Interior designer Ana Donohue’s first impression of the North Andover living room she had been hired to redesign was that its shape would be the most essential element to address. It was “really long,” as she puts it, a challenging space that had stumped the client, who enjoyed entertaining her large extended family.
Donohue needed to somehow create a room that would encourage conviviality and be comfortable for family life, but also express an elegance and formality that the client admired.
“I was really trying to create a floorplan where everyone could be sitting down and no one felt excluded,” says Donohue, owner of Ana Donohue Interiors. That meant creating a centerpiece out of a custom-designed backless daybed from which guests could turn to seating areas on either side.
On one side, a light-brown Baker sofa in a geometric maze-like pattern hobnobs with two armless chairs upholstered with a bold orange design, all situated below an abstract turquoise-hued painting. On the other side, two Cabot House wingback chairs in a zesty turquoise zebra stripe are paired with two red hexagonal tables. An elegant Landry & Arcari rug ties these elements together by reflecting the pops of bright colors that are scattered throughout the room—turquoise, orange, and red.
“There’s almost a pattern or a rhythm throughout the room,” says Donohue. “I have those orange chairs, and then I pick up a little orange in the center of the room, then the two bolsters on that centerpiece reflect another rhythm of red and blue. It balances visually because the way the color is spaced out, it flows, and there’s something relaxing about that.”
Donohue aims to design rooms that make people feel welcome and relaxed without necessarily being able to identify why. She likes to mix diverse colors, textures, and materials, with the aim of using all the contrast to pull together a multilayered, harmonious whole.
“I get clients all the time who say, ‘I don’t know what I want,’” she says. “When all these elements are put together, they’re like, ‘Oh, this feels so good!’”
For this project, she combined her client’s “love of rich colors” with her own sensibility about mixing materials. Such a layered space creates a room that “almost unfolds every time you sit in it and there’s something new about it,” she says.
She chose her dominant accent color, a striking turquoise, from a large portrait in the adjacent dining room, a room she also designed. She then included it all over both rooms—in the geometrically patterned fabric on the Hickory Chair dining chairs, in the paintings and zebra-striped upholstery in the living room, and most important, in an elaborate turquoise chandelier from Neiman Marcus that hangs above the dining table.
“In a lot of my rooms, I try to have a statement piece that’s really different and unique, that gives it a little edge,” says Donohue. “I don’t want people to walk into a room and say ‘I’ve seen that everywhere.’ In this room it’s definitely the chandelier.”
The chandelier’s bright color and substantial form—made up in part by a layer of glass balls hanging beneath its curlicued lighting portion—complement the solidity of the round, dark Guy Chaddock dining table. A formal, mirrored buffet from Century Furniture displays two brilliant orange ceramic urns that frame the prominent portrait, a modern close-up of a contemplative face.
Donohue benefited from a positive working relationship with the client, who trusted her to use her experienced sensibilities in choosing pieces and materials that would bring the space to life.
“When a client really trusts you and lets you do your job, then that’s the best,” Donohue notes. “You want the relationship and the back-and-forth with your clients, but you always want them to trust you.”
The result of that trust in this case is a new living space that satisfied both designer and homeowner. The client particularly likes the dining room, with its formal-yet-comfortable feel. “Her whole family can be there and it is beautiful but durable,” says Donohue. “It’s made her really happy.”
Ana Donohue Interiors
31 Harvard Street, Melrose, 617-331-2663