Part of a series: Living the Good Life with Chris Olsen
Often when we buy a house, we inherit rooms or areas that we don’t get enough use out of, or that we simply don’t care about. Just because a room is part of the structure, with a defined use, doesn’t mean you have to use it as it was originally planned. The room you’re going to see in this post was never actually a room; it was a garage. Actually, a carport—something with even less dignity. I had one already, so I decided to make this a functional room, with a door directly into the outside. I wanted more areas for seating, good light, and elements that echo the Spanish colonial design of my house. What does that last part mean? I needed terrazzo floors, architectural arches, a fireplace with a hearth, and stucco walls. By extending the theme of my house with this new room, I was able to keep it from looking like it had been added on. I wanted seamless design throughout.
Looks like a nice room, right? No traces of cars or exhaust. In keeping with the Spanish design of my house, I brought in elements that underscored it. A worn farm table, wrought iron anything—including chairs and candelabras—a simple rug that zings with color, and plants associated with the desert southwest. Attention to detail can pay off. Nothing was pricey, but all fit within my design guidelines.
This great old table could tell stories. When you have a weathered antique like this, it always looks good piled with found objects and layers of things. The way to decorate like this is simple:Pile it all on, then remove elements piece by piece, until you get the right feel and mix. And always use candles.
Here’s the seating and arched door that opens directly on the courtyard. I wanted upholstery that was somewhat light, to go with the color scheme. This room wouldn’t have worked with dark fabrics and rugs. And I also wanted to mix patterns, which keeps it all light and interesting. And you can’t beat tile floors punctuated with rugs in such a room.
View from the doorway, which helps you to see how I wanted to make multiple areas within the room for seating and tables and planters.
The fireplace and altar space next to it finish this room. The arched fireplace and hearth make a perfect touch. Light cascading through the windows onto the tile floors adds to the allure of the space. This time of day, at this angle, you can see why I refer to this room as the solarium. Even if Spanish-style houses don’t traditionally have solariums.
Texture, texture, texture. Three words to live by. Plaster walls, wooden surface, fired clay tiles provide both smooth and rough visual pleasure. Plus that inviting niche next to the fireplace was once a work table for the garage. No longer needed for tools or a spare carburetor, I wanted to put it to real use.
Be reverent. The work table becomes an altar of sorts, but with spiritual, rather that religious, overtones. A statue, candles, books, plants; these are the elements that both blend with the room, and make this niche a lovely—and unexpected—addition.
When planning a renovation project, the best thing you can do is decide on what you want the room to convey, and how it will be used. Use elements that are found throughout your house to ensure your add-on doesn’t look like it was, well, added on. Look around and find things to use that are reminiscent of your pursuits, and that also fit the space. Make it work, but make it work on your terms. That’s the real joy you can find in your very own space.
Enjoy every day,
Chris H. Olsen