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This old house -- updated

August 30, 2007|Lisa Boone | Times Staff Writer

Older homes are built for the way we used to live, says interior designer Jackie Terrell of Jackie Terrell Design in West Hollywood. With many of her younger clients shunning formal interiors, Terrell often finds herself "casualizing" their traditional homes. Here, she suggests ways to make these spaces more casual and contemporary:

Dining room: For a Hancock Park family of six, Terrell transformed the formal dining room into a project room, pictured here. A gigantic table in the center of the room has drawers galore. Terrell fitted the upper part of the wainscoting with soundboard, which absorbs the room's noise. Instead of using traditional pendant lights, Terrell created task lighting with two Tolomeo lamps, which can move up and down and swivel to various positions.

Kitchen: Because the kitchen is often a contained area, it can get lonely. Terrell likes to create a seating area that invites chatting. A bench or a stool provides an instant invitation for company. Terrell also likes pretty lamps in the kitchen. "It makes it warm and welcoming," she says. Art and flowers on countertops are cheerful additions that balance the kitchen's utilitarian mission, and removing doors can make the space feel larger.

Living room: Forget formality here too. Don't save a room for "special" occasions, Terrell says. Instead, give it a purpose. Create a space that makes you feel good. "It's nice to have a room where you can go sit down with a book," she says. "You want to create a beautiful place that makes you happy when you walk in the door. Sometimes people feel like pretty is a luxury, but it's not. It is life-enhancing."

Space: Terrell says many clients want openness, not privacy. She is often asked to open up kitchens and family rooms for busy people who want to spend time together. In these kinds of open spaces, Terrell prefers white or neutral tones. She reserves color for powder rooms and other contained spaces. Consistent window treatments, she says, go a long way to making varied rooms feel more cohesive.

Collections: Pottery, antique maps, personal photographs -- any collection should be displayed in a meaningful manner. "It's the way you frame things and the way you hang them that matters," says Terrell, who likes to group photos by subject matter. For one actress client, Terrell placed pictures in three locations: professional photographs in the den with her awards, family history in the stairway and nuclear-family photos in the bedroom. Similar frames can bring consistency to disparate pictures.

Storage: It's often an issue in traditional homes with small closets. Terrell advises heavy editing. "If you haven't worn it, pitch it," she says. "Let it go." She also suggests creating a functional entry. "Everyone needs a designated place to put your keys, your bag. So make it beautiful." She recommends attractive hooks, a pedestal table and flowers, a pretty bowl for the mail. "It will make you happy when you walk in the door," she says.

Mini office: Terrell likes to create rooms within rooms. One example: the message center, a mini office where family members can keep a calendar and leave notes to one another. It's a good place to charge phones, laptops and other electronics. In one home, Terrell created a message center in a hallway niche. She tacked pin-board on the wall and put letter boxes with name labels on the shelves. Another good spot for a mini office is in the kitchen or on the way to the kitchen. It can be as aesthetically pleasing as you like, but its real beauty? All your stuff is no longer scattered around the house.

Still-life: Borrowing from other cultures is a fine way to break with a home's traditional style. Try a tokonoma, an alcove in Japanese homes that becomes a focal point for a flower arrangement or some other artful display. "It creates a moment in your own home," Terrell says -- a still-life to enjoy every day. In Terrell's apartment, she created a vignette with a beautiful map, a collection of globes and flowers on a counter. "Sometimes," she says, "putting flowers in a messy room makes you feel good."

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lisa.boone@latimes.com

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