Stacy Carlson, from Lou Lou’s Décor in Tiverton, does it up with classic tones and a beachy motif.
Carlson looted her lively shop for a host of decorative and disparate elements. “Today’s transitional style calls for a mix,” she explains. “A little Asian, maybe some country. Blending creates interest.” Of course, with a super but neutral sofa playing the starring role — like this eight-way, hand-tied Loft Sofa from Baker’s Milling Road Collection ($2,599), an exclusive from Cabot House in Warwick — anything is possible. The designer cleverly highlights the sofa’s streamlined shape by framing it with art and then cozies it up with appealing textures and accessories. Here’s her formula:
• Calm down
Cultivate a serene and sophisticated mood using subdued hues throughout. A pale silk shade atop a mother-of-pearl standing lamp, for instance? Quiet luxury.
• State your purpose
A dramatic grouping of art grabs the eye and transforms the seating area into a focal point. Carlson’s choice, eight super-size shell photos in gleaming mirrored frames, maximizes a grand wall.
• Revisit history
Everything from the same period? A giant yawn. Instead, marry old and new. Dried reeds and grasses, culled from a friend’s yard, find a home in an antique French tin once used for toting grapes.
• Character builders
Texture gives a setting subtle richness. Case in point: multipurpose rattan cubes to serve as tables or seats. Rectangular faux alligator and square synthetic suede pillows, wearing Carlson’s custom look-at-me monograms, also do the trick. The pillow’s perky cotton fringe is icing on the cake.
• Get touchy feely
Ratchet up the scene’s sensuous appeal. A mohair throw, for example, “lends depth to the sofa,” Carlson says, “and, at the same time, makes a great blanket for snuggling.” One of her plush area rugs, in this case blue to conjure sea thoughts, adds polish while pampering the feet.
• Add finishing touches
“The small seashells rimmed in sterling silver are in sync with the art,” Carlson points out. “Seashell matchboxes would work for the same reason. It doesn’t matter that no one smokes any more; the ones we stock fly out of the shop.” Fresh flowers, even a small bouquet, bring the outdoors pleasantly in. And don’t forget the ultimate crowd pleaser, a pretty candle.
Kathie Wheaton, principal of the Design Collaborative in Pawtucket, pares it down to vibrant color and form.
“Color is an unbeatable way to chase away winter doldrums,” says Wheaton. “When summer arrives, you could easily yank out the rug and switch to an elegant cream-and-black theme. But for now, you want California comes to Rhode Island.” Wheaton’s smart handful of zesty hues is all it takes to increase the tempo and turn our high-ceilinged space into a sunny oasis. Copycat her recipe this way:
• Take two
Mother Nature wields a fun brush and so can we. Hand-screened sand dollar pillows in luscious lime and cream — by Altamira Lighting in Warren for Maine Cottage Furniture — give the sofa a happy modern twist. “Two pillow sofas are my favorite,” says Wheaton. “No one ever wants to sit
in the middle.”
• Cast a glow
“Light coming from over your shoulder is especially conducive to reading,” Wheaton says. In this case, twin sand dollar lamps in upbeat tangerine and orange by Altamira afford ample illumination for two. Another bonus? Tall lights lend a composition height, a perfect fix for a soaring wall. BTW: Wheaton most often prefers Reveal seventy-five-watt bulbs.
• Back stage
Wheaton plants a cool console table of her making, available through Design Collaborative, behind the sofa. Dual cardboard columns topped with glass provide an easy-to-reach perch for lamps and books.
• Gallery hop
Sometimes, less is more. A single but arresting watercolor by Washington, D.C., artist Ted Milligan, a RISD grad, echoes the sofa’s silhouette and gives a nod to the energized palette.
• House warmers
Contemporary doesn’t translate as cold. Edit accessories but include creature comforts. Wheaton’s pick? A lush geometric carpet, Kaffee Fassett Red Hot Squares for Dash and Albert (available through Design Collaborative), and a fleece blanket. The latter, a lime confection with feel-good fringe designed by Pawtucket fiber artist Mindy Cherry, softens the sofa’s profile and invites one of life’s sweetest indulgences: an afternoon nap.