Replacing the dingy taupe tones with fresh color would definitely brighten the home. Oliver prefers to create intimate environments using rich colors. There is nothing wrong with white to brighten a room, she says, but it doesn't really make it feel any larger. Instead, it's more productive to think about the feeling you want and to create that sensation using color. One way to find colors that will work is to study the room's context. "I look for hints in the surrounding environment," Oliver says. In the stone blend surrounding the family-room fireplace, for instance, she found hints of a hearty tomato red, the kind of invigorating tone perfect for engendering a lively conversation. And in the dining room, Oliver wanted an organically fresh kind of feeling, and as it is adjacent to the garden she brought greens and yellows in from just outside the windows. In the master bedroom, Oliver went with a soothing buttery gold that would feel relaxing in the evening, yet cheerful come sunrise.
Saturating the rooms with colors helped address Sandi's second question: Would she be able to create well-designed spaces using her existing pieces? "Easily," said Oliver. Sandi and Lane had worked together on the Johnsons' previous home and had purchased furniture that was color- and texture-coordinated. There is no reason to buy all new furniture for a big move, Oliver insists, but you should be thinking now about pieces you'll want to keep with you wherever you go. Much of the Johnsons' furniture was reusable, because they had already purchased well-built, traditionally styled pieces covered in patterned fabrics that already harmonized. They were able to reuse a pair of wingbacks and a pair of provincial-style chairs in the family room, refinish a dresser to liven up a stairway landing, and freshen their bedroom look merely by buying new linens for the iron four-poster.
On the other hand, a newly purchased home deserves some fresh fittings. For the family room, Oliver brought in a new sofa covered in a John Brook chenille, which would tie those sets of existing chairs together. A new pair of ottomans perches in front of the fireplace. An expansive walnut coffee table finishes out the grouping. Oliver is pleased with the sense of scale here. "The pieces all have similar weight, which grounds the room," she says, "but the fabrics have a wide variety of patterns and sizes, which adds liveliness." Colors in the many fabrics—both old and new—tie the furniture to the snappy red walls and existing stone fireplace.
Oliver looked outdoors for the dining room's inspiration. She brought in the garden colors to contrast this room from the darker, cozier family space. On the ceiling she had an Italianesque medallion and vines hand-painted between the coffers to add detail for the eye. The table accommodates additional leaves for larger holiday gatherings. And the simple Parson chairs have legs finished to match the table and are covered in a floral Ralph Lauren linen. Oliver specified them without arms so the room would feel less crowded.