Thursday, May 18, 2006

Decorating Dead Zones

It's Bridget Otto Thursday and her column today in The Oregonian's Homes & Garden section, concerns those hard to decorate little areas, she calls "Dead Zones".
Every house has one or two. Sometimes there are more.

We're talking dead spots, those puzzling areas that are often not furniture-friendly but look vacant without something. It can be a small landing on a staircase or a transition spot from one room to the next.

Mine's in the entryway. First off, there's no electrical outlet nearby, so a quick fix of adding light is out. Secondly, there is already a table off to the other side of the entry, so an additional table looks redundant and not very clever.

I've had a chair there for some time. Granted, no one sits in the chair, but it fills the void and acts as a catchall for coats and purses -- sometimes a good thing, sometimes not. I've lobbied for a decorative coat rack, but my husband thinks it, too, will become an eyesore filled with coats and umbrellas and purses. He may be right, but I'm not convinced.

A chair with some architectural flair and a tall back might fit the bill, but I haven't found it yet.

"You want something interesting, something different or edgy," says designer Beverly Landfair of Landfair Furniture + Design Gallery in Southwest Portland. Landfair, like many designers, sees these dead areas as great challenges and places to accessorize the home.

She suggests adding mirrors to make the area appear larger or brighter. She's also a fan of chests, available now in every style from traditional to contemporary. The end of a hallway is a great place for a tall chest, which can do double duty as storage as well as pull the eye down the hall, creating a focal point.

Like Landfair, designer Diane Keaton, of Diane Keaton Interiors in Beaverton, likes dead-space challenges.

"These are my favorite areas to deal with," she says.

To bring life to a dull spot, Keaton often adds artwork, from sculptures to paintings to photo groupings. For one client who had moved into a condo, Keaton punched up wall space above the kitchen sink with a large photograph that both harmonized with the Asian-inspired decor and provided an outdoor scene for an otherwise visual dead end.

In the hallway of her own home, Keaton filled a drab spot with two framed photographs and set a small stool with an upholstered seat under them. She balanced that at the opposite end with more framed photographs and a plant in a pretty pot on the floor.

In another client's home, she filled a vacant ledge with a grouping of three large, matching vases.

"It's a wow," she says.

Groupings of little things bore Keaton a bit. She operates on the less-is-more design philosophy -- fewer items, but big ones. "You want something to look at."

If the dead spot can be isolated, go for it and treat it differently from the space around it, says designer Kimberlee Jaynes. Make it pop with paint and/or bright objects or shiny surfaces. If it's possible, paint the ceiling in that area with a bronze metallic paint to reflect light.

If the space is dark and you'd like to hang artwork, Jaynes suggests frames that come with battery-powered lights, available at some Portland-area frame shops.

Jaynes, who owns Kimberlee Jaynes Interior Designs in Northwest Portland, thinks in terms of paint, texture and artwork when faced with "any dingy hole." All good ways to get ideas flowing.

Me? For starters, I'm going to beg my sweet husband to put in an electrical outlet to bring that dead spot to life.

Bridget A. Otto: 503-221-9527;

Bev & Mike

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