Ask an Expert: Darra Bishop

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Accent Wall

Q: Ashley: I have an open floor plan home in South Florida. Ecclectic decor with old English antiques mixed with Ethan Allen and Z Gallerie pieces. I am contemplating painting my walls an off white like Benjamin Moore Elephant Tusk. Light wood floors. My ceiling and crown are high gloss white. Will this be boring? Are accent walls still in Vogue? Would I be better off with a paint with a little more depth in color like a light taupe? Going round and round with decisions…

A: Hello Ashley! Paint makes an incredible impact with a low financial investment, and really changes the feel of a room. Elephant Tusk, which is a creamy/vanilla hue paired with gloss white trim, is classic, not boring, but I urge you to consider a different color choice. A wall color that considers your furnishings will create a cohesive, harmonious look and pull everything together in a tailored way. The images I’ve chosen show wall colors that refer to the surrounding furnishings and give the rooms continuity.

You mention that your floor plan is open, but do your rooms get a lot of light? I like to paint smaller rooms light tinted colors to create an expansive feel. Keep in mind that any wall in shadow will appear much darker than the chip. A fail-proof paint selection method is to paint a large swatch on the wall close to the floor and place a piece of furniture alongside. Focus on the vignette to determine if the color works.

To answer your question about accent walls, my approach is to use a darker tint of the same color instead of the traditional “color splash” accent. The variation adds interest, but the result is softer and keeps the eye moving about the room.

Industrial Glass and Mirrors

Q: Ellen: Hi Darra. What industrial elements do you suggest adding to a more confined space to give the illusion that it is bigger and more open? How could I incorporate glass and mirrors for a project like this?

A: Hello Ellen. Mirrors and glass will add great dimension to a confined space, counteracting that “cramped” feeling. When working with glass and mirrors in a smaller space, I like to think big. Glass as room dividers and a large-scale mirror or collection of mirrors will dramatically open up your space.

Also, consider other reflective elements if you want an industrial feel. Stainless clad walls add the unexpected and, whether done in tile or sheet metal, will give you very different effects. There are so many mosaic metal tile patterns to choose from that you are certain to find the one that gives you the cool, industrial look you want.

Great industrial elements should also be included in the details. Refined toggle switches are out of the ordinary and lend a refined industrial accent to your walls. What I love about these electrical fittings is that they go far beyond the stainless steel switch plate and aren’t something you see everyday. I’ve even incorporated vintage stainless pushbutton switches and plates into loft interiors to communicate an industrial feel.

Science Fiction

Q: Matt: Hi! I’m a big fan of science fiction and would love to make my apartment look more futuristic. Any ideas on how to incorporate science fiction themes without making the place too overtly nerdy?

A: Hello Matt. Setting the stage for any sci-fi element is key. Clean modern lines are the perfect backdrop for science fiction elements (think more 2001: A Space Odyssey mod than The Matrix post apocalyptic industrial), and will tame any “Big Bang Theory” nerdiness. The images I am including are from a loft project originally designed for a sci-fi writer/producer, and, at one time, housed several sci-fi TV props. The unconventional design can be considered mod or modern, but it is in the overall continuity that gives it a futuristic feel. I like to incorporate curves into my designs, which, in addition to being out of the ordinary, will add softness to industrial interiors.

Short of building curved walls and storage into your dwelling, there are a plethora of mod furnishings and accessories that are seriously futuristic without being overtly nerdy. The bookworm by Ron Arad comes to mind or the Atomium Lamp from Kundalini. One of my favorite chairs, the Bubble by Eero Aarnio, hangs from the ceiling and could certainly be considered sci-fi and futuristic even though it was originally designed in 1968.

The white storage unit to the right was custom designed for the space and includes storage for everything from clothing to housewares. The Eero Aarnio Bubble chair and Karim Rashid Links mirrors carry through the futuristic feel.

This Week's Ask an Expert: Frank Slesinski

Los Angeles based interior designer, Frank Slesinski, is a dynamic voice in Southern California design. He integrates an eclectic variety of styles, with an eye towards comfort, drama, and functionality. "Good design, from any period or style can mix beautifully - and unexpectedly, as long as there is an overall cohesion to the plan. The key is juxtaposition of materials and textures with an element of surprise."

This Week’s Topic: Mixing Different Designs

This week Frank will be answering questions about blending designs from different periods. Ask a question here.

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