Q We live in an old home that has lovely alcoves off the kitchen and above it off the master bedroom. I love the beautiful rounded walls and would like to decorate them in a manner that connects with our contemporary furnishings without taking away from their Old World charm.

A: These unusual rounded walls are an architectural treasure found in small, older homes that have quaint cottage or country style and also large elegant buildings (new and old) that mimic the grand style of medieval fortresses and castles. Since they don’t follow the norm of four straight walls, take advantage of the unusual element and enjoy the challenge. There are two ways to go. Decide whether you want to accentuate the feature, or, if the rounded area is large, would you prefer to downplay the curve? Work with furniture shape and wall pattern.

The kitchen nook shown above is not large. The homeowners wanted it to be special and also wanted the decor to link in with their stainless steel appliances. I thought about panels, and for inspiration turned to the grid-based paintings of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. Rather than using Mondrian’s signature black grid and primary colors, I applied metallic pastel panels. The base coat is metallic silver paint. Over the dry base coat, I used two sizes of masking tape to mark off an irregular grid pattern. It’s a good idea to sketch this out first on paper and mark in the colors so you can produce an interesting and balanced design. To fill in the blocks, I mixed three colored glazes — pastel pink, blue and green latex paints, half-and-half with water-based glazing liquid — and used a soft rag to colorwash each block. The metallic base coat shines through the colored glazes, producing a luminous effect. A round or oval table and chairs or a banquette fitted to the curve of the wall complements the design.

Take advantage of the alcove in your master bedroom to create an intimate area for reading, writing and relaxing. Why not decorate the ceiling with a gilded medallion or imitate a tray ceiling with shades of gray and white paint? You can hang photography and art on a curved surface. Choose frames that are not too wide so that they will lie flat.

Q: Our kitchen/dining area and great room are open-plan. The kitchen cabinetry is espresso, the dining-room set is dark wood and the wood floors are medium brown. The area in question is an 11-foot wall that sits beside the corner fireplace.

We want a unit that will hold a TV (not large), with storage and open display shelves. The mantel and trim are painted off-white. Do we paint the unit off-white too, or repeat the espresso to tie in with the existing cabinetry?

A: With the dark wood elements that are in place, I would paint the new unit off-white, the color of the mantel and trim. This fresh, neutral color will pop with all the shades of brown and make a stunning complement. Add an accent color or two when choosing pieces to display on the unit. Turquoise is a popular modern hue this year, as is purple. Because the kitchen is open to the living area, think about one or two colorful small appliances that will connect with living and dining areas.

Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Email questions to You can follow Travis on Twitter at, and visit her website, www.