Room of the Day: Living Space Balances Comfort and Elegance

By Becky Harris

This Philadelphia family room needed to stand up to two adults, four children and a dog tramping through it on their way to the backyard and back staircase. One of the homeowners also wanted it to evoke the serene feeling of her family's favorite vacation spot, Cape Cod. "She's a traditionalist but was completely open to patterns, a wide mix of textiles and funky surprise elements," says interior designer Naomi Stein. The result is a mix of sophistication and resilience.

Traditional Family Room by Bala Cynwyd Design-Build FirmsDesign Manifest

The family wanted a TV in here but didn't want it to dominate the space over the fireplace. "My client really loved the conversational aspect of two sofas facing each other," says Stein, of Design Manifest. "This room did not need to be all about the TV, and this arrangement works for them."

The oatmeal-colored linen sofas and ottoman have been treated with an ecofriendly stain resister. While the ottoman and sofas are the same fabric, Stein picked a tufted ottoman to make it stand out. The room is balanced, but she threw off the symmetry with a variety of throw pillows in suzani, Greek-key, zebra and chinoiserie patterns. "My client didn't want to 'Noah's ark' the room -- that is to say, matched pairs of everything," she says, "which keeps things more interesting." This rings true down to the smallest details. For example, the ottoman has a neat line of elegant, shiny nailheads, while those on the sofas are more spaced out and rustic.

Sofas: Lee Industries

"This was a big, empty, awkward wall before," Stein says of the new wall of built-ins. She designed them to incorporate storage below and display overhead. "There are six of them living here, and they need a lot of places to hide things," she says.

The ways the shelves are styled is a great example of the collaboration between client and designer. Stein incorporated her client's favorite things, including family photos and the birdhouse, made by one of the children. Next she culled through piles of their favorite books and arranged them in a stylish way. Finally, she picked up a few fill-in objects she knew her client would like, such as the marine float (from a movie-set sale) and the vintage pineapple bookends (from Etsy). The soft blue background on the shelves adds a subtle nod to Cape Cod coastal style. "We wanted it to be just a little bit beachy without getting kitschy," she says.

Stein mixed natural fibers and wood with the luster of metallics, such as in the raised-velvet croc textile she used on the throw pillows and on the benches next to the fireplace. She peppered in luxe finishes like this throughout the room, creating a pleasing tension between glamorous and rustic.

She also balanced saves and splurges, like giving the affordable bergère chairs from Ballard Designs an upgrade with custom upholstery and the velvet croc pillows.

More of the luxe-distressed balance turns up all over the room. The benches and side tables have dark iron bases. The table tops' distressed wood can take on a few more dings. Stein also replaced the existing brick fireplace surround with local Pennsylvania bluestone. Meanwhile, mercury glass lamps and antiqued mirror inlays add dashes of glint.

The owners already had the nautical painting over the mantel and the seascape over the dresser. The little blue lamp on the dresser was the client's grandmother's; this favorite object adds a punch of color to the neutral palette. The family stashes cozy throw blankets in a basket to the right of the dresser, and family photos are dotted throughout the room.

The French doors lead to the backyard, so the room is a high-traffic area. Stein opted not to add window treatments, as the backyard is private and the family goes in and out so much. The jute rug offers durability, and Stein layered in a cowhide near the sofa for softness under bare feet.

The dresser is another mix of posh and primitive, with antiqued mirror details including hexagonal inlays.

"I'm over here all the time for other projects, and every single time, it looks exactly like it does in these photos," Stein says. It's probably the best way for a designer to see that her work was truly a success.

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