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Tall bump-out windows provide deep seating for afternoon naps. Soft, low-slung furnishings are both stylish and informal. (KELLY DECK DESIGN)
Tall bump-out windows provide deep seating for afternoon naps. Soft, low-slung furnishings are both stylish and informal. (KELLY DECK DESIGN)

A fanciful room for spring inspired by the Côte d'Azur Add to ...

This week’s column is a new idea, and I hope you find it interesting. Instead the usual column –detailing a design we’ve executed for actual clients – what follows is a real design we’ve put together, down to the concept drawings, for imaginary clients.

The idea is the product of a collaboration – a special nod goes to KDD team members Carly Liang, Carissa Hewer, and Todd Mitchell – and its purpose is to stir the collective pot of design ideas. It’s spring, and we wanted to “blue sky” it, as management types might say.

Enter the clients. Max and Trudy, as we’ll call them, are wealthy Canadian expatriates living in France. They’ve recently bought a villa in the French Riviera, and asked us to help them update the design of the living room.

The big idea

Like many members of the international jet set, Trudy and Max speak earnestly about the simplicity of life on the French Riviera. In this new villa – 200 years old, in the ancient stone hills above Provence – they wanted a secondary home whose design balanced the contemporary with the rustic. More than anything, it would be a place for Trudy and Max to decompress and spend time with their two young children.

To this end, we homed in on the living room, where the family would pass its time together. To update the architecture, we opened up the east-facing walls, replacing their small, shuttered windows with tall glass bump-outs. The product: deep window seats for afternoon napping.

On the north wall we opened up the exterior wall entirely, replacing double doors with a retracting door system. This connected the living room to the outdoor dining room we’d added at Max’s special request. Dining with the family, overlooking the Cote d’Azur? Check.

To thematically connect the two spaces, we repeated the interior’s wood beam details outside, creating a pergola that defines the area and provides sun cover in warm weather.

The risk

For the Riviera’s cool spring evenings, the villa needed a fireplace. It would be a place to gather in the evenings, read stories, savour a glass of wine. A rustic stone façade would appeal to the romantic heritage of the home, but we worried it wouldn’t look modern enough.

Instead, we dropped in a custom gas-burning unit made of brushed brass. It’s sharp lines give it a crisp, mid-century modern feel, a refreshing contrast to the weathered stonewalls.

Most clients would shrink from a jarring juxtaposition of old and new. But Max and Trudy appreciated how one decisive modern element in a room opens the door to other modern pieces, making possible an energizing blend of genres.

The obvious

This room is meant to be a family hangout – a place to build tents, tell stories and have fun. The design shouldn’t be completely given over to free play, however. Trudy and Max wanted a space that was both stylish and informal.

Our approach was to curate a collection of low-slung furnishings with soft edges. The coffee tables and felt poufs are brought easily into new configurations (and games), while the quiet elegance of chairs and sofa appeals to adult tastes.

The rug is my favourite ingredient. It’s a distressed Persian rug that’s been dyed a deep purple. We’ve been seeing them at international furniture fairs for the past couple years and wanted badly to use one in an interior.

Here, it’s a perfect fit, offering the elegance of a designer piece without the anxiety of protecting it. The rug’s appeal will only deepen with wear and tear, giving the room an air of relaxed sophistication.

The playful

Looking to Trudy’s wardrobe (she’s fond of Erdem Moralioglu frocks), the team pulled a pile of textiles for the room – a drunken collection of periwinkle, violet, lavender, and mauve weaves.

We wanted the room to feel well put together but eclectic, as though Trudy had picked up the cushions and textiles in boutiques in her travels.

It’s rare we’re invited to use so much colour, and, I’ll admit, at first we got carried away. A few strict edits narrowed the collection down to a mostly mauve and gold base with few pops of violet and yellow.

In selecting the final fabrics, we chose potent textiles for the big pieces (the sofas and daybeds) and more decorative patterns and colours for the cushions. One special touch was to include a couple of delicate fabrics, the idea is that they will most visibly absorb the weathering of family life. Over time, their imperfection becomes an emblem of ideal family life; effortless, unprecious, and beautiful.

This springtime design is the first of four fantasy projects we’ll design and present this year in the Globe. In the remaining three, Summer, Fall, and Winter 2012, we’ll continue to get creative, while connecting the design to real-world trends and ideas. Stay tuned.

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