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I went to an event the other weekend, and they were handing out magazines and supplements. One of them, which I had not read before, was “T”, from the NY Times Magazine. It was their Fall Design issue. As I flicked through it, I fell in love. Yes, it was filled with over-priced art and fancy furniture (many of them labelled, price upon request – which means, if you have to call you can’t afford it), but it was beautifully done. Luxury was definitely the theme, but it’s accessibility made me want to pour myself inside and roll around the pages…

For someone like me, who thrives on budgets and spray paint, this magazine was not my usual read. Often, formal rooms go too far, and I (we?) are scared to go inside, worried we may crease the pillow or ruin the design. But, done right, it can be a wonderful, comfortable option.

One article in particular really struck me. The home was based on an 18th Century design, complete with spindly chair legs, gilded mirrors and original artwork from hundreds of years ago, but it was livable.
As I looked at the pictures, I could see how cleverly this couple had worked to create a home, not just an elegant showpiece. My favorite photograph is the one of the bookshelves, deliberately built with bowed wood, to make them look older than they were.

If you lean towards the elegant, and want to live with formality, here are some easy ideas on how to do it:

– Paint the walls a warm color (a bit darker than you dare).
– Use “real” things; wood, artwork, floors and light-fixtures shouldn’t be fake (or plastic). Be authentic.
– Furniture should be comfortable to sit on, and not flimsy. Even if you are inclined towards very formal, classic pieces, consider adding a modern, bulkier chair or sofa to bring some weight to the room.
– Group your accessories very tightly together (closer than you would think). This is a clever way to show off your collections, but make the room feel comfortable at the same time. Scattering them around just leaves them looking homeless and confused.
– Keep curtains simple and classic (avoid trends, and too many doo-dads).
– Make furniture groupings deliberate. Use a rug and coffee table as your centerpiece, and bring sofa and chairs up close to them. (Think about a doctors waiting room – if it looks like that, change it).
– Layer non-matching pillows and blankets on the sofas for added softness.

Remember, you have all these beautiful things, enjoy them!

Wendy E. Wrzos  http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/2011/10/formal-living-made-easy.html

Thanks to Mr and Mrs. Goldman, who inspired me to think good thoughts about formal living http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/the-contrarians/?ref=design-issue

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