A Tale of Two Great Rooms

Photography by Elijah Hoffman

Open living spaces present the best kind of challenge for designer Brittainy Tiffany.

The great-room concept has been around for decades – think family rooms and recreation rooms popular during the 1950s and ‘60s. By the time the 1990s rolled around, a vaulted great room was almost de rigueur. Since then, the popularity of great rooms has waxed and waned, but even today, renovations of older homes tend to link the kitchen, living and dining rooms to create a large space that’s conducive to both daily life and entertaining.

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“The great room really is the heart of the home,” says Brittainy Tiffany, principal of Tiffany Home Design. “People want to be connected, they don’t like separation. Our lifestyles are much more casual these days, and most people don’t need or want a formal dining or formal living room. They want an informal living space where everyone can be together, playing games, watching the game or just hanging out.”

Artfully styling a great room, however, can present a challenge. The goal is to create a cohesive look that’s warm and inviting – something that can be hard to do with high ceilings and an open floor plan. It’s a challenge that Tiffany and her lead designer, Joelle Jarvis, thrive on, bringing a combined 30 years experience, to the task.

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“We are both open-minded in design, not locked into a certain design aesthetic. I think we work so well together because we are perceptive and feed off of each other and our clients,” Jarvis says.

The result: rooms that reflect the unique personality and tastes of the homeowner while staying true to the home’s architecture.

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Two projects Tiffany and Jarvis collaborated on for the 2017 Street of Dreams illustrate their approach and showcase contrasting design styles.

In a modern industrial farmhouse, Jarvis and Tiffany warmed the space with beautiful wood accents, including blue-pine paneling on the ceiling and reclaimed timber from the Oregon Coast.  Steel was forged on-site for the fireplace and stair railings. Clean white walls and kitchen cabinetry allow the wood and steel to pop. The 12-foot-long island is sheathed in a soothing creamy quartz, while a nearby gray-veined quartz backsplash behind live-edge open shelving brings subtle energy and movement to the kitchen.

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“The great-room concept is fabulous, but it’s important to define the different areas,” Tiffany says. “We do that through the scale of the furniture and elements like rugs and light fixtures to anchor the spaces. It brings it all down to a livable scale.”

The defining element of the dining area is a bold, sculptural light fixture hung above the large square table with seating for eight. A lush area rug anchors living-room furniture oriented around the fireplace. The duo used neutral, textured fabrics on the furnishings and lively art to balance and soften the wood and steel.

Eye-popping architecture is the star of the show in the second home, with interior design taking a supporting role. Designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the modernist gem features warm cedar decking and louvers, along with expansive glass walls that seamlessly blend indoors and out. The house was honored as “Best in Show” at the 2017 Street of Dreams.

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“We were very deliberate in selecting the furnishings for this home,” Jarvis says. “Every piece really had to have a purpose. We took a minimalist approach with the goal of having someone walk in and immediately feel calm. With so many windows, this was also a true indoor-outdoor living concept.”   

Tiffany and Jarvis introduced organic, fluid shapes and natural materials to soften the clean lines of the home without being too fussy. The living room, oriented toward the expansive windows overlooking the beautiful deck and garden, is anchored by a subtly curved sofa in soft gray, round concrete side tables and a coffee table made of petrified wood. Soft, oversized throw pillows invite relaxation. Up-lit and recessed lighting throughout makes for an unobtrusive, gallery feel, as does the lack of hardware on many of the cabinets. This kind of attention to detail extends to the dining table, where a beveled edge echoes the beveled kitchen countertops.

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“With Street of Dreams, there is a lot of pressure – tight timelines, the budget and quick decisions,” Tiffany says. “It’s the same with our clients. We listen and try to stay within budget, but come up with creative and fun designs whether it’s a new home or a remodel. We thrive on this process and show a beautiful project in the end.”

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