ORLANDO, Fla. — Vast rooms with soaring ceilings, extra-tall doors and towering windows are designed to look grand. But how do you make such vast spaces feel warm and inviting — without minimizing their grandeur?
Not-so-big homes may be the current trend, but luxury mansions are still being built or remodeled. And even smaller homes often feature open-plan living areas with lofty ceilings.
It takes all the decorating tricks in a designer's bag to bring human scale to giant spaces, says Jeanne Archer, who designed the interiors for the 16,700-square-foot home of the Patrick Tubbs family on Lake Mabel in southwest Orlando, Fla.
Color, texture and the arrangement of furniture all contribute to making a house "feel like a home, not a mansion," says Archer. "Even the grandest living room shouldn't have that 'can't touch, can't sit on' feeling."
A key element in the imposing living room of the Lake Mabel house is a huge, chocolate-brown sofa covered in cushy, top-quality chenille.
"The sofa talks to you. It says, 'Come, have a seat, make yourself comfortable,'" says Archer, owner of Interior Motives Design Group in Lake Mary, Fla.
She selected pale gold for the walls, deep green (the homeowner's favorite color) for the full-length draperies, and fabrics in red, green and gold for the black, neoclassical furniture. The same colors are featured in the mural she designed for the cut-out ceiling, and pattern of jade-green and dark-gray granite is set into the off-white marble floor.
"If the walls, floor and ceiling were all off-white, the room would come off cold and stark," she says.
The living-room colors are repeated throughout the house, creating continuity between rooms. Textured, copper-colored Venetian plaster brings warmth to the 43-foot-high foyer. And decorative moldings and chandeliers make the ceilings appear less remote.
Wood beams provide overhead interest in the kitchen and breakfast nook. The game room is finished with chunky timbers and dark, tongue-in-groove boards. And the ceiling of the master bedroom is adorned with vermiculite wallpaper made from crushed green and silver stones.
When furnishing large spaces, "Cluster your seating arrangements," says Hattie Wolfe, a designer with Wolfe Rizor Interiors in Winter Park, Fla. "Clusters create intimacy, so you don't feel like you're floating in the middle of an ocean of space."
Each cluster should have a function, she says. A media-center cluster for watching TV, a cluster of armchairs for conversing, club chairs clustered around game tables.
Break up extra-long rooms with three rugs instead of one gigantic carpet, she says. "And make drapery very abundant to add warmth and softness."
Troy Beasley, a designer with Beasley & Henley Interior Design in Winter Park, suggests using darker paint colors and architectural detailing to "bring the walls in visually."
Use tall wainscoting and extra-wide chair rails stained a different color to the walls to break up the "vast emptiness" of high, white rooms, he says. And choose higher-back sofas, larger art work and taller lamps to match their oversize scale.