Creating a Conservatory at Home
Designer Carey Karlan of Last Detail Interior Design shares how she turned an outdated space in her home into a beautiful and colorful conservatory.
Originally, designer Carey Karlan wanted to turn this space into a meditative room reminiscent of the Metropolitan Museum’s statue room. “Initially I thought I was going to create a very quite, serene space done in cool tones of gray and white,” says Karlan. “I even brought in a wall fountain for the sound effects!”
However, after painting the entire room in gray, she came to the realization, that she doesn’t actually like gray.
“My desire for a ‘theme’ had overwhelmed my knowledge of what I know I like to live with: color!” says Karlan. “Although I design many lovely gray and neutral rooms for clients that I am pleased with, when you are designing for yourself you must let trends go and do what you are happy living with.” Advice she also offers up to clients.
After she moved on from the museum idea she went right back to what she loves: bright colors, flowers, layers, a mix of old and new and unique accessories. “The new concept was bright and happy!” says Karlan.
To start any room Karlan suggests starting with a floor plan, which is what she did here for her conservatory. “You need to picture the entire space,” adds Karlan. “You don’t know how many fabrics you may need or how much of the wall color will show, etc. until you have [the floor plan] nailed down. Then I move on to color.”
And color she added.
“I must have tried 20 colors and lived with them before I committed to the bold chartreuse that I love,” says Karlan. “It took a lot of confidence to go with that color, but I doubled down and even trimmed the zebra patterned cow hide in a green felt! The white upholstery and urns balance the strong walls [plus] the white upholstery is not only resistant to fading but also allows me to change the pillows with the seasons.”
5 Tips for a Lovely Conservatory:
1. Try lots of different colors on the walls before you decide. We often think that a light filled room must be done in light colors. Not true! Look at pictures of English conservatories which are often done in deep black/greens which makes the walls disappear against the green garden outside. I have no "go-to" colors because every color looks different depending on the light in the room.
2. A conservatory is an ideal spot to try out some unique pieces that might ordinarily feel contrived such as pedestals, busts, architectural remnants, sculptures, statues, garden paraphernalia, and other whimsical elements.
3. Temperature control is a real issue. Freezing in the winter, cooked like a bug under a magnifying glass in the summer, I only linger in my conservatory in the spring and fall. In the summer, it's a lush hothouse and in the winter it houses my Christmas tree.
4. To get more use out of the room proper light and heat controlling blinds are a must. Fabrics should be indoor/outdoor for color fastness. There are so many great ones on the market that you can now use patterns not just solids or stripes.
5. Consider what the room will look like in the winter. It can be a little grim. I pulled prints from John Derian’s gorgeous new picture book, put them in glass clip frames, and hung them on the windows so that it's always cheerful in the room. It really drives the garden theme home!