Q: Our apartment is on the dark side, literally. We face the wall of the building next door, so the living room stays in constant shadow. We tried to compensate by lightening the wood floors and using light beige upholstery. But it is still too dark. Do you have any other suggestions?
A: It was wise of you to apply the physics of color to your problem, a solution you'll find in many professional designers' bags of tricks. They know that color can work visual magic, raising and lowering ceilings, stretching the size of a room and changing its mood. Ditto for slick and shiny surfaces that reflect light and lift spirits, like a glossy paint, mirrors, crystals and chrome.
Now you can add wallcoverings to the list of enlighteners. The cool news from the wallcoverings industry is about wallpapers printed in translucent metallic and pearlescent inks that add quiet shine to your walls. Other new wallpapers are dusted with mica chips, glass beads, even Swarovski crystals so they sparkle and shimmer in the light.
Many patterns are subtle, often monotone, the better to play up the reflective surfaces. In this glimmering living room, a raised print design of curlicues is defined with recycled sand and metallic accents. The sand is applied with non-toxic glue and clear-coated for durability, according to the spokesperson for the manufacturer, York Wallcoverings. (For more about the "Eva" print from the Venezia Collection by Antonia Vella Designs, go to yorkwall.com.)
Other bright ideas are illuminating designer rooms in the 2011 Holiday House in New York through Dec. 11. Presented by Traditional Home magazine to benefit Susan G Koman for the cure, the Upper East Side mansion overflows with inspiration for holidays of all sorts, from Christmas and Halloween to Mother's Day and birthdays.
New Year's Eve is especially bright as rethought by designer Andreea Avram Rusu. "New Years is a nighttime thing, so lighting is important," she explained. Her room at the Holiday House is wrapped in dark wallpaper and hand-washed with gold so it sparkles in the light of two chandeliers she made herself of brass and stainless discs, Swarovski crystals and semi-precious stones. "I wanted it to look like exploding confetti," Andreea explained.
No need to wait till New Year's to enlighten your own home life. Resolve now to brighten up the dark side with a little glitter, gilt and glow.
Q: Is the Madera Home the ultimate "Chinese auction"?
A: Not an auction, exactly, but we bid on a California company named Madera Home as one of the world's smartest recyclers. For more than a decade, the company has been buying up pieces of old Chinese temples and unusable pieces of elm wood furniture, most 100-300 years old and "re-commissioning" it into unique furnishings for today's home.
It's a happy ending to an unhappy time: In the l960s, the "red guards" ransacked villages all over China, seizing personal possessions in the name of creating a classless society. Some furniture was burned in the streets; other pieces were taken away and warehoused for the next two decades or so.
The purloined furniture languished in neglect until some 25years ago, when more benevolent Chinese officials started releasing pieces to the open market. Which is where Madera Home finds, for example, the piece of an ancient marriage bed, its trained Chinese artisans have now restored, silver-leafed and repurposed as a media cabinet ($1399).
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Manhattan Style" and six other books on interior design.