HOUSE TO HOME: Secondhand items and pale tones can wake up small spaces

By: DEBBIE TRAVIS House to Home
August 9, 2013 Updated: August 9, 2013 at 11:50 am
photo - An attic bedroom at Chateau de Mazan shows how cohesive and timeless white decor can be.
An attic bedroom at Chateau de Mazan shows how cohesive and timeless white decor can be. 

Attic rooms have a special charm shaped by the irregular architecture of the space. Located under the roof, ceilings slant at awkward angles and windows may be tiny and low. These irregularities offer an opportunity to create an enchanting room for relaxation, dreaming and sleep.

There are many variations on style and cozy color palettes for rooftop rooms. For an airy, fresh ambiance, white is a good choice, as it softens the hard angles of an attic space.

There are hundreds of shades of white, including cool frosty blue white, antique creamy whites and whites tinted with the palest of pastel shades. Check the color cards at your paint store. They will have a catalog card of whites, or look at the palest choice of a color that you like. The paint sheen alters the way we see a color due to the manner in which light reflects off the painted surface. Flat white walls absorb light, while glossy woodwork or floors are reflective, bouncing light back at us. Whatever sheen you choose, white emphasizes the lines in boards, the shape of pipes, the inconsistencies in a flat surface and the textures in fabrics and wood. But at the same time, white unifies, so that disparate elements in a room blend together happily.

Furnishing an attic room is great fun, especially if you enjoy hunting down bargains and repurposing old furniture and accessories. You may have already moved some odd bits such as a child's desk, an old rocker, an out-of-date lamp or a bed with no headboard up to the attic. Rather than continue life as cast-offs, unite these pieces with paint, and they will bring character and some happy memories to the room. If you are starting fresh, raid the attics of friends and relatives, and check out local second-hand shops. You'll unearth forgotten treasures that become the heartbeat of the room.

Antiquing is my passion, and I have just returned from a trip to Provence, France, where I shopped for items to furnish and decorate my Tuscan inn I am restoring. L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a beautiful village in Provence. It is one of the most prestigious locations for antiques after London and Paris. In fact, this is where the dealers come to shop.

I am always on the lookout for pieces that have an interesting history: metal gates or an old door that can have a new life as a headboard, vintage metal suitcases that can be used for bedroom or bathroom storage, antique picture and mirror frames that look fabulous with a fresh coat of paint and hanging empty on the wall.

While I was in Provence, I stayed at Chateau de Mazan, which is located at the foothills of Mont Ventoux. The proprietors treat everyone as if they were special guests in their beautiful home. The rooms in the 17th-century village house, which is part of the Chateau, are elegant and sophisticated, decorated in pale shades of stone, gray and lavender.

The attic bedroom shown here is all white, and shimmers with light. Furniture and artwork, lovingly collected by the owners, reveal the age and history of the surrounding area. New and old blend well in shades of white paint. Mirrors add sparkle, and some gilt on old light fixtures ups the glamour and romance.


Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to house2home@

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