by Lise Lalonde
Victoria interior designer Donna Morrison believes homeowners should follow only one rule when it comes to decorating: There are no rules! Trust your own common sense and your own individual taste, she urges. That’s especially important when you’re tackling a living room, where “people get tied into rules, get stifled and then it becomes this staged room that nobody goes into.”
Morrison, who recently relocated her firm D. Morrison Design from Edmonton, has successfully followed that low-stress credo for more than 20 years and followed it when styling this lustrous living room with items from The Brick. Her stylish but livable designs have appeared in magazine spreads for various Canadian home décor magazines, and in many a builder’s showhome. For several years, she was also a resident designer on a Trading Spaces-style contest run by Global TV.
LL: Where do you start?
DM: Start with where you are spending the most money. People sometimes pick a paint colour and then spend the rest of their lives looking for a sofa that will match. Paint last. Probably the thing costing the most in a living room is the furniture. That might be the sofa, or it might be four chairs. But it could also be a massive painting.
LL: What was your mission for this room?
DM: I wanted to show that you can pick furniture from a manufacturer’s groupings (in which every piece matches, the woods are identical, even the drawer pulls are identical), put them together and get a very individual look. I was uniting all kinds of different periods, contemporary with traditional, because that’s how real people live. And I wanted it to look like the owner had travelled a bit.
LL: What is the theme of the room?
DM: Transitional. Not everyone can run out and change everything at once. As your life changes there are things that will stay with you forever, because they say who you are and what your taste is. So you have to work them into your décor. That describes transitional perfectly.
LL: Which piece of furniture inspired you?
DM: The first piece I chose is actually a sideboard from a dining room suite. This room needed a showpiece that was a bit unusual, totally out of context.
On its own it looks very retro, even though in its actual dining suite grouping it’s very modern. I like the curves. I liked the fact that it almost looked 1940s-style, or a bit Art Deco. I loved the geometrics on the front. And yet the oval mirror and oval pulls shone. So I could pair it with my geometrics but have some curves. I built around it, because it had style.
LL: How did you choose the other large pieces?
DM: The chairs I like because they’re armless. In a lot of new condos and even new homes, people are going for a smaller footprint. So armless chairs are perfect — and easy to move. With the pale sofa, we needed some punch. I like the sheen, the leather, the red.
Like the armless chairs, the sofa is very contemporary and sleek. It’s microfibre. Mixing that lovely suede texture (with the leather chairs) adds to the transitional look and feel.
The coffee table has lovely angles, nice curves on the legs, and yet the top is very geometric. I like the glass see-through, because the rug is really dominant in this room. Plus the glass is really awesome for setting your glass down and not marking the wood.
LL: You’ve blended retro, Asian and modern lines. The loud geometric carpet is something completely different. What makes it work?
DM: The carpet is totally out of context, it’s not what you’d expect. But it picks up that geometric pattern, the squares in the sofa, the tufting in the chairs. So without even realizing it, your brain is accepting this carpet even though it’s really bold, because something is co-ordinated: the geometric squares.
LL: What were you after with your accessory choices?
DM: I wanted to add more colour and to pick that up from one side of the room and move it around. That makes your eye roam. That’s important perceptually, to give a finished quality to the room.
The pillows and the throw gave me a huge colour palette to work with. From that pattern, I picked up the wall colour, and the green for the slate on top of the table.
The lamp behind the sofa is just a great showpiece. The sofa is quite calm and needs something punchy behind it. I love the dots on the lampshade. You can mix patterns, as long as you keep the scale balanced. Those are small dots while the rug has big squares. There’s a really busy pattern on the throw, but everything is a different scale. The shade repeats the taupe and black colours in the rug, too.
LL: Which ideas here will make any room sing?
DM: Picking up colours and shapes and repeating them around the room. And then uniting different eras. That makes a room flow, keeps your eye moving. Any time you can add movement, it makes it more interesting.