blues, the darker the better–rich, saturated blues that complement everything around them. Last year, I used this in a showhouse and became obsessed with It. In every light, it looks different. To me, elegance means luxurious, stylish, sophisticated, and understated. You know it when you see it. No bling, just beautiful!”







“The minute you see it, this deep, olivey green says ‘Confidence lives here!’ Rich and muddled, with hints of brown and gold, olive Is the most elegant neutral out there. It’s at ease In every space, whether big or small, and it brings out the best in every color Imaginable. True elegance–for both rooms and people–lies in making style look effortless.”

How To Create A Focal Point In Any Room

A room will feel more inviting & resolved if you arrange your furniture and accessories around a “hero”. Jacinta Preston explains how


This is a great example of less is more when it comes to focal points. While there are quite nice architectural features either side of this lounge nook (the window and the turned post) it’s the colour contrast that becomes the focal point of this room.

What is a focal point
What is a focal point

What is a focal point

The colour wrapping around on to the roof is such a clever little design feature – it fools the eye into reading a strong vertical line that makes the space feel like it has high ceilings. However, the colour also makes the space feel more snug, and has a cocooning effect despite the cool tone.

Select colors for your house
Select colors for your house

Select colors for your house


A fireplace or mantel is almost always a natural focal point. It’s usually located in a good central position of a room, too, creating the opportunity for a classic symmetrical fl oorplan. Plus, the “mantel-as-focal-point” is a look that suits many decorating styles, from traditional to modern.

fireplace in your house
fireplace in your house

fireplace in your house

In this space, the fireplace and artwork grabs our attention while the informal arrangement of decorative glass vases, books, and flowers encourages the eye to linger. The lovely rustic leather chair contrasts dramatically, anchoring the room. This set-up could be as equally appealing if it were done with an even more classic approach – a large decorative mirror above the mantel and a pair of matching vases either side.


In contemporary open-plan homes, the need arises to create focal points to define smaller zones such as a dining area. This is particularly important in spaces with a lot of windows and walls of glazing, which can feel vast. The feature pendant light is an easy but fantastic way to do this, and it can be as dramatic or low-key as you like. With this focal point, the visual height of the space is exaggerated, and the tone, colour and texture contrasts hold our attention.


Artworks are, by nature, focal points, but they need to be used in an appropriate scale and proportion to make a room feel balanced and comfortable, and command just the right level of attention. This chunky white frame is balanced by the two finer black ones. The focal point then becomes the group of objects, including the black section of wall. Pared-back furniture lets the frames take centre stage


In a perfect design world, it’s best to “hide” the TV, so it’s not the first thing you see when entering a room, but sadly it’s not always possible. This approach can be a great alternative. The sideboard, together with the striped feature wall, balances the TV. The wall becomes a composition of elements, of which the TV is just one part. The asymmetrical layout is dynamic, casual and can evolve with your possessions over time.


A bedroom often becomes a study in symmetry, with objects repeated in the same positions on either side of a vertical axis. This is a traditional approach to decorating, but the result is made more energetic by the varied placement and bold colour of objects and artworks.

The bed and artworks in this room merge to become one focal point that flows from the floor up the wall. The repetition of colour in the art and bedlinen, and the variation in patterns, image size and frame colour scales up the contrast. This energy demands and maintains our attention.

bedroom idea decor
bedroom idea decor

bedroom idea decor

Uniting focal points can resolve and balance a room. Placing a bed under a window has a similar fabulous “one element” impact.