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French Doors
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

French doors have opened up a new vista of design inside the country French chateau of Paula and Bob Fleming, who live with their three young daughters, Vivaldi their cat, and Spartacus, their three year-old komondor. Since the summer of 1997 when the Flemings moved to the 3200 block of Dartmouth so that their children could attend the Park Cities schools, Paula has taken on the role of do-it-yourself interior designer. And she has worked to enhance one of the home's most appealing features--the gorgeous views that come through the windows in almost every room of this two story, four bedroom/three bath residence.

A special brilliance, which comes through the five full length windows of the formal living/den, brightens a room already lightened by a beige carpet, and "just too pretty for pictures" white molded walls and brick fire place. Adjacent to the living/den and separated only by a large foyer is the dining room with its own separate view of the backyard swimming pool as seen through a sliding glass door. At first, Paula wanted to create a one design theme for both rooms. But a problem arose with the family's furniture, brought over from the previous house. Several straight-back chairs, one sofa covered with Verde flowered brocade, and two period tables-- just enough furniture to suggest the beginnings of a formal period--went into the living/den. But the natural pine dining room table with matching upholstered chairs and china cabinet was a bit too provincial for the formality in the living/den although the setting complemented the backyard.

"It (living/den and dining room) needs something to bring it together, like some kind of rug," said Paula at that time. But she changed her mind over the year. Instead of blending the two styles, she chose to separate the rooms by putting in French doors at a cost about $1000 for two interior French doors and two glass wall panels.

Then Paula dressed the living/den even more formally by adding a love seat covered in pink and white chintz, two Queen Anne chairs, several period tables, and a black grand piano. She kept the uncluttered and spacious ambiance through an old fashioned arrangement of furniture, in which the heavy-weight seating--sofa and love seat were placed near the room's perimeter with light-weight furniture closer to the room's center. In fact, the heart of the room is totally free of furniture. Even the room's most prominent piece, the piano, sets to the left of center with its bulk adjacent to the windows. A writing table facing the wall and close to a window allows for writing by available lighting--an old fashioned pre-electricity touch. Old fashioned, as well as modern, is the use of white Venetian blinds, which also contribute to the aura of spaciousness by blending into the surrounding wall.

The French doors shut off access to the living/den, but the full length paned glass windows allow visibility of the room's bright ambiance in the dining room. And a fragmented image of the living/den blends well with the dining room's other visual objects d'art, the stuffed dolls sitting on occasional wooden chairs and the collectibles from around the world displayed inside the china cabinet. This festival of visual activity in natural colors touched with splashes of pastels and brights stylistically bridges the formality in the living room with the casualness in the backyard pool area.

Key to the success in carrying off this series of distinctly different styles are the French doors. As well as their decorative versatility, the French doors add to the usefulness of the space. For instance, with French doors closed, the living/den can become a practice room for the Fleming girls to study bass, cello, and piano, with their mother who plays bass in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The closed room can also be used to break away from the noisy activity in the house.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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