Myths, Lies, Mysteries: Trade Secrets from an Interior Design Pro

By: Janet McCann, McCann Associates Inc.

“Never paint a small room a dark color” is folklore.  Here is the inside story.

A 300 lb. bride dressed in white or a 300 lb. widow dressed in black is still a large woman.  It is the same with a small room.  Painted dark or light, a small room is still a small room.

Instead of trying to disguise the perceived negative (smallness), emphasize the coziness and intimacy by painting the room a dark color.  Paint the door and trim to match and use a dark color on the floor.  Furnish the room sparingly and cover the furniture with light colored fabrics and you will have created a precious jewel box.

“Painting a ceiling white makes it look higher”   It ain’t necessarily so.

There are 6 surfaces (4 walls, floor and ceiling) in a typical room.  If white is your default choice for the ceiling, you have neglected 1 of 6 opportunities to give your room its character.

Consider using a pale blue with just about any color scheme.  It raises the height of the ceiling by creating the illusion of sky.

In rooms with white crown molding, a white ceiling melts away.  By using a tint of the wall color on the ceiling, the crown is accentuated and again the ceiling looks higher.

Rooms with portions of angled walls from roof structures benefit from continuing the wall paint onto the ceiling.  It creates a unified look by de-emphasizing the misshaped ceiling.

The higher the ceiling, the more it becomes in your line of sight.  High ceilings look great painted a darker color to “cap off” the room much like a picture frame contains the picture.

“You must match your metal finishes”.  This isn’t your mother’s bathroom!

When my parents built their home in the sixties, I remember thinking how odd it was to have a door handle that was brass on the hall side of the door and chrome on the other side, the bathroom.  My mother explained to me that when the door was closed all the metals would match.  Being a slave to “all metals in a room should match” is over.

Today, dark oil rubbed bronze is a very popular choice for doorknobs and it mixes beautifully with brass, antique brass, polished nickel, chrome or pewter.  Any of the metal choices could be mixed for faucets, light fixtures and cabinet hardware.

Dark door hardware can be integrated in a bath by tying it to dark cabinets while using light nickel or chrome as faucets.  Conversely, with nickel doorknobs, dark bronze faucets and  light fixtures could be the perfect accent.

“Arrange your kitchen in a cooking triangle”

Good chefs can cook a gourmet meal in a 5 X 7 foot space.  In today’s larger kitchens, you may as well be cooking in the Bermuda triangle if you try to arrange the appliances in a triangle spread throughout the space.

The secret to a large and yet efficient kitchen is zoning.  The cooking triangle is essential and it can be achieved by using a secondary sink and refrigerator drawers in proximity to the stove, thus creating the cooking zone.  Another sink should be arranged with a dishwasher and garbage/ recycling center for the clean-up zone.  If baking is a big part of your repertoire, consider arranging the ovens in proximity to the main refrigerator or possibly another undercounter fridge creating a baking center.  You might even consider a white marble countertop to channel the great French bakers of yesteryear.

Other zones to create should be based on your families’ habits and lifestyles. For example, a young family may find a breakfast station with a small fridge for juice and milk, a toaster oven or microwave and storage for cereal all at children friendly heights,  to be not just functional but a great way to teach self sufficiency.