Bringing Serenity and Flow to a Small Home
Tips from a pro on making compact rooms feel calming and comfortable
Maybe it was knowing that the house was built in the 1700s—for a parson. Or maybe it was wanting an escape from big-city sensory overload. When interior designer Stephanie King took possession of a spare saltbox in Bedford, New York, three years ago, she adopted a palette of weathered grays, warm blacks, and pristine whites.
"The house is incredibly charming, and the minute I walked in I just knew I could make it spectacular," she recalls. "But because the rooms were small and the ceilings were low, I knew it had to be almost monochromatic to create a sense of flow." Working with a preservation-minded contractor, she restored mantels, moldings, and built-in cabinets, and rebuilt worn pine floors downstairs.
Shown: To give a vintage Colonial a quiet edge, ebonized floors were paired with updated-traditional furnishings.
Each room also got a judicious dose of color and texture. Linen, cashmere, and leather signal luxury in rooms remarkable for their simplicity. "Friends always say how serene it feels," says Stephanie. Her other design trick is to "use large pieces to make small rooms look grand." A vintage clock stands tall in the living room; an oversize portrait dominates the breakfast table. "I also keep the clutter down," she says. "It makes the rooms seem bigger."
For other tips on how to turn a small house into a calm retreat, read on.
Shown: Interior designer Stephanie King relaxes on a tailored sofa in her 1700s saltbox. She redid every room, but with a light touch.
A custom sofa, scaled to fit the room, has soft gray upholstery with crisp white piping. Accent pillows in rich hues warm up the neutral palette. A tall case clock and curtain rods raised high add a sense of volume to a low-ceilinged room.
An all-white scheme—on the counters, cabinets, walls, and backsplash—is grounded by a slate floor, sculptural black-painted chairs, and a dramatic photograph. Charcoal-gray slate flows naturally from the other rooms' glossy black pine.
Vintage touches, like a marble top and wide-spread, porcelain-capped faucet handles, give a simple white vanity a character boost. White subway tile looks luxurious when it climbs all the way to the ceiling.
Feminine flourishes, such as a graceful bench, flowing bed canopy, and soft gray coverlet, are balanced by snappy red accents and crisply framed artwork.
Bold black accents and controlled pops of color keep pale furnishings from looking washed out. Homeowner Stephanie King updated the original fireplace with a slate surround and glass doors. Accessories with curved profiles soften the mantel's sharp lines.