By Laura Samuel Meyn
An old-fashioned space by any other name is a modern spot to soothe the soul.
In the keeping room of our dreams, there’s a stylish yet super comfortable place to sit, a luxurious and cuddly throw and a four-legged companion curled up nearby. There’s a stoked fireplace in chilly weather, and windows open to birdsong on a warm spring day. Loosely defined as a small living area off the kitchen, the term dates back to Colonial times, when such a space would be the warmest in the house, sometimes luring the family to sleep there on especially cool nights. Cozy, intimate and comfortable, a nicely appointed keeping room offers an antidote to the chaos of modern life and the chill of overly open spaces. In short, it’s the ideal place to hide out with a cup of tea and a page turner. We recently caught up with two interior designers to tour their favorite “kitchen-adjacent-den projects” — or, as we prefer to call them, keeping rooms.
Kay Genua Designs
It was a lovely, light-filled breakfast room overlooking the pool; the only problem was that nobody really used it. When Kay Genua was tasked with redesigning a kitchen for longtime clients and friends, she realized that the attached breakfast room would better serve the couple as a keeping room.
Genua was delighted to be able to repurpose the celadon-and-cream rug that had once been under the breakfast table. She added beams overhead so as to give the space a cozier feel and installed pale aqua grasscloth on the ceiling. Because these clients love color, Genua was free to make whimsical selections, such as a Nina Campbell wallpaper that’s aflutter with colorful birds, butterflies and flowers, and Roman shades made with a vibrant striped GP&J Baker fabric.
In a repetition of energetic, happy colors, Genua had two comfortable Schumacher chairs and a footstool upholstered in a plush orange chenille. Decorative pillows that had been covered in a fun monkey-print fabric for a guestroom became a perfect fit for the chairs in the new space, both in color and in spirit. Overhead, an existing chandelier illuminates the reading and lounging nook, with fun tassel trim added to the shades. The chairs face a fireplace with tile surround; a TV hangs over the mantel, which was created from an old piece of lumber that Genua’s contractor found.
Most eye-catching is the wife’s majolica collection arranged in a large pine display cabinet mounted above a large buffet. Sentimental pieces inherited from the husband’s parents are worked in, too, including the pair of painted wooden angels on the mantel and a parrot lamp between the chairs.
“I love taking collections and accessories and using them in a very purposeful way,” says Genua. “They have morning coffee in there, and it’s where they watch TV at night; it’s one of my favorite spaces I’ve ever created.” Kay Genua Designs, 817-763-0787, kaygenuadesigns.com
Paxton Place Design
When Stacie McCans and her associate Jessica Schmidt were called in to update a keeping room for a husband and wife living west of Fort Worth, they set out to create a tranquil, cozy space where the couple could indulge in their love of reading and nature.
To bring the outdoors in, they replaced a small set of exterior French doors with oversize metal-frame glass ones stretching almost the length of an entire wall. On the opposite end of the room, light-filtering woven blinds and drapes soften the look. The team added a built-in bookcase to the left of a stone hearth to mirror an existing one on the right. The dark stain of the cabinetry camouflages the TV when it’s off, and attention is instead drawn to shelves showcasing original pottery made by the wife. An abstract painting that the couple bought in England hangs over the fireplace.
“We love that,” says McCans. “It’s a beautiful space, but we also accomplished that personal side of it — we didn’t want it to look like a showroom.”
Painting the high ceiling slate blue visually lowered it for a cozier feel. Comfortable yet durable furnishings were a top priority. McCans selected the rug first — a traditional vintage wool number in blues and creams — and designed the room up from there.
“We wanted the furniture to be understated since they have great art,” says McCans. “We added all the lighting, and it hits each piece.”
They had the couch upholstered in a pale, neutral Crypton fabric that’s easily cleaned, meaning dog Moxie is welcome aboard. An antique stool serving as an end table adds character. Leather chairs swivel for conversation or, when positioned forward, catch a view of the sunrise through the trees.
The room is cozy enough for two but gracious enough for company; the couple agree that since the remodel, they’re entertaining more often and more confidently, an effort boosted by the irresistible space and an adjacent outdoor kitchen. Paxton Place Design, 817-888-1947, paxtonplacedesign.com